Lawmakers likely to double line-of-duty death benefit

One-time benefit would increase from $150K to $300K under proposal

iStock photo

BOSTON (State House News Service) – The one-time payment to families of first responders killed in the line of duty would double to $300,000 under a measure packed into a spending bill that’s teed up for passage in the Legislature on Wednesday.

Section 9 of the bill strikes the existing $150,000 one-time benefit and replaces it with a $300,000 benefit. The benefit is not taxable.

The benefit, to be paid by the State Retirement Board, is covered in a section of Chapter 32 of the General Laws. It is payable to the family of a deceased public safety employee “who, while in the performance of his duties and as a result of incident, accident or violence, was killed or sustained injuries which were the direct and proximate cause of his death.” It applies to firefighters, police officers, and other emergency responders.

If approved by the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker, the benefit would apply to the family of Watertown firefighter Joseph Toscano, according to an aide. Toscano died March 17 while on duty fighting a two-alarm fire.

An 11 a.m. funeral scheduled is scheduled Wednesday at Watertown’s Church of Saint Patrick for Toscano. The procession leaves at 9 a.m. from Saint Mary Parish in Randolph. Gov. Baker has ordered U.S. and Massachusetts flags be flown at half-staff from sunrise until sunset on Wednesday in Toscano’s memory.

The House bill also includes an outside section giving the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government more time to complete its work. The task force, an idea pushed by Speaker Robert DeLeo, was formed under a resolve approved last November and given a March 15 deadline. Task force members have engaged in lengthy talks with the State Ethics Commission about potential ethics law changes. The bill extends the reporting deadline to June 1.

The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday released its $144 million midyear spending bill, which would shore up programs and agencies underfunded in the state budget approved last summer. The bill is a reworked version of a $259 million supplemental budget filed in February by Gov. Baker.

The House bill includes almost $21 million for emergency shelter services, and $300,000 to continue preliminary work to implement the new legal marijuana law while the Legislature debates changes to the marijuana market’s oversight and regulatory structure.

House Ways and Means Committee members have until 10 a.m. to vote on the redraft with House Democrats planning to caucus at 2 p.m Wednesday and begin debating and voting on the bill at 3 p.m. The Senate also plans a 1 p.m. formal session Wednesday and could take up the budget bill after the House acts. Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka is expected to brief Senate Democrats on the bill during a noon caucus.