New Jersey Proposes New Insurance Rules for Volunteer Firefighters

February 10, 2009

New Jersey’s volunteer firefighters may soon have to pass a physical before suiting up.

A state Senate committee on Monday will discuss a bill that would let local governments and fire districts require a “physician’s certificate” from their volunteer firefighters.

The measure, if approved, would take effect immediately.

According to the bill, state law addresses insurance and liability issues for the volunteers, but not their physical condition.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Christopher Connors, R-Forked River, said he didn’t know if other states make similar requirements. But he said the rule would protect both the firefighters and the residents they serve.

“It’s appropriate,” he said.

New Jersey law already allows education boards to require their workers to undergo a physical.

Other activity Monday at the capital includes a hearing that will focus on the state’s soured economy, and what can be done to fix it.

The Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance committee will host a panel of five economic experts, including the state’s banking and insurance commissioner and a senior economist from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Assemblyman Gary Schaer, the committee’s chairman, said he hopes the group will learn, among other things, what economic problems are unique to the state.

“That is, indeed, the most fascinating and the most germane question,” he said.

Other bills to be discussed include a measure that would create a governor-appointed position that would oversee workers’ compensation claims.

The Ombudsman for Injured Workers would attempt to resolve such claims and maintain a central registry of all investigations. Workers’ compensation pays for injuries suffered at, or because of, work. The Ombudsman position would have to be approved by the Senate.

The position’s salary is not listed in the measure. Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, the bill’s sponsor, could not immediately confirm how it would be set.

However, he said the salary would be funded by the Second Injury Fund, which bankrolls workers’ compensation damages.

Other bills scheduled for discussion Monday would allow 16-year-olds to donate blood with parental consent, and let local governments recover certain costs and fees from alcoholic beverage licensees charged with violations.

Another bill would reinstate the salaries of suspended police officers and firefighters if the charges against them are not resolved in 180 days.

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