The Nevada Legislature is hearing arguments over Senate Bill 153, that could have a lasting impact on health benefits of retired police and firefighters. If passed, this bill would mean firefighters and police officers would have to be diagnosed with heart and lung disease before retirement to receive benefits for it. Critics say many of these illnesses are caused by their jobs but don't show up for years after retirement.
"We're just trying to rebalance it and make it commit back to work and say if it happened at work, then it's part of the work comp system," Wayne Carlson, Executive Director of Public Agency Compensation Trust said. "If it happens after you leave work, it's no longer in the work comp system."
Carlson says this bill would save Nevada taxpayers $2 billion. But opponents say it hurts the people they say have earned these benefits.
"It's about the lives of the law enforcement officers, the firefighters that put their lives on the line," Ron Dreher, Government Affairs Director for the Peace Officers of Nevada said. "It's not about money. It's about taking care of people that have done the job."
Critics say firefighters have a higher risk of certain cancers, and have job-related illnesses that don't show up for years or decades after retirement.
"You can't be exposed to that for 20-30 years and then turn around and say, magically, the day you retire, all of a sudden, you're better," Rusty McAllister, President of the Professional Firefighters of Nevada said.
Sen. James Settelmeyer is the Chair of the Senate Committee of Commerce, Labor and Energy. He says he thinks both sides need to compromise. Today, firefighters and police officers are vested after five years.
"Situations where somebody works five years and then they go to work for mine for ten years, in a situation that has a lot of diesel fumes," Sen. Settelmeyer, (R) Minden said. "Let's say they go to work for an asbestos manufacturer for ten years. The state shouldn't still be on the hook for that."
"We're very concerned about their health, their long-term health," Sen. Mark Manendo, (D) Las Vegas said. "To me, this is a benefit that they've earned and those benefits need to be preserved."