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Mannion introduces new legislation for volunteer firefighters

Central New York State Senator John Mannion has announced a new legislative package aimed at protecting volunteer firefighters and their families from financial struggles.

The package is designed to prevent families from receiving significant debt as a result of lengthy Workers’ Compensation Board hearings regarding injuries that occur in the line of duty.

Marcellus Fire Chief Joel McNally said the new bills are important to his volunteers.

“It’s a big deal for us,” McNally said. “This hit us close to home, with our member.”

McNally was referring to long-time fire department member Art Hudson. Hudson has served the Marcellus Fire Department for 31 years, both as a member and former chief. In March 2022 Hudson fell into cardiac arrest in the line of duty and spent days in the hospital, leaving him with significant medical and legal fees. These fees have not yet been resolved by the Workers’ Compensation Board. McNally said the new legislation could help Hudson and other volunteers across the state who could experience the same financial impacts.

“Anybody that’s got problems with Workers’ Comp, it all seems to stem around the same type thing,” McNally said. “So, with the senator pushing these bills, it’s coming down the pipe and we really appreciate it.”

For Hudson and his wife Nancy, the past year has been full of back-and-forth meetings and phone calls with the Workers’ Compensation Board, something Hudson said has been frustrating.

“The past year has been terrible,” Hudson said. “All we’ve been through has been hearings and denials from the board of comp.”

Mannion’s legislative package would require hearings to occur within 120 days after a claim has been submitted — a far cry from the over 365 days since Hudson’s claim. Mannion said the state and local governments should do what they can to assist families like Hudson’s.

“We have an obligation to do the right thing,” Mannion said. “We have an obligation to the people like Art and Nancy Hudson and other families like them.”

Mannion said the legislation will help to recognize the important efforts of volunteer firefighters.

“If we are going to value our volunteer firefighters, they should be put at the top of the pile and not the bottom,” Mannion said. “And that is what this one piece of legislation does.”

The other side of the package addresses legal fees associated with filing claims and working with the Workers’ Compensation Board. It aims to amend the Volunteer Firefighters Benefit Law by allowing the Workers' Compensation Board to assess the legal fees against insurance companies, rather than from the total claim amount awarded to claimants. Mannion said the package is a step towards showing volunteer firefighters that their work is valued and needed in local communities across the state.

“We need them, we rely on them, and we have to show that we support them,” Mannion said.

Abigail is a temporary WRVO News Reporter/Producer working on regional and digital news stories. She graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2022 where she studied English and Public Relations. Abigail enjoys reading, writing, exploring CNY and spending time with family and friends. Abigail first joined the WRVO team as a student reporter in June 2022.