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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday signed into law a post-9/11 bill that creates a rebuttable presumption for first responders suffering from diseases that have been known to be caused by chemicals, pathogens and other hazardous materials.
S. 716, which overwhelmingly passed the state’s Senate and Assembly on June 20 with only nine lawmakers objecting in total, addressed that the “risks of exposure to carcinogens, communicable diseases, radiation and related hazards to health, already especially high for fire, police, emergency, medical and other public safety workers, is further increased by the duties of such workers in response to catastrophic emergencies, epidemics, and terrorist attacks,” according to the enacted legislation.
Such attacks “may involve materials related to biological or chemical warfare, or industrial chemicals or other hazardous materials released in connection with terrorist attacks against military, governmental, industrial, infrastructural, and other vulnerable facilities,” the law states.
Prior to the new law, which goes into effect immediately, first responders bore the burden of proving that exposure to a chemical or substance while on the job caused their illness. Now municipalities will have to accept workers compensation claims stemming from such illnesses if they cannot prove that something else caused the first responder’s illness.
The New Jersey Senate on Monday approved legislation that would provide cost-of-living increases for permanently disabled first responders such as police officers and firefighters who receive workers compensation and their survivors, according to a joint statement released by the bill’s co-authors Sen. Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Sen. Fred Madden, D-Gloucester.