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New law will help disabled officers

Tue., April 14, 2009, midnight

Otter signs bill inspired by CdA’s Kralicek

BOISE – Gov. Butch Otter has signed legislation into law to help disabled law enforcement officers like Mike Kralicek with health insurance costs for their families.

“I’m happy,” Kralicek said Monday. “I just want to thank all the people that helped get it through.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 1111, won’t help Kralicek, a Coeur d’Alene police officer who was critically injured in 2004 when a fleeing suspect shot him, but it will help others in the future. Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, spent five years trying to get the legislation passed.

Jorgenson said Monday he’s still working on setting up a public signing ceremony for the bill, but last Thursday he got an urgent call from the governor’s office – the deadline for signing the bill was about to expire.

“They said, ‘It’s got to happen before 2 – could you come over?’ ” Jorgenson said. “I was there when he signed it.”

During the legislative session, the governor has just five days to act on a bill once it’s passed. He can either sign it into law or veto it; if he takes no action within five days, it becomes law without his signature. Otter has purposely allowed three bills to take effect that way this year; it’s usually a sign of lukewarm support.

The bill would provide a $100,000 lump-sum payment to cover the family’s health insurance costs when a law enforcement officer is permanently disabled and can no longer provide health coverage for the family. It’s entirely funded by the officers themselves, through a slightly increased retirement contribution, and run through the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho at no cost to either the state or local governments.

Jorgenson originally tried to win retroactive legislation, so it could have covered Kralicek, but when that failed, he said the Coeur d’Alene officer urged him to at least get something that would help others in the future.

Kralicek was at home in North Idaho on Monday, where his wife, Carrie, was caring for him through a bout with pneumonia. “I’m just getting over it right now,” he said by phone.

He said he particularly wanted to thank Jorgenson for his work on the bill, and the Fraternal Order of Police.

When Kralicek was shot three days after Christmas in 2004, he went into a coma, and doctors weren’t sure he would survive. He spent five months in a rehabilitation hospital in Colorado and has gone through long, painful physical therapy for brain and spinal cord injuries.

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