Governor Considers Adding Survivor Benefits Bill To Special Session

Alaska Governor Bill Walker during a meeting of the National Governors Association at the White House in Washington, DC, February 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)


The tragic slaying of 5 police officers in Dallas, TX Thursday evening has spurred a renewed effort to pass legislation in Alaska aimed at providing health insurance benefits to survivors of law enforcement officers and firefighters who die in the line of duty.

Tom Wescott, President of the Alaska Professional FIre FIghters Association, confirmed this afternoon that members of the public safety community, including firefighters, police officers, and other first responders, are actively encouraging the Governor’s Office to add HB 4002 to his latest special session call. The Legislature is scheduled to begin meeting on that call Monday in Juneau.

According to HB 4002’s sponsor statement:


Currently, families of fallen officers and firefighters aren’t extended such benefits unless the Governor and Legislature make a choice to provide it to them each year. This bill would make such benefits permanent.

Governor Walker had included the bill in his first special session call last month. The House eventually passed the measure unanimously, 34-0 only to see the State Senate Majority Caucus refuse to take it up before leaving Juneau.

KTOO Public Media reported at the time:

“Senators in the majority caucus said the House gave them no time to review what it had done. And since the House left Juneau, the Senate wouldn’t have been able to make changes. So the Senate adjourned on Sunday without passing the bill.”

Wescott said his understanding is the Governor currently considering the move but hasn’t committed to anything at this point.  

 According to other sources familiar with the discussions, advocates of the bill have been told by the Governor’s office “Chances are greater than 50%” the Governor will add HB 4002 to the special session call.

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6 Comments on "Governor Considers Adding Survivor Benefits Bill To Special Session"

  1. Lynn Willis | July 8, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Reply

    Not an unreasonable idea; however, for those who want to reduce state spending where are we to get the funds for this “100% premium subsidy” benefit?

    • Brandy Johnson | July 9, 2016 at 10:56 am | Reply

      The bill has a zero fiscal note. Funds would come from the Public Employees Retirement Fund. This fund would have paid the employees medical benefits when they retired anyway. In my case, payment of medical would have been in 2.6 years when my husband would have retired with 25 years of service to the state of Alaska if he were not murdered in the line of duty. FYI…my husband was only still working for the medical benefits for our family.

      • I am not opposed to this benefit and my point was to demonstrate that this might be more important than the myriad of ratholes the State has dumped money into. Also, I wonder what benefits were afforded to the family of Ms. Wyllie who was murdered while working a assisted living facility.

        While the Facility was fined $75,000 (and are opposing that levy) and I don’t know how much of that fine will pass to the heirs of Ms. Wyllie. If anything this legislation is another argument for universal health insurance.

        From the ADN: “In November, then-25-year-old Gilbert Nashookpuk was charged with first- and second-degree murder in the killing of 57-year-old caregiver Glenna Wyllie. She was beaten and strangled to death while working alone at the assisted living facility, the Labor Department said.”

        Link :

        • Brandy Johnson | July 9, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Reply

          Hello Lynn, I agree that there is funding for this bill outside of PERS. There is current funding that is used on many less important items/areas. Of course this is only my opinion.

          Alaska State Troopers, Police and Firefighters are all required to go into dangerous situations. Everyday my husband put on his uniform and test checked his equipment. Not every job expects you to be ready to protect others and yourself everyday of your career. If you knew there was a bomb threat in a state building or a gas leak on the state road system and you were an employee that worked in those areas, you have a choice not to go to work that day. My husband, Scott did not have choice to say “No, that sounds dangerous, I don’t think I will be going into work today.” He took an oath to protect the people of Alaska by helping in dangerous situations.

          It is unfortunate that the State of Alaska can dangle a carrot called healthcare in front of an employee to strive for at the 25 year mark for themselves and their family. This mark would have been 83 days from today for Scott, my husband who was murdered in the line of duty striving to reach that goal for our family. He already had his high three years towards retirement prior to his 20 year mark. Therefore, he was solely working for the medical benefits. Currently, if an Alaska State Trooper is killed one day before they retire they will not get major medical benefits for their family per statute.

          I realize there are other state workers that have been killed while at work for the state of Alaska. Some, per contract are not supposed to perform their job under dangerous circumstances. Others, are accidents. I’m not sure why Ms. Wyllie was working by herself. Definitely what happened was not an accident. Other state workers are not trained and required to run toward gunfire. I am advocating for myself, my daughters, my deceased husband and future survivors of law enforcement killed in the line of duty.

          • Lynn Willis | July 9, 2016 at 8:58 pm |

            I wish you the best in your efforts and I express my sympathies for your loss. I am saddened for you that this has become a political issue. I would have thought this survivor(s) benefit would have long ago been a point of discussion when negotiating employment benefits (and I hope it becomes one now). Thanks for sharing and for the discussion.

  2. An excellent idea. First Responders run INTO danger, not away from it. Their loved ones deserve survivor benefits.

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