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Senate committee OKs bill to boost guards' death benefits

March 02, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS

Three bills to increase death benefits for the families of correctional officers killed in the line of duty were presented to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on Wednesday.

The committee gave unanimous approval to a bill sponsored by Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, to establish a special death benefit for members of the Correctional Officers' Retirement System who are killed in the line of duty. The surviving spouse or minor children would get a one-time repayment of the accumulated contributions and an annual payment equal to two-thirds of the officer's average final salary.

Munson said he modeled the bill after similar legislation sponsored in the House by Del. Norman Conway, D-Wicomico/Worcester.

The other two bills would increase the death benefit payment from the current $50,000 to $100,000 or $125,000, respectively.

One of the bills, filed by Sen. James DeGrange, D-Anne Arundel, applies to law enforcement officers, correctional officers, volunteer or career firefighters or rescue squad members and members of the state Fire Marshal's office. It raises the benefit to $125,000.

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The other bill, sponsored by Munson, applies to the same officers and raises the benefit to $100,000.

Munson said he filed the bill after the shooting death of correctional officer Jeffery Wroten, killed in January in Hagerstown.

Wroten is "survived by several minor children who are gonna need help in life," Munson told the committee.

Sue Esty, legislative director for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 92, told the committee that Wroten's death had "sent shockwaves throughout the state," especially for correctional officers. "The awareness of where it leaves the five children is very acute," she said.

She said the union supported all three bills.

"Everything that you can do for the family will be appreciated by everyone," she said.

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