In just a few weeks, I will be speaking at two events honoring Veterans Day. It will be my first time at one of them, the other one I’ve participated in for many years. I’m honored to be asked to say a few words at these and similar events honoring those who serve the public. It’s important to find the right words. Even more important is making sure that our actions speak as loud as our words.
Like our veterans, law enforcement professionals risk their lives for each and every one of us. Sadly, we have lost many of these public servants in Wisconsin recently.
In the 25th Senate District, Rusk County Sheriff Deputy Dan Glaze, 33, was killed in November 2016 while responding to reports of a suspicious vehicle.
In the Wausau area, Detective Jason Weiland was killed while responding to a domestic disturbance in 2017.
This year, two police officers were killed in the Milwaukee area.
All too often, these dedicated public servants leave behind loved ones: husbands, wives and young children.
Losing a loved one, no matter the situation, is difficult. But to so abruptly lose a spouse you depend on for financial support is especially traumatic. Outside of losing their partner, they must now find a way to provide for themselves and their children and ensure that all the basic necessities of life are met.
In 2009, the Legislature passed a law that required municipalities to pay health insurance premiums for the survivors of a firefighter who dies, or has died, in the line of duty. For some reason, the law did not extend the same benefit to the surviving spouses and children of law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians, Rangers and others who lose their lives while on duty protecting the public.
As some of you may know, I’ve been working to finish the job that former senator Bob Jauch started to fix that oversight and provide these health benefits to the families of all of the men and women who lose their lives protecting the health and safety of their communities.
I’m happy to report that, after many years of trying, we’ve succeeded in passing legislation to ensure that surviving spouses and dependent children of law enforcement officers or emergency medical services practitioners who die in the line of duty will continue to receive health insurance benefits.
This is the third time that Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, and I have introduced this bill. As we both have argued in the past, we need to do more than offer some nice words and a wreath when a public servant loses their life in the line of duty. Passing 2019 Senate Bill 266 does exactly that, it backs our words up with action.
We can never repay the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice. But we can ensure that their families are taken care of. I look forward to seeing the governor sign this important bill into law soon.
Sen. Janet Bewley represents the 25th District in the Wisconsin Senate.