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Vote delayed on firefighter cancer legislation

Posted at 8:10 PM, Apr 06, 2016

A state senate committee delayed a vote Tuesday on legislation to give workers' compensation benefits to firefighters battling cancer. 

After hearing opponent testimony during a hearing on SB 27, the chair of the committee, OH Sen. Jay Hottinger (R-District 31), said senators "requested" more time to learn about the legislation.

The senator's decision came as a disappointment to firefighters attending the meeting.

They said Hottinger promised them the committee would vote on the legislation during the hearing.

"Everyone keeps saying it needs more time. . . but the firefighters that are sick don't have extra time," said Steve Westcott, a former firefighter and two-time cancer survivor, who now works for the Firefighter Cancer Support Network. 

Hottinger also said "conflicting" testimony led him to delay the vote.

During the hearing, Kristopher Kachline, an attorney advising the Ohio Municipal League, cast doubt on the scientific link between fighting fires and an increased cancer risk. 

"Having the title firefighter doesn't cause cancer," said Kachline. 

"It's the person. . . not the occupation," he said. 

But in an exclusive NewsChannel 5 Investigation, Dr. Tom Hales, a CDC epidemiologist, said there is an association between cancer and fighting fires. 

The bill would five workers' compensation benefits to firefighters and could cost Ohio's cities and towns millions of dollars.

Firefighters like Akron Lt. John Beavers, who is battling prostate cancer, said it's a small price to pay.

"Who here today wants to tell them what I cost?" , said Beavers while holding up pictures of his two grandsons.

In February, an exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation found Ohio is one of just 16 states without cancer presumptive legislation.