Sen. Emmett Hanger Explains His Position on SB 1030

While scrolling through Facebook Wednesday afternoon I came across this post with an explanation from Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24th District) after there were some misunderstandings about his position concerning SB 1030.

SB 1030 reads:

Workers’ compensation; presumption of compensability for certain diseases. Adds cancers of the colon, brain, or testes to the list of cancers that are presumed to be an occupational disease covered by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act when firefighters and certain employees develop the cancer. The measure removes the compensability requirement that the employee who develops cancer had contact with a toxic substance encountered in the line of duty. The bill incorporates SB 1022, SB 1172, and SB 1528.

I’ve found Senator Hanger to be readily forthright in explaining his positions on issues but it’s not often he is seen on Facebook so am passing this along for any who may be interested. He wrote:

As a general rule I don’t debate policy on Facebook but the cancer presumption bill for firemen (SB 1030) is one I want to address because people are misrepresenting or misunderstanding my position….

The bill passed and I did not try to stop it. I registered my concern that it would be more appropriate to study it as we had planned when we set aside time and money in December to do that through Virginia’s Joint Legislative & Audit Review Commission (JLARC).

I support the goal of fairly compensating for job related illnesses and death. I believe the emphasis however should be on doing more upfront with health monitoring and early detection through regular screening with all the new science that is available to prevent getting to a diagnosis and then taking action. I support using state resources to accomplish this. It will save lives, taxpayer dollars and improve quality of life for these employees. Focusing on compensating for already acquired debilitating diseases and life shortening conditions should be the goal only when these outcomes have not been avoided.

In my role as Senate Finance Co-Chairman I believe that before we commit to this we must have the data and information on the issue. The projected costs at this time are undetermined. A study would also include how other states have handled the matter. And the study will include a similar bill that did not advance this year that would apply to police and other public safety officials for post-traumatic stress disorder because of the events they encounter in their line of work. All these matters are important.

If it can be worked out during this short session, I will support moving the legislation forward. It will require other Senators, Delegates and local government elected officials to not only vote green on this bill, but to vote green when we propose the funding to pay for it and that is a big hurdle on this issue that still must be overcome. I look forward to discussing it with the impacted parties here in my district as well as around the state. It is a problem that needs to be addressed. I am willing to work thru all the details to improve the policies and how we care for those affected.

This is a complex issue that needs more discussion than a simple social media post for or against the bill. I do value the fearless and tireless work of our firefighters. I also want to make sure if we do this for some, we can continue to offer this same presumption for all firefighters in the future.

I do not often rise on the Senate Floor to make remarks, but was compelled to do so prior to the bill’s passage to explain my vote for pragmatism. It, in no way, reflects my lack of respect or confidence in the service and dedication of our firefighters.

Respectfully, Emmett Hanger