Two Aberdeen legislators looked cops, firemen, and EMTs in the eye and voted today not to even study whether they deserve worker’s comp for PTSD.
Representative Ryan Cwach (D—remember that D, for Democrats, the party actually trying to help people and solve real problems—18/Yankton) proposed House Bill 1142 to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of on-the-job injuries for which firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency medical service providers, and emergency dispatchers can qualify for worker’s compensation. HB 1142 said a first responder would have to provide a diagnosis from a psychiatrist and “clear and convincing evidence” that the PTSD arose from “exposure to another’s grievous injury or death” in the line of duty.
If you don’t think PTSD is real or deserves compensation and care, you probably also agree with Donald Trump’s diagnosis of the traumatic brain injury soldiers suffer as mere headaches.
Rep. Cwach watched Republican leaders jerk his bill around, waiting nineteen days to put it on the House Health and Human Services calendar, then waiting another couple days before kicking it over to House Commerce and Energy (because compensation for workers is more of a commerce issue than a health issue, which signals where this bill is going and the mindset taking it there), which then dinked around until busy-busy crossover week to give this important bill a hearing.
We are losing Blue Lives to PTSD, Sheriff Mike Milstead told the committee today:
Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead on the other hand said suicide rates among law enforcement and firefighters were higher than deaths in the line of duty. He said his department lost several people [Bob Mercer, “House Panel Defeats Measure to Require Study of PTSD Among South Dakota First Responders,” KELO-TV, 2020.02.24].
But for South Dakota Republicans, Blue Lives Matter only as long as we don’t have to pay for them. Sensing that Republicans weren’t really going to support police and other first responders suffering because of their willingness to run to danger and mayhem, Rep. Cwach moved to amend his bill to a mere study: take the second half of this year, look into the suicides to Sheriff Milstead testified and other evidence of the extent our first responders are suffering for their service, and talk about what the state could do to help. That proposal elicited all sorts of technical hemming and hawing from the Republican leaders—ordering studies by law is illegal, should’ve been a resolution, summer studies don’t do much, some other agency should study it….
Imagine paramedics arriving at the scene of a car wreck. Folks are trapped inside the wreckage with obvious injuries. One paramedic notices a headlight is out and says the team should wait until the police come to write a ticket for that violation. Another notices oil dripping from one of the vehicles and says we should call DENR first to report an oil spill.
That’s the Republican caucus today.
Not all Republicans are committed to killing every good Democratic idea and waiting until a Republican can sponsor it next Session and claim credit. Representative Rhonda Milstead (R-9/Hartford)—yes, the sheriff’s wife—voted for HB 1142. So did Representative Larry Zikmund (R-14/Sioux Falls), who, perhaps already fearing his primary challenge from former ELCA Bishop David Zellmer realized he’d better start putting human decency over partisan politics and vote to support his local sheriff. Democratic Representative Kelly Sullivan (D-13/Sioux Falls), the only Democrat present on the committee, also voted to support studying PTSD among our women and men on the front lines of emergencies.
But the Republican majority, including my neighbors Reps. Carl Perry (R-3/Aberdeen) and Kaleb Weis (R-2/Aberdeen), said nope, not even gonna study PTSD among cops and firefighters and other first responders. Not our problem, take your whining elsewhere… or at least bring a Republican sponsor to do it next time.
Today, Carl Perry voted against cops.
Today, Kaleb Weis voted against firefighters.
Today, Republicans Arch Beal, Spencer Gosch, Chris Johnson, Paul Miskimins, Tim Rounds, Jim Wangsness, and Mark Willadsen all voted against EMTs, dispatchers, and all first responders who sacrifice their well-being to serve the people.
It’s too bad more Republican legislators don’t share that sense of sacrifice for their neighbors.