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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.

LOCAL COLA VOTES UNDERWAY

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.

GOVERNOR INCLUDES 3% COLA IN BUDGET

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%.

MAJORITY IN HOUSE SUPPORT WEP/GPO REPEAL

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."

SUPPORT NEARS MAJORITY FOR WEP/GPO REPEAL

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
Representatives.

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.

PUBLIC SERVICE CHAIRMEN ANNOUNCED


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. 
 

WEP/GPO REPEAL BILL OFF TO FAST START

JANUARY 18, 2006: Federal legislation that would repeal the Social
Security offset laws is off to a fast start in the 110th Congress.
The bill, H.R. 82, filed by California Congressmen Howard Berman (D-CA) and
Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) on the first day of the Congressional Session
already has 140 co-sponsors. To date, Bay State Congressmen Capuano, Frank,
McGovern, and Tierney have signed onto the bill.

H.R. 82 is pending before the House Subcommittee on Social
Security, which is now chaired by Michael McNulty (D-NY). MA Congressman
Richard Neal no longer serves on the Social Security Subcommittee, having been
promoted to chair the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures.

In the US Senate, Diane Feinstein (D-CA) has reintroduced her bill that would also repeal the WEP/GPO. S 206 now has five Senate cosponsors, including Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine. MA Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry are expected to sign onto the bill in the near future.

KEY CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE SET

January 11, 2007 - Social Security Dominant Issue - New York Democrat Charles Rangel will head the powerful
House Committee on Ways and Means for the 110th Congress. Rangel,
who has represented Harlem for over thirty-years, is
known for his outspoken no nonsense style.

Bill Allowing Retirees Greater Earnings While Working In Public Sector Vetoed By Governor

December 26, 2006: In a surprise veto, Governor Mitt Romney rejected H263 and returned it to the Legislature on December 22. Romney's veto message said: "This legislation allows an individual under section 91 of chapter 32 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2004 Official Edition, to earn $15,000 more than the salary of the position from which the person was retired or was terminated.

CLARIFYING OUR COLA BASE LEGISLATION: WHY $16,000

JAN 2007 - Members will note that we have again filed legislation for a higher base, currently $12,000, to which an annual 3% can be applied.

WELLESLEY FIRST BOARD TO VOTE ON JULY '07 THREE PERCENT COLA

JAN 2007 - Local government retirement boards have until July 1st to vote for a July 2007 COLA for their retirees and survivors. Most boards wait until sometime after the first of the year to vote on the July 1st COLA, a few even waiting until June to vote.

DOANE NAMED TO PENSION AGENCY


DECEMBER 11, 2006: Governor Mitt Romney has named Paul V. Doane of Harwich to a
seat on the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC).
Doane, who  was sworn in on December
11th, replaces Henry Brauer as the Governor's designee as an "investment
professional." His term will run until October 29, 2010. Doane served as a
Republican State Senator representing the Cape and
the Islands District from 1981 until 1988 when he did not seek reelection. He
was director of the PRIM Board from May 1991 until October 1993. He is
currently a Senior Vice President with Oppenheimer Capital. Our Association
welcomes Paul Doane as a Commissioner of PERAC. He is a fair-minded individual
with a deep respect for those who work in the public sector and retirees.

Middlesex Election

November 22, 2006: Larry
Driscoll, a nine-term elected member of the Middlesex Retirement Board has
resigned. There are two years remaining on his latest three-year term. An
election has been scheduled for the unexpired term. Nomination papers are
available from November 27 to December 8. Nomination papers require five (5)
signatures and must be filed by 4 p.m., December 12.

 

Ballots will be mailed on or about January 7, 2007. Ballots must
be returned by January 22 and will be counted on January 30.

LOCAL COLA: WELLESLEY FIRST TO VOTE

NOVEMBER 20, 2006:
Wellesley’s Retirement Board was
the first of our 102 local retirement boards to vote for a July 2007 3% pension
COLA for its members. The vote came at the Board’s October 25 meeting. The
Newton Retirement Board is scheduled to vote on a 3% July 2007 COLA at a
December 3 meeting.

ROMNEY TAKES PARTING SHOT

NOVEMBER 13, 2006: In what can only be seen as a
backhanded parting shot aimed at political opponents, Governor Mitt Romney has
unilaterally cut approximately $32 million from the budget of the state’s Group
Insurance Commission (GIC).

MUNICIPAL HEALTHCARE TRUST FUND BILL ADVANCES

OCTOBER 17, 2006: The House Committee on Ways and Means
has taken a significant step forward in addressing the new accounting standards
that require municipalities, as well as the state, to disclose the future
healthcare costs for their retirees. It has reported out favorably H4887, which
would allow communities to prefund these costs.

PUSH UNDERWAY TO FORCE FLOOR VOTE ON WEP/GPO REPEAL

September 15, 2006 (Washington, D.C.):  Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett has
introduced a resolution (H.RES. 987) to discharge the WEP/GPO Repeal bill (H.R.
147) from the Social Security Subcommittee and have it go to the floor of the
House of Representatives for a vote. Like Massachusetts,
Texas is one of the states whose
public retirees are being hurt by the WEP (Windfall Elimination Provision) and
the GPO (Government Pension Offset).

ANNUAL MEETING DRAWS CROWD

SEPTEMBER 8, 2006: Over 600 members turned out Thursday September 7,
for the Association’s Annual Meeting held in Wakefield. State Treasurer
Tim Cahill and Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) were our guest
speakers, touching on a number of issues of direct importance to
members. Complete details of the meeting, along with a color photo
spread, will be in the November issue of the Voice.

ASSOCIATION ANNUAL MEETING: SEPTEMBER 7

The Annual Meeting of the Retired
State, County and Municipal
Employees Association of Massachusetts will be held on Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 1:00 P.M. at the Sheraton Colonial in Wakefield.
Take Exit 43 off Rt. 128.

Formal Legislation Ends

AUGUST 1, 2006: The
formal session for the 2005-2006 legislative year has drawn to a close with a
flurry of activity by the House and Senate. Of interest to public retirees and
survivors is passage of several provisions related to public retirement.

Romney Vetoes State Insurance Study

July 9, 2006: Special Panel Would Review GIC Plans - Governor Mitt Romney has vetoed language under outside section 104 of the state’s FY07 Budget that would create a special insurance task force charged with completing a comprehensive review of the current insurance benefits offered by the state Group Insurance Commission.

Romney Vetoes State Insurance Funding

July 9, 2006: Those Under 65 Would Pay 25% - Governor Mitt Romney has vetoed language and funding within the FY2007 State Budget that, unless voted down by the Legislature, will raise the insurance contribution rate for some retirees and all active state employees to a 75-25% split, rather than the current 90/10 and 85/15 splits. The move would only impact those retirees insured through the state Group Insurance Commission (GIC) who are under age 65 and not yet enrolled in Medicare.

Committee Releases COLA Base Increase

July 06 - Calls For Extension of Pension Schedules - Public retirees and survivors are on track to receive an increase in the base to which the annual cost-of-living adjustment is applied. In May, the Joint Committee on Public Service favorably released H4940, the Association’s bill to set a new COLA base at the state and local levels.

VETS Bonus / Budget Before Governor

July 1, 2006: As the clock ticked down to the final hours of the current fiscal year, the Legislature enacted the FY 2007 state budget and sent it to Governor Romney for his approval. The governor now has ten days in which to review the budget and take action.

The 3% COLA, based on the first $12,000 of one’s pension, for state and teacher retirees ,who retired prior to July 1, 2005, is contained with the final budget. It will take effect once the budget is signed into law, but will be retroactive to July 1

COLA Update

June 15: All 104 local retirement boards have approved a 3% COLA for retirees and survivors effective this July. Anyone on the pension rolls prior to July 1, 2005 will be eligible for this increase. The House and Senate have approved a July 3% COLA for state and teacher retirees. The $12,000 base will remain in effect for this year, therefore a maximum COLA of $360 per year or $30 monthly.