MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) -- Gov. Evers on Wednesday signed a bill into law guaranteeing the immediate families of fall law enforcement officers and other emergency first responders will continue receiving health care benefits.
Senate Bill 266, or the "duty death" benefit bill, requires local governments to pay health insurance premiums for the surviving spouses and the children up to age 26. The local governments will then be reimbursed annually from the state's police and fire protection fund.
Families of Marquette University police officers are also covered by this law.
The bill had bipartisan support with a 33-0 vote in the Senate and 96-0 in the Assembly.
"This ensures there is more peace of mind for the spouse or child of someone in law enforcement, so that if one of these horrible tragedies happens at least we know benefits are going to be continued to be provided for the family members," Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said last month while the bill was being discussed by legislative committees.
A similar bill covering the families of fallen firefighters was passed in 2009 following the death of Green Bay Fire Lt. Arnie Wolff.
Three widows of officers killed in the line of duty testified to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, even though the bill isn't retroactive and wouldn't benefit them.
“I was terrified of cutting hours (at work) because I didn’t want to lose insurance,” said Kara Weiland, whose husband, Everest Metro Detective Jason Weiland, was killed during a shooting spree in Wausau in 2017.
“If we truly back the badge, we should back the badge’s family,” Senator Van Wanggaard, (R-Racine), said.