Legislation

Articles about Legislation that may be useful to Massachusetts retirees.

Disabled State Troopers: New Return-To-Work Law

SEPTEMBER 2000 -
Back in '96, the pension law on returning disability retirees to their
former jobs was expanded to include state police (Chapter 306, Acts of
'96). Ever since then, there have been ongoing disputes among disabled
troopers, their former department, and employee union over returning
them to work.

Disability Retirees Win First Round In Their Appeals Regarding Earned Income

JULY 2000 - At the first of the year (January Voice), we reported on a growing controversy over what was earned income for disability retirees.
To recap, the retirement law tightly controls the amount a disability
retiree can earn and if he earns above that, his pension can be
reduced, dollar for dollar. (Note: These same restrictions do not apply
to retirees on regular, non-disability pensions.)

Senate Provides For Gic Appeals

JULY 2000 -
Amendment Addresses Drug Program - As the groundswell of outrage surrounding the Group Insurance
Commission’s new prescription drug program continued to grow, the state
Senate passed an amendment designed to ease retiree fears. Filed by
Senator Brian Joyce (D-Milton) on behalf of our Association, the
amendment (#661) requires the GIC to establish a prescription drug
appeals process.

Association Opposes Tax Cut Initiative

JULY 2000 -
Calls Ballot Question "Dangerous" - Buried beneath the hype and prestige of the presidential election this
November is a ballot initiative that seeks to roll the state income tax
rate back to 5%. The proposal is sponsored by Citizens For Limited
Taxation and Government (CLTG), along with the political backing of
Governor Paul Cellucci and most of the state’s Republican establishment.

Legislative Update

JULY 2000 -
Formal Sessions To End July 31 - After many long months of lobbying, much of the Association’s
legislative package was acted on as part of the FY 2001 state budget.
In addition to the annual COLA, non-contributory COLA, dental coverage,
prescription drug appeals, and the right to remarry law, our
legislative team was successful in passing several other key provisions
as riders in the so called "outside sections" of the budget.

Right To Remarry Going To Governor

JULY 2000 -
Legislature Adds Provision To Budget - One of the oldest most archaic provisions of Massachusetts retirement
law (Chapter 32) is about to change. After years of lobbying by
survivors, the Professional Firefighters (PFFM), the Mass Police
Association, and our Association, those members receiving survivor’s
pensions will now be able to remarry if they so chose.

Disability Retirements On The Decline

MAY 2000 -
Few Retirees Found Fit To Return To Work - In the three years since PERAC, the state’s new disability oversight
agency was created, there has been an 8.8% decrease in accidental
disability pensions within the Commonwealth’s 106 retirement systems.

Fast-Paced Legislative Session Ahead

MARCH 2000 - Over
the past four years, our Association has kept a close eye on the
various proposals that have been filed to further ìreformî the
disability retirement law. As we reported in January, there are
presently two separate bills pending action before the House that would
mark a major shift in our disability retirement law.

As
of press time, both bills are being held for further review before they
are put to a vote by the full House. State Police retirees need to
concern themselves with H-4962, sponsored by the State Police
Association, which is before the Committee On Bills In Third Reading.
All other disability retirees should note H-4889, which is currently
being held on the House calendar.

Both
bills are the outcrop of the perception, real or perceived, that the
current laws governing the return to active duty by a disability
retiree are too lax. Together with most of the public employee unions,
the Association has opposed both bills claiming that their passage
would harm the rights of our disabled members.

Correction Bill Passes House

The
legislature was quick to act on H-319, the so called pension correction
bill.When formal sessions reconvened in January, the House engrossed
the bill on a voice vote and discharged it to the Senate.

Members
will recall that H-319 allows retirement boards the flexibility to
waive the repayment of funds owed to the retirement system because of
an accounting error. In order to waive the repayment, the retiree or
employee must have had no knowledge of the mistake.

In
other news, S-1788 (H-352), which allows survivors to remarry without
losing their pensions, is gaining support in the Senate. Currently,
only survivors of Option C retirees can remarry and keep their pension
benefits.The bill is now in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

"We're
pleased with the early action on H-319. Boards should be able to
address these errors on a case by case basis," said Legislative Liaison
Shawn Duhamel. "Support really seems to be growing for the right to
remarry bill.We have been working hand-in-hand with the Professional
Firefighters on this bill."

Controversy Over Disability Retirees

JANUARY 2000 - Officials Disagree On Earnings Definition - Controversies,
relating to disability pensions, have been brewing as 1999 ends and
will undoubtedly spill over to next year. Chief among them are the
issues surrounding disability retirees returning to work in the public
sector. Another is a growing dispute between retirement officials over
what is earned income for a disability retiree.

Return-To-Work Bill Awaits Further Action

JANUARY 2000 - During
the closing days of the 1999 formal session, a controversial bill on
the return to work of disability retirees produced a flurry of
activity. While the bill (H-4889) remained in the House when the formal
session ended on November 17th, it may be earmarked for quick action
when the 2000 legislative session begins.