LMC Seeks Full Funding for Public Safety Officer Continued Benefits

A bill calls for full reimbursement to local governments that comply with the mandate to continue benefits to public safety officers (or their families) injured or killed in the line of duty.
(Published Feb 11, 2019)

A bill that would provide full reimbursement to employers for complying with a costly mandate has been introduced in the Senate and House.

Initiated by the League of Minnesota Cities, SF 825, authored by Sen. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville), and HF 1009, authored by Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dillworth), would require an annual general fund appropriation to fully compensate local governments for the cost of continuing health insurance benefits for police officers and firefighters injured in the line of duty and for dependents of those killed in the line of duty.

In fiscal year 2018, the requests for reimbursements topped $5 million, but the state provided just $1.67 million for that purpose. Under the current law, employers are reimbursed on a pro-rated basis.

The Senate bill was introduced on Feb. 4 and referred to the Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee, and the House companion was introduced on Feb. 11 and referred to the Ways and Means Committee. The bill has not yet been scheduled for hearings; however, the League will be working with authors and committee chairs to secure hearings as committees begin discussing budget bills.

Background

Minnesota Statutes, section 299A.465 requires public employers to continue health insurance benefits for firefighters and peace officers injured in the line of duty and for dependents of those killed in the line of duty. When the law was enacted in 1997, it contained a provision requiring the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to reimburse employers for the full amount of administering this benefit.

By 2002, the fund created to provide this benefit became deficient. Instead of increasing the fund, the 2003 Legislature amended the law to pro-rate reimbursements to cities based on the amount available and the number of eligible applicants.

The 2003 law change triggered a significant and unanticipated cost to cities. The cost has increased every year for cities, and the funding for the account has never been increased.

In 2015, the Legislature expanded the health insurance benefit to include survivors of volunteer firefighters who die in the line of duty. This change increased the number of firefighters eligible for this benefit from 2,000 to 20,000—without increasing funding for the reimbursement account.

Get involved

If your city has experience with this issue, please relay that to your legislators and urge them to sign on as coauthors to this legislation. If you would be willing to submit written or in-person committee testimony on this issue, please contact Anne Finn, LMC, at (651) 281-1263 or afinn@lmc.org.

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