PROGRESS ON LEGISLATIVE FRONT DESPITE LAGGING ECONOMY

Formal Session Ends July 30

MARCH 2012 VOICE: As the first half of the 2011-2012 Massachusetts legislative session drew to a close last November, members witnessed several of our Association’s legislative initiatives (bills) become law through the passage of Chapter 176 (Pension Reform III).

Including an increased COLA base for state & teacher retirees, five Association-backed bills were contained within Chapter 176. Another bill, S1290, was addressed through Chapter 69 (Municipal Insurance Reform). This leaves thirteen bills still pending before various legislative committees.

With formal legislative activity ending on July 30, the Association’s legislative team has embarked on an all-out push to advance our remaining bills – the majority of which are under review by the Joint Committee on Public Service.

The Public Service Committee, with jurisdiction over all public pension and health insurance legislation, is chaired by Representative John Scibak (D-South Hadley) and Senator Katherine Clark (D-Melrose).

“Despite the lagging economy, we continue to make progress on the legislative front. Passing six major bills last year, in the face of continued budget cuts, was a pretty tough feat,” said Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel. “2012 will be equally tough, but we do think there are some bills that have a realistic chance of passing in this environment.

“We’re making every effort to pass as many bills benefiting retirees and survivors as we can. Obviously, the less costly a proposal is the more of a chance it has of passing this year.”
Bills such as H680 & S1348 (state basic life insurance increase), H689 (Pre-July 2004 Option C mortality table adjustment) and S1291 have an estimated annual cost of $9 million, $75-$100 million and $60 million respectively. Other bills, such as S1395 (municipal retiree dental insurance access) and H683 (conversion of disability pensions), carry no monetary cost whatsoever.

Ed Note: Each of the nineteen separate proposals, filed by the Association at the start of the 2011-2012 Legislative Session, has now had a public hearing, at which Association officials testified. The following is a list of pending bills, which have been sponsored by our Association. Unless otherwise noted, the bills listed are still pending before the Legislature and have not been pasted into law.

COST OF LIVING

S1351 (Sen. Pacheco) and S1343 (Sen. R. Moore) State & Teacher COLA Base: Passed within Chapter 176, Acts of 2011. Increases state & teacher COLA base to $13,000 beginning July 1, 2012.

PENSION BENEFITS

S1289 (Sen. Donnelly) Minimum Pension: Passed within Chapter 176, Acts of 2011. Raises the minimum pension for state/teacher retirees, with at least 25 years of service, from $10,000 to $15,000 and includes a local option allowing up to a $15,000 minimum pension for local retirees with 25 or more years.

S1287 (Sen. Donnelly) Survivor Minimum Pension: Passed within Chapter 176, Acts of 2011. Raises the benefit for Option (d) survivors from $3,000 to $6,000 annually for state & teacher retirees, with a local option.

S1375 (Sen. Spilka) Repeal of Remarriage Penalty: Allows certain survivors, who had remarried before July 1, 2000 and subsequently lost their pensions, to regain their pensions prospectively (from the law’s effective date). Public Service Committee.

H1624 (Rep. Moran), previously H689 (Rep. Dwyer) & H2955 (Rep. Golden) Option C Recalculation: Provides that the pensions of those, who retired prior to 7/1/04 and chose Options (b) or (c), would be recalculated using the mortality table established on 7/1/04. Reported favorably from Public Service Committee, now before House Committee on Ways and Means.

S1328 (Sen. McGee) Post Retirement Employment: Passed within Chapter 176, Acts of 2011. Adds an additional $15,000 to the amount that a superannuation retiree, who returns to public service on a part-time basis (up to 960 hours annually), can earn.

INSURANCE

S1348 (Sen. Pacheco) & H680 (Rep. deMacedo) Basic Life Insurance: Raises the basic life insurance for state retirees from $5,000 to $10,000. (Municipalities can already set a higher life insurance amount). Reported favorably by Public Service Committee, now before Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.

S1291 (Sen. Donnelly) Medicare Part B Refund: Requires the GIC to refund, either 80, 85 or 90%, depending on date of retirement, of the Medicare Part B paid by state retirees, with a similar requirement for communities mandating Medicare after the law’s effective date. Committee on Public Service. Ed Note: As a part of the Fiscal ’12 Budget (Chapter 68) all municipalities are now required to mandate Medicare enrollment for all eligible retirees.

S1350  (Sen. Pacheco) & H682 (Rep. deMacedo) Survivors Insurance Retention: Allows survivors to remarry without losing their health insurance coverage. Committee on Public Service.

H681 (Rep. deMacedo) GIC Appeal Process: Provides right to appeal the GIC’s denial of coverage, prescription drug copayments or other policies. Committee on Public Service.

S1395 (Sen. Tolman) Municipal Retirees’ Dental Insurance Participation: Allows municipal retirees, insured through the GIC, to participate in the retiree-pay-all dental insurance plan. Committee on Public Service.

S1290 (Sen. Donnelly) Health Reimbursement Account: Passed within Chapter 69, Acts of 2011 (Municipal Insurance Reform). Allows municipalities, in the GIC, to establish a health reimbursement account for qualified medical expenses more than $1,500.

VETERANS

H1680 (Rep. deMacedo) Non-Contributory Vets Tax Exemption: Extends to non-contributory retirees/veterans the same tax-exempt status as all other public pensioners receive. Joint Committee on Revenue.

H1594 (Rep. deMacedo) Extend Definition Of Veteran: Extends the expanded definition of veteran (ie, includes “peacetime” service) to pre-8/26/04 retirees, to be eligible prospectively for the veterans bonus, with a local option. Committee on Public Service.

DISABILITY PENSIONS

H2426 (Rep. Chan) Disability Reexaminations:  Ends periodic medical reviews of disability retirees, who have been reexamined, at least once, and retired on disability for longer than ten years, unless the retiree requests a reexamination by PERAC. Committee on Public Service.

H2427 (Rep. Chan) Earned Income Definition:  (See S1328, Increases superannuation retiree earnings limit for part-time public service after retirement). Increases the additional $5,000 to $15,000 under the formula that allows a disability retiree to earn the difference between the current salary for his former position and his pension. Committee on Public Service.

H683 (Rep. deMacedo) Conversion of Disability Pension: Allows a disability retiree to convert their disability pension to a reduced superannuation (regular) retirement allowance and no longer be subject to annual earned income limitations and reporting. Reported favorably from Committee on Public Service, now before House Committee on Ways and Means.

H2428 (Rep. Chan) Non-Veteran Ordinary Disability Formula: Changes the age factor for calculating an ordinary disability retirement from 1.5 (age 55) to 2.0 (age 60). Committee on Public Service.

S1349 (Sen. Pacheco) Disability Earned Income Report: Passed, in part, within Chapter 176, Acts of 2011, which exempts those retired 20 or more years and not working for 10 or more years from filing annual earnings report. Exempts a disability retiree, who has been retired for at least 10 years and has not reported earned income for at least the past 5 years, from filing an annual report of earned income with PERAC until they have earnings. Committee on Public Service.

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