ND House passes bill to extend health insurance to families of fallen first responders

The bill would apply to the spouses and children of police officers, corrections officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty after Jan 1. 2010


Sydney Mook
Grand Forks Herald

BISMARCK, N.D. — A bill that would extend health insurance to the widows and families of first responders who die in the line of duty in North Dakota has passed the state's House.

The bill would add North Dakota to a growing list of states that allow the surviving dependents of police officers, corrections officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty to remain on their loved one's employer-sponsored health care coverage.

The North Dakota House of Representatives has passed a bill that would extend health insurance to the surviving spouses and children of first responders who die in the line of duty.
The North Dakota House of Representatives has passed a bill that would extend health insurance to the surviving spouses and children of first responders who die in the line of duty. (Photo/North Dakota Office of Management and Budget)

House bill 1435 passed by a vote of 75-18 on Monday, Feb. 15.

As currently written, the bill would apply retroactively to any employee who was killed in the line duty since Jan. 1, 2010. The bill would extend benefits to five North Dakota families at this time.

The health coverage would apply to spouses until they receive health coverage from another source or until they turn 65 and would apply to children until they turn 26.

Rep. Zachary Ista, D- Grand Forks, introduced the bill, in part, in recognition of the death of Grand Forks Police Officer Cody Holte, who was killed by gunfire while coming to the aid of two sheriff's deputies under fire at a Grand Forks apartment in May 2020. He left behind a wife and young son.

Grand Forks Rep. Mary Adams said in a tearful floor speech Monday, Feb. 15, that she attended church with the Holtes and that Holte was "caring, giving and devoted" to "his family, his job, his country and God."

"He was the type of officer who gave over 100% every time he went to work," she said. "It is time for North Dakota to join the list of states recognizing that we owe these families a debt of gratitude and protections to help them through what is surely the darkest times imaginable."

Adams said the bill was supported unanimously by the employees benefits committee, which found it would have minimal financial impact.

"This bill represents North Dakota values," she said. "They take care of the families whose loved ones put their life in harm's way to keep us safe."

Rep. Sebastian Ertelt, R- Lisbon, said, during floor discussion, that he would vote against the bill because he believed it was unconstitutional as the state's constitution states that the Legislature cannot grant special privileges to only a select group of citizens.

"While my heart goes out to those families who might lose a loved one in the line of duty, this same privilege that's being offered through this legislation is not being offered to anyone else who might also lose their life," he said.

The legislation now moves onto the Senate, where it already has a number of cosponsors.

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(c)2021 the Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, N.D.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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