Committee kills measure to give state park officers death benefitsBy Gregory Nickerson — February 24, 2014
The Senate Appropriations Committee has killed House Bill 70 to provide disability and death benefits for state park law enforcement at the same level as other peace officers.
In public testimony, Bill Westerfield of Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites noted that many of the officers in parks deal with the same issues and go through the same training as other peace officers. The job comes with additional risks, such as being on call 24 hours a day and working alone in remote locations that can be 40 miles from backup. On occasion they face dangerous situations, as evidenced by a 2009 incident in which a Glendo State Park officer was shot in the chest. The officer survived.
“The job of these peace officers has changed over the years. They are at more peril,” testified Sen. John Schiffer (R-Kaycee), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “These people can get hurt, and seriously hurt. If we are going to get them in the line of fire, lets provide for benefits.”
House Bill 70 would have diverted 1 percent of employee salaries into an account that would pay out benefits in the case of disability or death. The disability benefit would amount to 62.5 percent of the employees’ salary if injured on the job, and 50 percent if injured during an off-duty situation. Similarly, the death benefit would pay 62.5 percent of the salary plus 6 percent of the salary for each minor dependent, and 50 percent of the salary for death outside of work. Currently, there are only 21 state park law enforcement officers.
During committee action, Sen. Curt Meier (R-LaGrange) introduced an amendment for the contributions to the fund to be paid in a 50-50 split between employees and State Parks and Historic Sites. That change passed. However in a final vote the bill received two votes in favor and three opposed, meaning the measure will not be heard on the Senate Floor.
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