Nov. 2—Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza is calling on lawmakers to pass during the veto session a measure that aims to ensure timely pay for families of fallen first responders and armed-forces members.
Surrounded by local police, firefighters, EMS personnel and elected state and local officials in Moline Wednesday, Mendoza detailed House Bill 5785, which aims to ensure timely compensation is given to the next of kin of those who perish in the line of duty.
The bill would ensure a continuing line of funding is available without disruption, so there is no delay to the families.
“It’s so crucial to remember that this legislation is about real people, about real heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Mendoza said.
She recalled the first time she became aware of the need for the legislation in late spring, during the annual Illinois Police Officers Memorial in Springfield, where 11 fallen officers were honored and remembered.
Mendoza said she was approached by Tammy Pierce, who said she was waiting for benefits for her son, Brian Pierce Jr., an officer for the Illinois Brooklyn Police Department, who died in the line duty in August 2021.
The state’s Line of Duty Compensation Act currently provides benefits for families of law enforcement officers, firemen, paramedics, and other first responders killed in the line of duty. But the funding for the benefits sometimes is exhausted prior to the end of a fiscal year, requiring the legislature to approve additional appropriations.
The legislature commits $5 million annually to families who lose a loved one in the line of duty.
State Rep. Mike Halpin, D- Rock Island, said passing the legislation is a bipartisan effort and that the last thing the legislature wants is for a family to not receive an award that they are entitled to after losing a loved one.
“This is really, for me, a no-brainer,” Halpin said. “No family should have to go through this and, with this legislation, we can get this passed.”
The bill would allow Mendoza’s office to receive financial assistance immediately, rather than waiting for approval by the legislature.
David Johnson, treasurer of the Illinois Concerns of Police Survivors, COPS, lost his brother, Rock Island Auxiliary Officer Todd C. Johnson, in 1993. He said Illinois COPS will, “support any and all legislation that benefits the family members with fallen police officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice in protection of others.”
Chuck Sullivan, president of the Associated Firefighters of Illinois, Fire Chief John Swan with the Colona Fire Protection District, and Moline Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati also spoke at the Wednesday news conference by Mendoza, saying they support the measure and want to see it pass during the November veto session.
The Associated Firefighters of Illinois represents over 15,000 firefighters and paramedics in 225 communities across the state.
The bill was filed in August and could pass during the upcoming veto session or the lame-duck session in January — before new lawmakers are sworn in for the next general assembly.
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