Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
February 12, 2008
The Honorable Edith G. Prague Senate Co-Chair
The Honorable Kevin Ryan
Labor and Public Employees Committee
The Honorable Martin M. Looney
Senate Majority Leader
The Honorable Donald E. Williams, Jr.
President Pro Tempore
Hartford, CT 06106-1591
Public Act 07-161 requires municipalities to continue to provide survivor benefits to the surviving spouse of a paid police officer or firefighter who dies in the line of duty even after the spouse remarries. The Act’s effective date is
We conclude that if the surviving spouse of a police officer or fire fighter who died prior to
Public Act 07-161 amends § 7-433b(a) of the general statutes as follows:
[T]he survivors of any uniformed or regular member of a paid fire department or any regular member of a paid police department whose death has been suffered in the line of duty shall be eligible to receive such survivor benefits as are provided for in the Workers' Compensation Act, and, in addition, they shall receive such survivor benefits as may be provided for in the retirement system in which such department member was a participant at the time of his death; provided such pension benefits (1) shall not terminate upon the remarriage of the spouse of such member, and (2) shall be adjusted so that the total weekly benefits received by such survivors shall not exceed one hundred per cent of the weekly compensation being paid, during their compensable period, to members of such department [in] at the maximum rate for the same position which was held by such deceased at the time of his or her death. Nothing contained [herein] in this subsection shall prevent any town, city or borough from paying money from its general fund to any such survivors, provided total weekly benefits paid shall not exceed said one hundred per cent of the weekly compensation.
"The meaning of a statute shall, in the first instance, be ascertained from the text of the statute itself and its relationship to other statutes."
Section 7-433b(a) has for years required benefits for surviving spouses of police officers or firefighters who die in the line of duty. Previous to Public Act 07-161, if a surviving spouse remarried, the spouse's benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act would cease upon remarriage. Under Public Act 07-161, the benefits continue. Since the Act removes the penalty occasioned by remarriage, the application of the Act to a surviving spouse who remarries after the effective date of the Act would be a prospective - - not a retroactive - - application of the new law. There is no question that such a prospective application of the law is allowed.
Providing benefits to surviving spouses who remarry was clearly contemplated by the legislature in enacting Public Act 07-161. For example,
Similarly, in discussing the proposed legislation on the floor of the House, Representative Cafero stated that “there is no question in my mind that everybody in this building would want the family of that individual [the Waterbury firefighter mentioned by Senator Prague] to get the maximum benefits they could get because of the tragic death, in this case of their father and husband.” House Session Transcript for
Clearly, from this exchange and from the understanding of the legislators acting on the bill, the intent of Public Act 07-161 was that surviving spouses should continue to receive benefits should they remarry.
I trust that this opinion answers your concerns.
Very truly yours,