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Gov. Snyder signs law to help firefighters who get cancers on the job, calls for funding

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LANSING, Michigan — Even as Michigan's new Legislature begins its two-year session, Gov. Rick Snyder is signing a flurry of bills that lawmakers passed in the lame duck session of the outgoing Legislature, including a measure to help firefighters who develop cancer on the job.

But Snyder has said he's concerned the legislation, which he signed last week, lacks funding. The law amends the workers' compensation law to cover firefighters with cancer who've been working at least five years and who've been exposed to harmful toxins on the job.

"We all value the important work our firefighters do each and every day," Snyder said in a statement. "Firefighters face significant, and frequently unidentifiable, hazards on the job. This bill recognizes the potential health risks they face, especially in terms of cancers, and simplifies the claims process so stricken firefighters can get assistance they need."

He asked lawmakers to identify a stable revenue source to pay for the aid. Until now, firefighters haven't been covered by workers' compensation unless they definitively prove their illness came from on-the-job exposure to carcinogens.

Snyder said he is worried that without a funding mechanism, the system won't be able to cover everyone as intended.

"The legislature did not identify a mechanism to finance the program," Snyder said in a letter to the Michigan Senate. "As a result, this bill creates a system where an important benefit would be available first-come-first-serve, and only when funds are available. ... That is why I am requesting that the legislature take up the identification of a stable, long-term funding source for the First Responders Fund in the current legislative session, preferably in 2015."

PHOTO: ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY, JAN. 18 - FILE- In this Jan. 16, 2014 file photo, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate, in the House Chambers of the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY, JAN. 18 - FILE- In this Jan. 16, 2014 file photo, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate, in the House Chambers of the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

He suggested a potential assessment on workers' compensation carriers or using money from fireworks sales.

Mark Docherty, president of the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union, said the bill was a big step forward and represented the fruits of a long fight for firefighters.

Docherty praised the governor "for signing this bill into law and doing the right thing to protect the brave men and women who devote their lives to fire service."

"This will bring great peace of mind to fire fighters and their families," the union leader said.


Online:

Governor's letter: http://1.usa.gov/1GfZA09

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