In the November 2016 election, Florida voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution to provide property tax breaks for first responders permanently disabled in the line of duty. The tax relief went into effect on January 1, 2017.
Amendment 3, which passed with 84 percent of the vote, gives first responders — fire, emergency personnel, police, sheriff’s deputies — who are totally and permanently disabled as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty, relief from ad valorem taxes (what are commonly called property taxes) on homestead property. The tax relief extends also extends to first responders on September 11, 2001.According to language of the bill, “The term ‘disability’ does not include a chronic condition or chronic disease, unless the injury sustained in the line of duty was the sole cause of the chronic condition or chronic disease.”
Opponents of the amendment argued that it was wrong to separate taxpayers simply on the basis of their occupations and that tax relief for first responders reduced tax revenues and shifted the tax burden to the rest of the state’s taxpayers.
In support of the amendment, the Miami Herald voiced sentiments expressed by many who supported the amendment’s passage: “This amendment adds first responders who become permanently disabled in the line of duty to the list of people who get an exemption from property taxes . . . Yes, this represents a loss of revenue for the state, but it’s the right thing to do for these public servants. We recommend YES on Amendment 3.”
The attorneys at Parker Waichman have been deeply involved for years in efforts to secure care and compensation for 9/11 first responders. The firm has represented and assisted many of these men and women. Parker Waichman hails the Florida amendment and its benefits for disabled 9/11 first responders.
Disabling Illnesses Among 9/11 First Responders
In the years since the terrorist attacks brought down the World Trade Center towers, many first responders have suffered serious illnesses, including asthma and chronic respiratory conditions, gastrointestinal problems, and more than 50 cancers attributed to exposure to toxins on 9/11 and during the cleanup and recovery period. A number of responders became ill immediately after 9/11, often with lung conditions due to inhaling toxic dust, but some diseases, cancers in particular, take considerable time to develop and many first responders were not diagnosed with cancer until years after 9/11. Some first responders had illnesses that worsened over time, leaving individuals too sick to work.
The latency period, that is, the time between toxic exposure and the diagnosis of a cancer, can be as long as 15 to 20 years, Newsday reports. “So 15 years later, we are only at the very beginning of the curve for things like lung and asbestos-related cancers,” said Dr. Jacqueline Moline, director of the Queens World Trade Center Health Program in Rego Park.
Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, named for NYPD officer James Zadroga who died of respiratory illness attributed to his participation in rescue and recovery efforts at ground zero, provides health care and monitoring and compensation for first responders, survivors of the building collapses, and those who lived, worked, and attended school in the area. Congress passed the Zadroga Act in 2010 and reauthorized it in 2016, extending the World Trade Center Health Program for 75 years, until 2090. The By the time of the reauthorization, more than 50 cancers were included in the list of illnesses connected to 9/11 toxic exposures.
The health effects of the 9/11 toxic exposures have been wide ranging. Researchers and health care professionals have seen the expected illnesses, like respiratory conditions, but also some surprising health effects. Pregnant women exposed to 9/11 dust were more likely to have premature births and low birth weight babies than women not exposed. A study published in 2016 reveals that a significant number of first responders on September 11, 2001 show signs of cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairment refers to problems with memory and concentration, including an inability to learn new information. Many people with cognitive impairment have difficulty with routine daily activities and those most severely affected ultimately develop full-blown dementia, Newsday reports.
Legal Help for Health Effects Related to Ground Zero
If you or someone you know you is experiencing health issues related to 9/11 toxic exposures, you have valuable legal rights. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman for a free, no obligation evaluation of your situation. Call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).