Politics & Government

Death benefits for paramedics approved by House

The body of Jessamine County paramedic John Mackey was escorted by dozens of emergency vehicles including several Jessamine County ambulances down Harrodsburg Road Lexington, Ky., on Nov. 9, 2015. Mackey was was hit by a car Thursday while responding to a call and died Monday morning. He was being taken back to Jessamine County.
The body of Jessamine County paramedic John Mackey was escorted by dozens of emergency vehicles including several Jessamine County ambulances down Harrodsburg Road Lexington, Ky., on Nov. 9, 2015. Mackey was was hit by a car Thursday while responding to a call and died Monday morning. He was being taken back to Jessamine County. palcala@herald-leader.com

Families of paramedics, rescue squad members and emergency management personnel who die in the line of duty would get an $80,000 death benefit and free tuition at state universities or community colleges under a bill passed unanimously Friday by the Kentucky House.

House Bill 54 proceeds to the Senate. It’s named the Mackey Act to honor Jessamine County paramedic John Mackey, who was hit and killed by a car in November while responding to a call. Mackey’s widow, Janine, a paramedic herself, watched the House vote Friday from the public gallery.

As amended Wednesday by the House Local Government Committee, the bill would be retroactive to June 30, 2015, so it should cover Mackey’s family.

Current state law authorizes line-of-duty benefits for survivors of police officers and firefighters who die on the job, but not for other types of first-responders who also risk their lives, the bill’s supporters said.

“This legislation is about creating equity,” said Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville.

A fiscal note attached to the bill by legislative staff said its cost to the state treasury and public universities is “indeterminable.” Kentucky averages less than one death a year for EMS workers, and nobody tracks fatalities for rescue squad members, according to the note.

John Cheves: 859-231-3266, @BGPolitics

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