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House bill aims to lift financial burden on injured officers, deputies

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gov. Susana Martinez signed legislation Thursday that will ensure police officers, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies won’t face increased health-care costs or diminished retirement benefits when they’re injured on the job.

The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Bill Rehm, an Albuquerque Republican who joined Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III, a Democrat, on Thursday to announce the signing.

“We want to make sure we have these first responders running toward danger and not second-thinking what’s going to happen to their families should they be injured,” Rehm said.

Rehm, a retired sheriff’s captain, said he was injured himself as a deputy and had to work an extra six weeks before he was eligible to retire because of the lost service time.

The bill signed Thursday addresses that circumstances and similar problems, such as increased health-insurance costs for employees on workers’ compensation.

Robin Hopkins, a sheriff’s deputy shot in the line of duty three years ago, said the legislation is particularly meaningful to her and her family. But many deputies and officers, she said, are injured in the line of duty in ways that don’t attract headlines and outside attention.

“It makes all the difference in the world,” she said of the bill. “A lot of us didn’t know. We just assumed our families and retirement would stay intact. It didn’t make any sense it would go any other way.”

Rehm said he doesn’t expect the cost to employers to be significant.

The legislation goes into effect July 1.

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