Insurance bill for families of fallen officers passes State Senate

Widows, lawmakers and law enforcement calling for support for the "Duty Death" bill at the State Capitol Tuesday.

MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - The Wisconsin State Senate has passed a "duty death" benefit bill covering families of fallen law enforcement officers.

Senate Bill 266 passed Tuesday on a 33-0 vote.

CLICK HERE to read the full bill.

The bill would require municipalities to pay health insurance premiums for the family of an officer killed on the job. Under the same bill, those municipalities would then be reimbursed by the state.

Action 2 News reported on the bill when three widows of fallen officers testified in Madison. CLICK HERE for coverage.

Ashley Birkholz lost her husband, Fond du Lac Officer Craig Birkholz, during a standoff in 2011.

“There’s a feeling that all hope and dreams you and that person shared no longer exist,” said Birkholz. “I lost my best friend that day.”

The widows talked about the days after the deaths of their husbands and the emotional and financial stress that followed. Many received letters that said they would lose health insurance.

“I was terrified of cutting hours (at work) because I didn’t want to lose insurance,” said Kara Weiland. Kara lost her husband, Everest Metro Detective Jason Weiland, during a shooting spree in the Wausau area in 2017.

The "death duty" benefit bill now goes to the State Assembly for consideration.

Fallen firefighters are already covered by a similar bill that was passed back in 2009. The president of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin, Mahlon Mitchell, said the bill was prompted by the death of Green Bay Fire Lieutenant Arnie Wolff in 2006.