OPTIMISM HIGH FOR NEW SESSION

JAN 2007 - Bills Receive BiPartisan Support - Change will take place on Beacon Hill come January 4, when Deval Patrick is sworn in as the Commonwealth’s new governor. Along with a new chief executive comes a new administration, with a different focus than the outgoing Republican administration.

Beginning work on that Thursday in January along with the new Governor,
will be an army of key aides, who will replace Romney’s appointees in
running the day-to-day workings of state government.

“While we are very excited with Deval Patrick and Tim Murray having won
the election, we also look forward to having a new team in place behind
the scenes,” said Association President Ralph White. “Neither Romney,
nor his staff, were interested in working with us in finding common
ground. This new governor is different and we are looking forward to
what the next four years may bring.”

Three key changes, that will have an immediate impact on public
retirees, will be the replacement of those gubernatorial aides serving
on the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC), Pension Reserves
Investment Management (PRIM) Board, and the Public Employee Retirement
Administration Commission (PERAC). With each agency establishing
policies or administering programs that have a great impact on
retirees, the governor’s representatives play a key role.
“Having people we can work with on these boards and commissions will be
a marked improvement over the past administration. Just in terms of the
GIC alone, the governor selects all eleven appointees and therefore has
a great degree of control over policy,” continued White.

Legislation Filed

As is described in detail beginning on page 8, the Association has
filed its 2007-2008 Legislative Package. Consisting of eighteen
separate bills, all areas of importance to public retirees have been
covered.
In a development, which could prove pivotal to the future success of
many bills, a bipartisan group of legislative leaders has agreed to
sponsor the package. Bill numbers, along with a listing of all sponsors
and cosponsors, will be included in the March edition of the Voice.

“We are fortunate to have a number of supporters within the Legislature
and from both sides of the aisle, who are willing to take the lead in
sponsoring our bills,” explained Association Legislative Liaison Shawn
Duhamel. “These are all folks with whom we have a history of working
closely. More importantly, each has experience in the area of public
retirement and healthcare, which is essential when the bills reach the
floor for debate.
“This past session was tough going. Actually, for the past four years
we have been forced to play defense more often than not, as we were
constantly attacked by a hostile governor. Under Governor Patrick, we
should find more opportunity to reach common ground and address the
concerns spelled out in our bills.”
Beyond efforts to increase the COLA base to $16,000, Association
officials are optimistic that progress can be made on obtaining
reimbursement for the Medicare Part B premium, as well as bringing
about change within the Group Insurance Commission.

Members impacted by the change in the Option C mortality tables will be
pleased to know that the Association has refiled its bill to adjust the
pensions of pre-July 2004 Option C retirees to reflect the new tables.
A decision on potential legal action will be made shortly.
The various survivor benefit increases are being addressed in one bill
this year instead of two separate bills. Association lobbyists have
also condensed legislation, which deals with disability retirement,
into one combined bill.

Healthcare Heats Up

One important issue being closely monitored by the Association, as the
new session begins and municipalities begin the budget process for
FY08, is what will be done to reign in the cost of local health
insurance coverage.
As members are aware, over the past year the Association participated
in a joint labor-management task force, which issued a recommendation
to streamline the process by which municipalities can join the state’s
GIC.

The basic concept behind the plan is for municipalities, after a vote
of the local retirees and employees, to join the state insurance plan
and participate in the same insurance pool as state employees and
retirees. In many cases, this would dramatically reduce the cost of
local insurance, as well as reduce the rate of future increases.
It is expected that these concerns will be heard in the coming months,
when the proposal is filed as a bill and the Legislature begins its
public hearing process. Of great importance to Association leaders, as
the bill moves forward through the process, is that language, ensuring
local retirees will have a vote in the process, be maintained.

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