Association Holds Seat on Commission

AUGUST 10, 2012: At long last, the Special Commission on Disability will be holding its initial meeting. This coming September 7 has been scheduled for a meeting date of the 12 Commission members at the State House.

Created within last year’s Chapter 176 pension reform bill, the statute’s language included: there shall be a special commission to investigate and study all aspects of the accidental disability provisions of the Massachusetts contributory retirement system as well as the provisions of injured on duty benefits and presumptions for public employees contained in the general laws…

Also created within Chapter 176, and moving forward with activity this spring and summer is the Special Commission on Retiree Healthcare, of which we have been reporting on a regular basis.

Because the well-publicized $45 billion health insurance unfunded liability for the state and local governments is on the Commonwealth’s urgent list of anticipated legislation when the Legislature begins a new session in January, this Commission has received top priority.

The 11-member Healthcare Commission, on which our Association’s Shawn Duhamel represents retirees, currently has a November 30 reporting date. We will continue to report all Commission activity on a regular basis. With the Commission’s agenda centering on pro-rating future retirees’ health insurance premiums based on years of service, it is understandable why this Commission has captured the full attention of our public sector.

Agenda Uncertain

Although there is not the same sense of urgency with the Disability Commission, recent negative publicity on disability pensions has tended to encourage legislative leaders to move forward with Commission sessions.

The legislation has an October 1 reporting date but this will undoubtedly be extended, calling for a study of the current disability law throughout the fall and perhaps some recommendations by the end of the year.

Until the Disability Commission convenes, it is difficult to say what issues will emerge. Disability reform is not a new issue. The creation of the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) in 1996 (Ch. 306) focused on major disability changes and future governance of disability retirees.

Numerous rules and regulations, further tightening disability retirements, have since been promulgated by PERAC and approved by the Legislature.

Length of leave benefits for police, firefighters and correction officers injured while on duty is an issue that pops up from time to time. It is mentioned within the Commission’s study language. These employees are strongly represented on the Commission by Association President Ralph White and Professional Firefighters President Ed Kelly.

The following is a list of the Disability Commission Members.
Rep. John Scibak, Co-Chair
Senator William Brownsberger, Co-Chair
Senator Steve Brewer
Rep. Brian Dempsey
Rep. Ryan Fattman
Richard Harris, N. Reading Fire Chief
Nick Favorito, Treas. Grossman’s Office
Greg Mennis, Ex. Office Adm. & Finance
Joe Connarton, PERAC
Ralph White, Retired State, County & Municipal Employees
Ed Kelly, Professional Firefighters President
John Petrin, Burlington Town Manager (MMA)