MASS. Retirement Delegation Takes To Capitol

MAY 2012 VOICE: Protecting Social Security, while working to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO), remains on the policy radar screens of all 10 Massachusetts Congressmen, as well as U.S. Senator John Kerry.

As we reported in the March edition of the Voice, Kerry recently filed S2010, which now has 12 Senate cosponsors. Senator Scott Brown is reviewing the issue, at the request of our Association, but has yet to take a position. Senators Collins and Snowe of Maine, along with Rhode Island Senators Reed and Whitehouse have signed on.

Like its House counterpart (HR1332), S2010 fully repeals both the WEP and GPO. Both bills are before their respective Social Security Subcommittee, where they will likely remain through the 2012 election cycle.

“Given the political climate, WEP/GPO, or any Social Security, reform is not likely to occur this year. The votes just are not there in the Senate. In the House, things are even worse, with key members of the Majority’s leadership looking to privatize Social Security,” says Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel. “But we’re in no way giving up. We continue to rally the other affected states and keep the pressure on, so that the thousands of members, affected by these awful laws, are not forgotten.”

Congressional Support

In February, Duhamel and a contingent of Massachusetts public pension officials from the Mass. Association of Contributory Retirement Systems (MACRS) spent two days in Washington, D.C., attending the Legislative Conference of the National Conference of Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS) and meeting with federal officials.

NCPERS, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C., represents all public retirement systems across the country. The organization is one of several working closely with our Association on WEP/GPO repeal, as well as a host of other policy issues impacting public retirees.

On the second day of the Conference, Duhamel was joined by MACRS President Denis Devine (Woburn), Treasurer Fred McCray (Quincy) and Conference Planner Kevin Regan (Westfield) for a full day of meetings on Capitol Hill with the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation.

The group started the day by meeting with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Worcester), who is the ranking Democrat on the House Rules Committee. McGovern is a leading advocate for WEP/GPO repeal, as well as efforts to protect retirees on Medicare.

Next was Rep. Bill Keating (D-Bourne), who has long been a close Association friend and supporter. While still a freshman, representing the redrawn 9th District, Keating has quickly become a vocal advocate for the rights of retired public employees.

Springfield’s Richie Neal cleared his afternoon schedule to meet with the delegation, and he also made his expert staff available for a detailed conversation on WEP/GPO. Not only has Neal long been a crucial supporter of our efforts to repeal the two laws, but his position within the House Democratic leadership is pivotal. Neal is a senior member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which is the committee responsible for all issues relative to Social Security.

Reps. Michael Capuano and Nikki Tsongas both left the House Floor during ongoing debate to discuss WEP/GPO. Due to his position as a Democratic Floor Leader, Capuano is a key ally and has a strong record of standing up for public retirees.

Duhamel also met with the staffs of Senators Brown and Kerry, to discuss the current Senate situation. He was accompanied by our Association’s Washington lobbyists Tom Lussier and Don Marlais of Lussier, Gregor, Vienna & Associates, which specializes in Social Security issues.

“All ten Massachusetts Congressmen have now signed onto the repeal bill in the House, where any legislation impacting Social Security must begin. These meetings were important in keeping WEP/GPO fresh on the minds of our federal officials, several of whom hold leadership positions,” explained Duhamel. “What this means is that when the larger issue of Social Security is finally debated, our Congressmen will be in a position to address WEP/GPO.

“Admittedly, none of this is happening fast enough for those members who are impacted. Every single Massachusetts Rep. we met with understands this and knows how important it is to get something done ASAP.”