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Bill Protects Cities from Settlements After Deaths of Safety Personnel

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Gov. Brewer has signed a bill shielding cities and towns from large settlements relating to death or serious injury of public safety employees. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the bill was inspired by the deaths of 19 firefighters last summer during the Yarnell Hill Fire.

The bill was among 35 signed into law by Governor Brewer after the state Legislature ended its most recent session. House Bill 2693 distributes liability costs among all members of Arizona’s Public Safety Personnel Retirement System. Previously, those costs were the burden of the city or town in which those who were killed or injured work.

After the deaths of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots during last summer’s Yarnell Hill Fire, the City of Prescott was responsible for more than $5 million to fulfill pensions of six deceased firefighters.

According to an official with the Safety Personnel Retirement System, the bill isn’t retroactive and doesn’t apply to the Granite Mountain Hotshot deaths. But it will cover similar incidents in the future. The measure also only applies to deaths that occur in the line of duty.

Also among the recently signed bills is one that sets aside half a million dollars for a memorial to the Granite Mountain Hotshots. It also creates a committee to oversee the memorial and manage the project’s funds.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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