By SUMMER BALLENTINE, Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers should make it easier for firefighters to get workers’ compensation, Gov. Eric Greitens said Wednesday during a visit to the St. Louis Fire Academy.
The bill by Republican Rep. Nick Schroer would make firefighters and other first responders eligible for workers’ compensation for illnesses ranging from cancer to high-blood pressure, and it would be up to employers to prove the issue was not caused by work.
Firefighters and first responders, along with police officers, also would get the benefit of the doubt in receiving workers’ compensation for stress or other mental issues.
“Our firefighters, they show up every day to fight fires,” Greitens said in a Facebook video. “If, God forbid, there’s a situation where they have to fight cancer, they shouldn’t have to fight bureaucrats to get the care they deserve.”
Margie Griffin, the widow of a St. Louis firefighter who died of cancer, implored lawmakers in the video to “please, please support this bill.”
The issue appears likely to gain traction when lawmakers return to the Capitol in January for the start of next year’s roughly five-month annual session. Greitens’ party leads both the House and Senate, and Democrats have filed similar bills to help firefighters and other first responders.
The Republican push to help firefighters, first responders and police with workers’ compensation represents a shift from past GOP efforts to put limits on those benefits for other workers.
Former Republican Gov. Matt Blunt signed legislation in 2005 that required workers to show a “specific event during a single work shift” to be compensated for an accident, no longer allowing a “series of events” to qualify. It also required the accident to be “the prevailing factor” in an injury, instead of the previously lesser standard of a person’s employment as “a substantial factor.”
Schroer said while Republicans generally support trimming workers’ compensation, he said the nature of first responders’ work merits an exception.
“If anybody deserves a hard look at figuring out how we can protect them even more, it’s our first responders,” Schroer said.
Schroer also said he’s open to making changes that would further restrict what illnesses are covered under the legislation.
The workers’ compensation bill is HB 1647 .