Legislation

Articles about Legislation that may be useful to Massachusetts retirees.

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.

Association Gears Up For 2000 Session

JANUARY 2000 - Legislative Package Poised For Action - With
the passage of the FY 2000 State Budget now finalized, the focus on
Beacon Hill will now turn towards the several thousand individual bills
pending before the Legislature. As we reported in the November Voice,
the extended battle over the budget had caused action on most other
matters to be put on hold.

Cellucci Loses Key Budget Aide

NOVEMBER 1999 - Keel Heads To Harvard Pilgrim - Governor
Paul Cellucci has lost another valuable fiscal aide to the state’s
largest health maintenance organization (HMO). Kristen Keel, the
undersecretary for the Executive Office of Administration and Finance,
left the Administration on October 1 to become the budget director of
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

Pension Errors Bill Nears Passage

NOVEMBER 1999 - Boards May Waive Repayments - Ever
since House and Senate budget negotiators became deadlocked in their
deliberations over the FY 2000 State Budget, our Association’s
legislative team has patiently attempted to shepherd numerous
retirement bills through the Committee process. Association lobbyists
have continued to meet with legislative staff members to keep our
legislative package fresh in their minds.

State House Busy Despite Budget Delay

NOVEMBER 1999 - Work Continues On Retirement Legislation - To
many, the fact that the FY 2000 State Budget is four months overdue
would mean that not much work was getting done under the golden dome
atop Beacon Hill. With the legislative leaders locked in daily
negotiations, how can anything else get done?

State Police Disability Bill Moving

SEPTEMBER 1999 - Since
the passage of the last controversial disability law (Chapter 306, Acts
of 1996) over 2 1/2 years ago, we've reported on countless bills,
including our Association's H-305 (see January Voice), that deal with
disability retirees returning to work. While a technical corrections
bill (Chapter 427, Acts of 1996) was passed right after Chapter 306's
enactment, no other major piece of legislation, on disability retirees'
returning to work, has been passed.

Member Organizes Effort In North Carolina

SEPTEMBER 1999 - Pushes To Restore Tax Break On Mass Pensions - Recently we reported on states that have a reciprocal agreement with the Commonwealth not to tax thepensions of Mass retirees, now living in that state and we would not
tax the public pensions of their retirees residing here (May Voice). Unfortunately this list does not include every state that has an income tax law and could tax public pensions.