ASSOCIATION FILES LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE

JANUARY 1999 -
Fifteen Key Bills Filed For 1999 - On
January 6th, the 1999-2000 Legislative Session officially begins with
over 5,900 separate pieces of legislation awaiting consideration.Our
Association has filed fifteen bills, effecting retirement and health
care issues.

As it has in past
years, the Association has narrowed the scope of our legislative
package to include only bills addressing key issues to our members.
Each bill involves an issue that large segments of our membership can
identify with. Bills, effecting individual members, are not filed by
the Association.

“Our strategy has
to be to focus on a few mainstream issues that are important to a large
number of our members. Each year a handful of members will request that
we file a bill just for them. Unfortunately, we have to respectfully
decline,” explained Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel. “It
is not fair to the members as a whole to file individual bills.

“It
takes a great deal of effort to pass a bill on Beacon Hill. Therefore,
we have to place our resources behind the bills that help the
Association as a whole.”

COLA Takes Center Stage

Once
again changes to the Cost-of-Living (COLA) law will take center stage
for Association lobbyists. As has been explained on page 1, the
Association is filing two bills on the COLA percentage and the base
pension.

Additionally, the
Association is filing thirteen other non-COLA related bills. They range
in issues from the much coveted “right-to-remarry” bill to increasing
the basic life insurance coverage for those insured through the state’s
Group Insurance Commission (GIC). Each bill is of importance to a
number of members.

At the start of
the session in January, each bill will have been given a bill number
and assigned to the appropriate committee. The various committees will
then review each bill. Public hearings will begin in late January or
early February, to allow the public an opportunity to testify in favor
or in opposition to a particular bill.

Most
Association bills, relative to public retirement, will be assigned to
the Joint Committee on Public Service. The Committee is currently
chaired by Representative Timothy Toomey (D-Cambridge) and Senator
Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge).

“Since
the COLA is what puts money in our members’ pockets, it has to be the
main focus of our legislative team. That is not to say that the other
thirteen bills are not important,” said Association President Ralph
White. “For instance, the ‘right-to-remarry’ and the non-contrib tax
exemption are bills we are refiling that I want to see passed this
year. Every single bill we have filed can stand by its merits. We have
a good package that should receive a lot of support.”

Bills Receive Key Sponsors

Although
any Massachusetts citizen has the legal right to file legislation
through their local legislators, its successful passage often depends
on having the right sponsor. When asked to sponsor a particular bill,
legislators have a choice to file the bill as the lead sponsor or to
file it “by request” of the constituent.

This
year our Association’s legislative team met with legislative leaders
within days of the November 3rd election to recruit bill sponsors.
Fortunately, each one of our fifteen bills has a veteran legislator as
the lead sponsor. Public Service Chairmen Moore and Toomey, along with
Representative Edward Connolly (D-Everett) have opted to sponsor the
Association’s legislative package.

Representative
Rachel Kaprielian (D-Watertown) is co-sponsoring the right-to-remarry
with Toomey. Kaprielian, who is a member of the Public Service
Committee and past chairman of the Women’s Legislative Caucus, worked
closely with the Association during the 1998 session in an attempt to
pass the bill.

“In most cases, the
kiss-of-death to a bill is having it filed ‘by request’. This is often
a signal that the legislator is only filing the bill to fulfill their
constitutional responsibility, but is not in favor of the proposal,”
explained Duhamel. “We are very fortunate to have first-class sponsors
of all our bills. Each one is a good solid bill, nothing is frivolous.

“To
have the chairmen of the key Public Service Committee agree to sponsor
our bills is an indication that we are off to a good start. Granted
each bill still has to go through the legislative process where the
outcome is never set in stone. However, we are ready to hit the ground
running in January to advance our agenda.”

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