ATLANTA - It was a touching tribute Thursday at the State Capitol for one Atlanta’s fallen firefighters.
Frank Martinez lost his battle with cancer in December, but the longtime firefighter also had another fight on his hands: the battle to get cancer coverage for fire rescue workers in Georgia.
Lawmakers approved a bill Thursday to help the men and women who run toward danger, even putting their own health at risk.
A standing ovation in the House of Representatives after lawmakers gave the final approval to a bill that would help firefighters diagnosed with cancer in Georgia.
“This bill was in honor of firefighter Frank Martinez with Squad 4, Atlanta Fire Department,” said Rep. Micah Gravley, R – Douglasville.
House Bill 146 will require fire departments to provide insurance coverage for cancer starting in 2018, something Martinez fought for before he lost his own cancer battle in December.
Lawmakers passed a similar measure last year, but Governor Nathan Deal vetoed it, citing fiscal concerns.
Rep. Gravley said that gave him and others a chance to work together to improve the legislation.
“Last year, the bill contained litigation. This year there is no litigation contained in the bill. This is immediate benefit that will be paid out to the firefighter upon diagnosis. Also, last year’s bill did not incorporate salary protection... And I think it's a better bill,” said Rep. Gravley.
Dennis Thayer with the Georgia Firefighters Cancer Coalition said the measure is critical because with all the plastics and petroleum products in people’s homes, firefighters are more likely to have contact with carcinogens.
“It just gives the guys and girls out there that are running into those homes saying hey, if you don't contract cancer, there's a path for us to help take care of you,” said Thayer.
The bill now heads to the governor's desk for his signature.
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