Big Island state lawmakers introduce bills to adequately compensate injured volunteer first responders
A Big Island state lawmaker wants to make sure volunteer first responders are compensated adequately if they become injured in the line of duty.
Rep. Chris Todd, who represents District 3 in the state House (Hilo, Keaukaha, Pana‘ewa, Orchidland Estates, ‘Āinaloa, Hawaiian Acres, Fern Acres, Kurtistown and Kea‘au) introduced House Bill 57, which seeks to compensate volunteer first responders who are injured or killed in the line of duty with an equivalent pay rate based on years of service and rank rather than a standard rate of pay.
That would include enforcement and service workers such as injured public board members, reserve police officers, police chaplains, sheriff’s chaplains, volunteer firefighters, volunteer boating enforcement officers or volunteer conservation and resources enforcement officers.
“This measure will ensure that volunteer first responders can get the same monetary benefits that a regular first responder would get in case of an injury, which would go a long way in covering the costs of potentially expensive treatment,” Todd said in a press release.
In April 2021, a volunteer firefighter was gravely injured after falling into a lava tube filled with burning embers while battling a brushfire in Honu‘apo, along the southern coast of Kaʻū on the Big Island. Her injuries resulted in severe medical costs.
State Sen. Tim Richards, who represents the Big Island’s District 4 (North Hilo, Hāmākua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, North Kona) said HB57 and a companion measure he introduced, Senate Bill 696, are steps forward to support the state’s volunteer firefighters.
“On Hawai‘i Island, we have 21 full-time fire stations with 18 more volunteers. Our volunteers are integral parts of our firefighting capability,” Richards said in the press release. “The least we can do is help support them if they get hurt in the line of work. This will help all volunteer firefighters statewide.”
Currently, HB57 passed the House committees on Labor and Government Operations and Consumer Protection and Commerce. It is awaiting a hearing by the House Finance Committee.
SB696 passed the committees on Labor and Technology and Public Safety and Intergovernmental and Military Affairs in the Senate and now awaits a hearing by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
For more information, contact Todd at 808-586-8480.