LANSING — Last week, hundreds of current and retired first responders, firefighters and police officers joined with representatives from municipal organizations and Democratic legislators to rally against legislation that would strip these retirees of their hard-earned health care protections. When faced with this legislation on the floor, Democrats successfully negotiated with House leadership to adjust the bill’s language to reflect recommendations that both municipal groups as well as labor groups could agree on.

“Our firefighters and police officers spent their lives protecting our communities, facing daily dangers that many of us cannot imagine, and to say they have earned their health care benefits is an understatement,” said state Rep. Phil Phelps (D-Flushing). “After a lifetime of service, it was our job as legislators to protect the benefits they have worked so hard for, which I am proud to say House Democrats accomplished tonight.”

“The state made a promise to these brave men and women that when they finished serving their communities, they could retire with dignity and have the protections they deserve,” said state Rep. Tim Sneller (D-Burton). “Promises made should be promises kept, and I am pleased that tonight House Democrats were able to ensure that the state kept its promise to provide public servants with the benefits they have earned.”

Last year, Gov. Rick Snyder created a Responsible Retirement Reform for Local Government Task Force made up of legislators and stakeholders to consider solutions for addressing retiree costs without inducing financial hardship on municipalities. The task force published a report earlier this year that outlined suggested reforms that had bipartisan support, as well as agreement from municipal government and labor groups. Although this language was not in the legislation when it was referred out of committee on Tuesday, Democrats successfully rallied support for these recommendations to be included in the final bill voted on by the full House Thursday.

“Rather than let House Republicans pull the rug out from under our police officers and firefighters, Democrats succeeded in saving these public servants’ health care so that they are able to retire in dignity, as they were promised,” said state Rep. Pam Faris (D-Clio). “From day one, we have stood in solidarity with our first responders and municipal groups alike in supporting the task force’s recommendations, and I am pleased to have House leadership now join us. There is no denying that communities are struggling as Republicans have consistently underfunded revenue sharing every budget cycle, but attacking the men and women who risked their lives to protect our communities was never the answer.”

“My community knows well how disastrous it is to bring in an unelected, governor-appointed outsider to govern how a city operates, which is why I am relieved that we were successful in implementing the task force’s recommendations tonight, rather than perpetuating a new form of the failed experiment of emergency management,” said state Rep. Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint). “Our retired police and firefighters deserve better than what was originally proposed tonight, and while this is only the first step in addressing our local governments’ financial woes, tonight was a win for our hometown heroes.”