Greenwich man who lobbied for bill hopes Gov. Malloy signs it soon
After 18 months of lobbying, Joseph Kaliko is waiting expectantly for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to sign legislation that would help protect volunteer fire police officers from lawsuits as they perform their duties.
"I am hopeful he will sign it," said Kaliko, who is president of the volunteer Cos Cob Fire Police Patrol. "I have spoken to him several times and urged his support for it."
State Rep. Alfred Camillo, R-151st District, sponsored the bill that would provide volunteer firefighters, fire police patrol members and their volunteer staffs the same indemnification from financial loss, lawsuits and judgments that police and career firefighters currently have. Fire police provide extra traffic control at accident and fire scenes to allow firefighters, police officers and paramedics to work in safety.
Malloy has 12 days to decide what he wants to do with the bill, which, according to the state legislature's website, was sent to the Secretary of the State's office on July 1. An official at the office could not be reached this past week to determine when the bill would go to the governor's office.
Camillo said the bill received overwhelming support from his fellow state legislators.
"Everybody believes it was the morally right thing to do," he said. "This would ensure that those who protect us will be protected, guaranteed."
Kaliko said Greenwich does a very good job protecting its volunteers from lawsuits against them for actions they take during the course of their duties. However, no state law explicitly requires that municipalities pay for the legal defense of volunteer firefighters and fire police members, he pointed out.
That prompted Kaliko to lobby to have that protection enshrined in state law.
On the federal level, politicians are also crafting legislation that would compensate the families of fire police officers who die in the line of duty.
Fire police are putting their lives on the line, said U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney, D-Conn., who has introduced legislation to extend public officer death benefits to fire police officers.
"Fire police provide an essential component of fire-suppression activities and they are exposed to quite a bit of risk in the performance of their duties," Courtney said. "These guys are often very exposed out there in terms of traffic. It's often very dark and they are in places where there are no curbs and where there is no margin of safety."
In April, Courtney introduced the Fire Police Fairness Act in the House of Representatives.
Courtney said he introduced the bill after hearing concerns raised last summer at a regional meeting of volunteer fire personnel hosted by the Ledyard Volunteer Fire Department in his district.
The benefit pays $300,000 to the families of public safety officers who die in the course of their duties.
Courtney said the staff of both senators approached him for information about his bill so they could introduce their own versions.
In a press release, Blumenthal and Lieberman said it was a necessary piece of legislation.
"This commonsense measure will ensure that fire police receive the benefits they have earned as they risk their lives to protect our communities," Blumenthal said.
Lieberman said he was proud to introduce the legislation with Blumenthal.
Both pieces of legislation have to be reviewed by committees in Congress.
Staff writer Frank MacEachern can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-625-4434.