TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy this week signed “The Bill Ricci World Trade Center Rescue, Recovery, and Cleanup Operations Act,” (A4882) into law, which will enhance protections for first responders, including those who volunteered for 9/11 rescue, recovery, and clean-up efforts at World Trade Center sites.
The law is named after Fanwood resident Bill Ricci, a lieutenant in the Clifton fire department, who volunteered to serve at Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Ricci was ineligible for an accidental disability retirement under previously existing law. However, through this act, members and retirees who volunteered for 9/11 rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations, like Ricci, will be eligible to receive accidental disability retirement. This act will also create an exception to the normal five-year filing requirement for 9/11-related operations.
Primary sponsors of the new law were local Assemblyman Jim Kennedy (LD-22), along with Jamel Holley, and Andrew Zwicker, and Senator Nick Scutari with Joseph Lagana.
“I am glad that the lawmakers were able to come together on this so quickly to help us,” said Ricci. “It’s great how there were changes made on the fly to help more people as they became aware of the need. Hopefully, only a few will require this legislation, but it’s here now to help all that need it."
“Thousands of courageous volunteers put their lives on the line in order to save those affected by the devastation of 9/11,” said Governor Murphy. “We will never forget their selfless acts of heroism, just as we will always be grateful for the first responders who put their lives on the line for us every day. Today we send a clear message to all of our heroes: We have your back. I am proud to sign legislation that will ensure the health benefits and compensation that these incredible men and women deserve.”
“When police and firefighters in New Jersey received word that two planes had struck the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, many of them didn’t hesitate before responding to the scene, even though they were not specifically ordered to go,” said Assemblyman Kennedy. “Unfortunately, some suffered permanent or total disability. Due to the fact that they responded as volunteers, they have not been entitled to the same compensation as their counterparts who were considered to be ‘on the job’ that day. This law changes that.”
“Many of these brave men and women are suffering from serious illnesses traced back to their efforts at Ground Zero,” said Senator Scutari. “This law will provide much needed financial support for these individuals whose health was drastically effected when they heroically put their country first on 9/11.”
Additionally, Gov. Murphy signed S716, also known as “The Thomas P. Canzanella First Century First Responders Protection Act,” named after Deputy Chief Thomas P. Canzanella, a former Hackensack firefighter who served at Ground Zero after 9/11. Canzanella died from a heart attack at the age of 50.
Under previously existing law, first responders and firefighters had the burden of proving causation for their illnesses, which often required a significant expense of time and resources. This new law reforms New Jersey’s workers’ compensation law to create a rebuttable presumption of coverage for public safety workers for certain illnesses. For firefighters, those with seven or more years of service who suffer an injury, illness or death caused by certain types of medical conditions would not be required to demonstrate causation or exposure before receiving medical benefits and financial compensation.
Other first responders, including first-aid or rescue squad members, police, corrections officers, nurses, medical technicians, and other medical personnel, are also not required to demonstrate causation of illnesses, but are required to provide evidence of exposure.
“My family is so honored and so grateful to stand here today. It’s been a very long 12 years without him but to see that this work is going to help so many people is just so powerful,” said Allison Canzanella, daughter of Thomas P. Canzanella. “And, I’m just so proud to be his daughter every single day. Thank you.”
To view a video of the ceremony, click here.