Busy Schedule For Public Service Committee

SEPTEMBER 5, 2013: With the summer recess now in the rearview mirror, the state Legislature has returned to Beacon Hill with an aggressive fall agenda.

On Tuesday, September 10th, the Joint Committee on Public Service will reconvene with what is expected to be a lengthy public hearing in the State House’s Gardner Auditorium. Association officials will be on hand to testify on further increases to the COLA base (S1259 & S1263) and the Option B & C recalculation (H2235).

Other topics of interest on the Committee’s agenda for Tuesday include bills filed by the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC), as well as the Mass. Association of Contributory Retirement Systems (MACRS). The bills are gear toward the operation of our retirement systems and healthcare trust funds.

A controversial item on the Tuesday agenda is S1225, which, if passed, would require the Commonwealth and local pension systems to divest of their investment holdings in fossil fuels. The bill is the result of a growing national movement to restrict public investment in fossil fuels. Thus far, no state pension fund has divested. However, several cities have either passed divestiture ordinances or have them under consideration.

In the past, Massachusetts has taken a measured approach when it comes to divestiture having banned investment in South Africa and Northern Ireland in the 1980s, tobacco in the 90s, and most recently, Iran in 2010.

“In the past, our Association has supported some of the efforts to divest of certain stock holdings. It is not something that can or should be done on a whim, but there are certain cases, such as with Iran due to their sponsorship of terrorism, where it makes sense, explains Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel. “In 2010, Ralph White and I, as members of Retirement Boards with investment holdings (PRIM and Town of Plymouth respectively) supported Treasurer Grossman’s position to divest from Iran.

“We have not yet taken a position on S1225 and are looking forward to hearing the testimony on the bill at Tuesday’s hearing. For our part, we’re focused on trying to move our own bills forward, as well as preparing for the hearing on H59 in late October.

H59, the Governor’s retiree healthcare reform legislation, is now slated for a public hearing on Halloween day, October 31. The Association’s legislative team will continue to work hard to maintain the protections for retirees and survivors that have been included in Governor Patrick’s draft of the bill – protections also backed by Treasurer Grossman and the Special Commission on Retiree Healthcare.