Lawmakers take on bill inspired by marathon bombing survivor

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island lawmakers inspired by a resident who lost a leg in the Boston Marathon bombings are moving forward on legislation to make victims of terrorist attacks eligible for compensation even if the attack happened outside the state.

The bill is a response to the bureaucratic struggles encountered by Heather Abbott when she applied for the state's crime victim compensation fund after the April 2013 attack.

General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who administers the fund, has said the legislation would prevent such hurdles in the future by clarifying conflicting language in the existing law.

The House voted 68-0 to pass the bill last month. It faces a Senate committee hearing Tuesday.

Its sponsor is Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, a Newport Democrat. Abbott is a Newport resident and has not publicly commented on the legislation. She did not return a request for comment Tuesday.

Abbott was watching the race when she was catapulted through the entrance of a restaurant when the second bomb exploded. Later, in the hospital, she said she had to make the difficult decision to have her left leg amputated. She formed a nonprofit foundation last year to help other amputees.

The state's fund assists Rhode Island residents and their families if they are victims of violent crime, covering up to $25,000 for medical bills, loss of earnings or other costs. The state paid 603 claims last year totaling about $1.3 million. The fund is mostly for victims of Rhode Island crimes, but the existing law includes a provision assisting victims of terrorist attacks abroad — just not in other U.S. states.

The state initially denied Abbott's claim under then-Treasurer Gina Raimondo, now the state's Democratic governor. Abbott appealed and was later determined to be eligible under the intent of the original law.

"Hopefully no one will ever have to go through this again," said state Rep. David Coughlin, a Pawtucket Democrat who introduced the House version of the bill at Magaziner's request.

But if a Rhode Island resident is injured in an attack and meets the criteria, Coughlin said, "we definitely want to give them a smooth path to be able to make a claim through the victim compensation fund."