Life will suddenly get a little easier for New Mexico police officers and firefighters who get injured in the line of duty, thanks to a bill the governor signed into law Thursday. It guarantees that injured cops and firefighters won’t have to deal with increased health care costs and shrinking retirement benefits while they’re recovering.
Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy Robin Hopkins is the poster girl for this legislation. Shot by a gunman on a spree in October 2013, she nearly lost her life and then nearly lost her left leg. Then she discovered that, on workers compensation, her paycheck would shrink, her retirement benefits would stop accruing, and her share of paying for family health care coverage would double. The new law will fix that.
“A lot of us didn’t even know,” Hopkins said. “We just assumed that our families and our retirement would stay intact, because it didn’t make any sense, that we were doing our job and that it would go any other way. It just didn’t make sense.”
“We want to have these first responders running toward danger,” said Rep. Bill Rehm, an Albuquerque Republican and retired sheriff’s captain who sponsored the bill. “We don’t want them second-thinking about what’s going to happen to their families should they be injured.”
Gov. Susana Martinez signed another bill aimed at reserve police officers, who volunteer their time and pay for most of their equipment and uniforms. Now if they should be killed in the line of duty, their families will receive the same survivors’ benefits that a regular officers family receives.