BOSTON (SHNS) -The family of a Longmeadow Department of Public Works foreman killed after a train struck his snowplow in March would be eligible to receive death benefits like those given to police and firefighters who die in the line of duty, under a state senator’s proposal.
Sen. Eric Lesser, a Longmeadow Democrat, filed an amendment to the Senate’s fiscal 2018 budget that would extend line-of-duty death benefits to all public workers killed while performing their job.
Lesser said the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – a public employee union – approached him about seeking the expansion after Warren Cowles died on March 14 when a plow train struck his truck at a railroad crossing. Cowles was 59 years old and the father of one son, according to his obituary.
“We’re not talking about someone who has a heart attack at a construction site unrelated,” Lesser told the News Service. “We’re talking about people who die doing their job and acting in service to the public. This case, this man Warren Cowles, he was out clearing a road in the middle of a blizzard so that commerce can continue and people can get to school and emergency vehicles can pass, and he died in service of that end, working as quickly as possible to get the roads cleared.”
After the on-duty death of Watertown firefighter Joseph Toscano, Gov. Charlie Baker and lawmakers increased the one-time, line-of-duty death benefit for first responders from $150,000 to $300,000 as part of a supplemental budget in March.
Lesser said he thinks not providing those benefits to all public workers is a missing piece. His amendment calls for a one-time payment of $150,000 for “any public employee working for state or county government, a Massachusetts public higher education institution, a municipality, public school department, or public school district or public authority who, while in the performance of his/her duties and as a result of incident, accident or violence, was killed or sustained injuries which were the direct and proximate cause of his/her death.”
Lesser’s amendment is one of more than 1,000 that senators had filed to the $40.3 billion budget by a 5 p.m. Thursday deadline. Budget debate is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
A similar bill, filed by Rep. Jay Livingstone (H 1417), is before the Joint Committee on Public Service.