FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 2, 2009
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez, Communications Director
SEN. LUCIO'S BILL ASSURING HEALTH INSURANCE BENEFITS TO PEACE OFFICERS' SURVIVORS SIGNED TODAY BY GOVERNOR
Sen. Lucio Honored with Visionary Leader Award
AUSTIN, TX — Today in Laredo Gov. Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 872 by Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (Brownsville) and sponsored in the House by Rep. Jose Menendez (San Antonio) that allows survivor families of law enforcement officers killed on duty to remain eligible for health insurance and at affordable rates.
At the bill signing ceremony, Sen. Lucio was also presented the Visionary Leader Award by the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) for his legislative work on behalf of Texas peace officers. He is the second person to receive this prestigious award.
Of his award, Sen. Lucio said, "I am deeply, deeply humbled to receive this wonderful honor from CLEAT. I greatly appreciate this recognition, but I must say, that I only did what was right for the families of peace officers."
CLEAT Public Affairs Director Mr. Charley Wilkison said, "Texas law enforcement has found a super hero in Senator Eddie Lucio. The visionary leadership award is an inadequate attempt to honor one of the truest friends the Texas law enforcement community has ever known."
SB 872 corrected a misinterpretation of a bill Sen. Lucio passed in 1993 regarding how benefits are paid by the families of peace officers who died in the line of duty. He explained, "I was saddened and angered last year when I learned from CLEAT that the state and some local jurisdictions were not following the intent of my former bill."
Rep. Menendez agreed that "it is unfortunate we had to come back and pass a bill just to get the agencies to do the right thing. However, it was an honor and privilege to work with Sen. Lucio, the men and women in law enforcement and their families to help those who suffered unnecessarily. For example, those who had to let their insurance policies lapse since the original law will now be able to buy back into the system at the rate they had when it lapsed."
In one case, the state raised the premium for the family of Game Warden Justin Hurst of El Campo, who was murdered in 2007, from about $300 a month to over $700 per month. Many survivors were unable to afford the insurance and allowed their policies to lapse. Senate Bill 872 also allows those who lost coverage to reapply at the same rate.
The bill also allows survivor families who drop coverage or are canceled to rejoin the insurance plan, even if the spouse remarries. The time to decide on continuing coverage was also extended from 90 to 180 days, allowing grieving families additional time to get their affairs in order and make these decisions.
Paying tribute to his deceased Father, a 30-year veteran of the Cameron County Sheriff's Department, Sen. Lucio said that he would have been proud to see his son receive this award. "In fact," he noted, "the last thing my Father said to me as I left to serve my first term as a State Representative in Austin was 'son, remember to take care of our men and women in law enforcement.'"
"I felt just as strongly in 1993, as I did this year, that this was the minimum we, as a society, owed the families of the men and women in uniform who protect our communities and our values each and every day," he added. "I cannot say enough about the efforts of my colleague Rep. Menendez, the wonderful survivor families, CLEAT and the numerous peace officers who helped get SB 872 passed."
Note: Chief of Staff Ian Randolph handles this issue for Sen. Lucio and can be reached at 512-463-0127.