New Jersey lawmakers are making another attempt to shift the burden in determining whether first responders are entitled to workers' compensation.

 

The measure would create the presumption of workers compensation for public safety employees who respond to catastrophic emergencies during their careers instead of requiring them to prove the case to their employers.

"The men and woman who fought so valiantly on the front lines of these dangers are then forced to fight again," said Sen. Linda Greenstein, primary sponsor of the bill. "Only now they're often in a debilitated state as they wage a war on two fronts, one a fight for their lives, and another for the benefits we as a society owe them and their families in such circumstances."

George Borek with the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey cited illnesses from the response to the 9/11 attacks in urging lawmakers to approve the bill.

"Think of the good this that bill will do because it will help those families that are at their wits' end because they have to worry about a funeral and not worry about something else they have to dig up to file," he said Monday.

The New Jersey League of Municipalities opposes the measure.

"Our concern is with the costs it imposes on the taxpayers," said John Moran of the league. "This is a very broad bill as it's currently drafted."

Greenstein, D-Middlesex, agreed that legislators "need to be mindful of the public's purse strings.

"But I think this bill is important enough that we have to take a very close look, and research shows that this legislation has not had an impact on budgets in other states where similar legislation was written into law," she said.

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill in the previous legislative session because there was no indication of its fiscal impact.