Professional Fire Fighters of Idaho

2010 PFFI Candidate Questionnaire
Idaho State Legislature Races

As public employees, firefighters pay into PERSI, the Public Employee’s Retirement System, for their retirement. PERSI is currently structured as a defined benefit retirement system. Historically, PERSI has been very stable and has performed very well compared to other retirement systems. Do you support maintaining PERSI as a defined benefit system? Please explain.

I do not think that the state of Idaho should provide any benefits for their employees. Instead, employee salaries should be increased by the cost required to provide the benefits, and employees could then choose which benefit related services they wish to continue in the private sector. PERSI funds should be distributed to the employees and the account should be shut down.

Currently Idaho Fire Fighters have the right to sit at the table with their employers to discuss wages, hours of work and other safety conditions (Idaho Code 44-1801). Do you support the fire fighter’s right to collective bargaining? Would you support any measure to take away or diminish that right? Please explain.

Employees should be able to sit down with their employers and talk about any issue, individually or as a group. This does not require a law. I do not believe that the state government should recognize or work with any labor unions.

Idaho’s Firefighters are a critical component in providing emergency medical services (EMS) around the state. In the past two years legislation has been introduced which would take away the sovereignty of local jurisdictions (fire districts and city fire departments) regarding EMS. These proposals would have prevented those agencies which provide EMS to their citizens from making critical decisions regarding that service. Decisions such as how many ambulances or paramedics will be put in service in their jurisdiction and where they will be housed would no longer be made by those local governmental entities. Instead, a new county-wide governmental entity would be formed that would dictate to all EMS agencies (whether city-run, taxing district-run, or hospital-run) in a county these operational decisions. The PFFI believes that local agencies are best suited to make these decisions and authority should not be completely handed over to a new bureaucracy with no local level influence. Do you agree with this last statement? Please explain.

I do agree that the state and counties should not get involved in local issues. Local communities are best able to make decisions that directly affect them. There is certainly no reason to create a new bureaucracy.

Fire fighters are exposed on a daily basis to stress, smoke, heat and various toxic substances. As a result of this exposure fire fighters are far more likely to contract heart disease, lung disease and cancer than other workers. In addition, as fire fighters increasingly assume the role of the nation’s leading providers of emergency medical services, they are exposed to infectious diseases. Heart disease, lung disease, cancer and infectious disease are now among the leading causes of death and disability for fire fighters in America. Numerous studies have found that these illnesses are occupational hazards of fire fighting.

In recognition of this link, over 40 states have enacted presumptive disability laws that presume that cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and certain infectious diseases contracted by fire fighters are job-related for purposes of worker's compensation and disability retirement unless proven otherwise. No such law covers fire fighters in Idaho. Under workers compensation guidelines, fire fighters must be able to pinpoint the precise incident or exposure that caused a disease in order for it to be considered job-related.

This burden of proof is extraordinarily difficult for fire fighters to meet because they respond to a wide variety of emergency calls, constantly working in a variety of environments under different conditions. As a result, very few cases of occupational disease contracted by fire fighters have been deemed to be service-connected, thus affording them no assistance.

Would you support legislation in our state which would provide a presumption of causation for firefighters diagnosed with one of these serious diseases while serving the community so long as they did not have any other risk factors present in their life (smoking, family history of cancer, etc.)?

Programs like workers compensation should be provided by and administered in the private sector. Providers would then be able to meet the needs of their clients as the market allows. Businesses should not be required by the state to provide any benefits to their employees. I will not support any legislation that creates or maintains such services in the public sector, or requires them in the private sector.

Why should the PFFI endorse you?

I do not seek endorsements. If someone chooses to support or endorse me, I would hope it would be because they agree with the fundamental principles of good government—limited to the basic protection of life, liberty, and property.