Breaking News


May 11, 2007:
Marking the first important step, the Joint Public Service Committee, chaired
by Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) and Sen. Ben Downing (D-Piffsfield) has
approved the Association’s centerpiece legislation, raising the COLA Base.

bill, now S1586, includes several Association proposals, most importantly,
raising the Base for state and teacher retirees to $16,000 and allowing local
retirement systems to increase their Base to any level above the current
$12,000, through adjustments in their pension funding schedules.


May 4, 2007: To date,
eighty-eight of the state’s 104 local retirement systems have approved a new 3%
COLA to be paid this July. With the remaining sixteen retirement systems
scheduled to vote in May and June, we are well on our way to having 100%
adoption of the 2007 COLA.

Madeline Sullivan Passes On

2007 MAY - Shortly before going to press, we received word that Association Secretary Madeline Sullivan had passed away after a lengthy illness.

Sullivan was a true pioneer of group insurance here in Massachusetts. In 1956, she was one of the first people hired by State Group Insurance Commission Director Bill Burke. Burke himself had just been appointed by Governor Christian Herter to head the new agency created in October 1955.


2007 MAY - Governor Deval Patrick did not make the same mistake that former Governor Mitt Romney did in his first year as governor.

Flurry of Activity on Beacon Hill

April 9, 2007:  Legislative leaders in the Massachusetts State House
are now busy at work on a number of proposals that have a direct impact on
public retirees. Bills raising the COLA base, creating a new minimum pension
and allowing local retirees greater access to the state’s Group Insurance plans,
are now being closely considered.


March 27, 2007:   In
what has become an annual ritual of sorts, the state’s 104 local retirement
systems are now voting whether or not to pay the 3% cost-of-living-adjustment
(COLA) for 2007. By law, the approved increase would take effect on July 1.

State law requires each local retirement system to hold an
annual vote on that year’s COLA payment, which currently can be no more than
3%, based on the first $12,000 of one’s pension. Since the law changed in 1998,
granting local control over COLAs, very few systems have refused the annual
increase or paid below 3%.

Currently, fifty-two local systems havre approved a full 3% COLA for FY08. None have rejected or lowered the percentage.


March 1, 2007: Governor Deval Patrick has included, in
his proposed Fiscal ‘08 State Budget, a 3% Cost-of Living Adjustment (COLA)
that would take effect this July 1 for retired state employees and teachers who
are eligible for the increase.

Also, the premium contribution rates for retirees, who are
enrolled in the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) remain unchanged in
the governor’s budget. Those, who retired on or before July 1, 1994, would continue to pay 10% of the
premium, while those, who retired after that date, would contribute 15%.


February 20, 2007: Over a majority of the US House of
Representatives support legislation that will repeal Social Security’s Windfall
Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) laws. H.R.
82, the WEP/GPO Repeal bill, now has 222 Congressmen as cosponsors, surpassing
the number 218 which is a majority in the House of Representatives. S. 206, the
WEP/GPO Repeal bill in the US Senate, has 14 cosponsors.

"Recently CARE, the Coalition to Assure Retirement Equity, to which our Association has belonged for several years, met to map out strategy on the WEP and GPO for this year," according to Legislative Chairman Bill Hill. "A consensus was reached among those, attending this meeting, that the coalition's focus would be on the House and its Ways and Means Committee. With a majority in the House supporting H.R. 82, this is the best strategy at this time."


FEBRUARY 13, 2007: Association
members, who have fallen victim to either the Windfall Elimination Provision
(WEP) or the Government Pension Offset (GPO), will be pleased that legislation
which would repeal both laws is nearing majority support before the US House of

H.R. 82, filed by California Congressmen, Democrat Howard
Berman and Republican Howard “Buck” McKeon, now has 199 co-sponsors. Only 218
sponsors are needed to have a majority in the House. While majorities have been
reached during the last two congressional sessions, it was not achieved so
early in the term.

Eight of the ten Bay State Congressmen have now signed onto the bill. Reps. Edward Markey and Richard Neal are expected to sign on in the near future.


January 31, 2007:
Senate President Robert Travaglini has named
freshman-Senator Benjamin Downing to chair the Joint Committee on Public
Service. The twenty-five year old Downing hails from Pittsfield and represents
the Berkshire Hampshire and Franklin District, which encompasses 48 communities
in Western Massachusetts.

Downing replaces Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville), who
had been appointed to chair Public Service after having won a special election
to the Senate in 2005. Jehlen, who worked closely with Association lobbyists to
pass the minimum pension bill in the Senate last year, has been promoted to
chair the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs.

In the House, Speaker Sal DiMasi has reappointed
Representative Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) to a second term as Public Service
Committee chairman. Kaufman, who has been a close ally of public retirees, is
the lead sponsor of our COLA base and healthcare trust fund bills.

State House observers expect the public hearing process to begin by mid-March. While final numbers are not yet available, some 900 bills, affecting public retirement, have been filed and will be heard by the Joint Committee on Public Service.