Sen. Paul Boyer, a Republican representing Glendale and other parts of the West Valley’s District 20, hit the ground running as the state legislative year started last week.
Boyer is co-sponsoring two bills in areas he rates as high priorities: education and firefighter protection.
Boyer and Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, last week introduced legislation adding on to a bill Boyer sponsored and passed in 2017. The new bill allows firefighters to receive workers’ compensation benefits if diagnosed with specific cancers.
Boyer said he is outraged by cases like Glendale Fire Capt. Kevin Thompson, who had to battle to have his cancer treatment covered by the city, and the late Austin Peck, a Goodyear firefighter who had his workers compensation denied.
“It’s a travesty,” Boyer said.
Boyer said he is disgusted by cases involving firefighters trying to get coverage. “City attorneys will say to firefighters, ‘We don’t deny you’ve been exposed to all these carcinogens, just tell us which fire caused your cancer.’ It’s impossible,” Boyer said.
“The key parts of this year’s firefighter cancer legislation is adding breast and ovarian cancer, removing the part of the statute insurance/city attorneys were exploiting which according to the Industrial Commission’s attorney, no firefighter ever made it to the presumption because they couldn’t get past this part of the statute and making the law irrefutable. Meaning if a firefighter fulfills all of the criteria then they would automatically be granted their workers’ comp benefit for an on the job injury.”
Utilizing legal loopholes, “The insurance industry has been exploiting my law from 2017,” Boyer said.
The new language is more straightforward, he said:
“If you have fulfilled five years of hazardous duty answering fire calls, you’ve been exposed to carcinogens, you had a clean bill of health when you started and get one of the cancers on the list— it’s irrefutable,” he said.
The new bill he co-sponsored also adds to the list of cancers to recognize cancers in female firefighters.
“It’s in all of our best interests,” said Bryan Jeffries, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona. “We feel our people need to fight these diseases, get better and get back on the streets serving the public where they belong.”
How long does Boyer expect it will take for the firefighter protection bill to go up for vote?
“It’s all relative to how hard insurance is pushing behind the scenes,” Boyer said.
“The hard work is behind the scenes.”
On his new education bill related to the Arizona Teachers Academy, Boyer said the fight may come from traditional schools. “I think the only real opposition I might face is from the teacher’s colleges. There’s a philosophical disagreement I have with them: do you teach teachers how to teach? Or can you start with a subject matter expert and teach them how to teach? I agree with the latter,” Boyer said.
So, apparently, does Gov. Doug Ducey, who in his State of the State speech last week praised Boyer’s work on the education bill.
“This year, we intend to build on our momentum with reforms sponsored by Sen. Paul Boyer, allowing even more students to go through the (Arizona Teachers) Academy,” Ducey said.
Boyer teaches juniors literature at North Phoenix Preparatory Academy, a charter school.
“I believe in expanding the Teachers Academy to get teachers who love subjects,” Boyer said. “I was an English major. I don’t have a teaching certificate. I teach at a charter school. I’m in my sixth year and I love it.
“There’s a massive teacher shortage according to the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association. They say there are currently 7,500 total teacher openings in the state needing to be filled. Meanwhile half of all teacher positions don’t meet standard teaching requirements. So I’d like to help mitigate the teacher shortage by opening up the Teachers Academy to non-education majors.
“I find those who love their college major and want to teach make excellent teachers in many cases.”