Excerpts from Richmond.com:

Retired Richmond (VA) Fire Marshal David Creasy, who died in October after more than four years battling cancer, was represented in the annual legislative battle to extend workers’ compensation benefits automatically to firefighters and other emergency personnel stricken by certain forms of cancer they say are caused by exposure to toxic chemicals in the line of duty.

Colon cancer is among three forms of the disease that would be presumed eligible for workers’ compensation under Senate Bill 1030. The bill also adds cancer of the brain and testicles to the list of diseases presumed eligible for compensation under the program.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) agreed last month to study the workers’ compensation program, including the presumption in the law that shifts the burden of proof to the state in determining whether a listed disease is related to work.

The Finance Committee ultimately approved the bill on a 14-2 vote but opponents representing local governments, insurers and major employers urged the committee to wait for the JLARC study.

“Please allow the study to go forward before you enact legislation such as this,” said a lobbyist for the Virginia Self-Insurers Association and Metis Services Inc., a risk-control firm for employers.

But some senators said they’ve waited long enough to address a long-standing concern for firefighters and other public safety employees. The bill survived a motion to kill the bill, which died on a 7-9 vote, and a motion to amend the measure so it would not become law unless the budget includes money to pay for what the state estimates would be indeterminate costs. The proposed amendment failed on an 8-8 tie.

However, the committee killed a similar bill to extend workers’ compensation benefits to police and other public safety employees suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because of events they witness in the line of duty, including the death or serious injury of a co-worker. Instead, that issue will become part of the pending JLARC study.

Firefighters earn the benefit of workers’ compensation through their repeated exposure to toxins they believe cause cancer, including the kind that killed Creasy.

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