Michigan lawmakers approve legislation to protect police/firefighter pension, healthcare
LANSING, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - In a marathon late night session, Michigan lawmakers in the House and Senate vote to protect the pensions and healthcare of police and firefighters in the state.
It was 2:30 a.m. Thursday, after 17 hours in session, that both the state house and senate voted on this drastically changed legislation.
The original bills proposed could have made cuts the pensions and healthcare for many current, retired and future firefighters and police officers.
Last week the groups took to the capitol in protest.
During the long session that started Wednesday, new versions of the bills were introduced and passed in both the House and Senate early Thursday morning.
Governor Rick Snyder and Republican legislative leaders agreed to changes after the bills got a lot of resistance from police and firefighter unions, Democrats and even other Republicans.
The bills now reflect the recommendations from a task force that was set up to study underfunded pension and retiree health care plans around the state.
We spoke with State Senator Margaret O’Brien shortly after the vote. She tells us she had been fighting for these changes.
"I think the police and firefighters have seen that a number of us legislators, we were very concerned about what was going on and we heard them. We listened, we advocated and we were able to find a solution that can ensure we are maintaining the proper funding in their retirement funds. But we're also ensuring that if elected officials are going to make a promise that they have an obligation to keep that promise," said Sen. O'Brien.
The Michigan Professional Firefighter’s Union tweeted about the new bill.
Representative Winnie Brink, from Grand Rapids released a statement saying:
Police, firefighters and paramedics are the public servants all communities rely on. It was unconscionable for legislators to even think about taking their retiree health care away, and that's why I'm so pleased the House Democrats were able to prevent that from happening.
Under the bill passed Thursday morning, there would still be reporting requirements and some state involvement in guiding communities to shore up their systems.
Each chamber now has to pass the other's bills and they would then go to Governor Snyder, who has said he would sign them.