2015 Legislative Process Underway

Hearings Held on Retiree Proposals

July 2015 Voice: After a slow start to the beginning of the 2015-16 Legislative Session, the public hearings before the Joint Committee on Public Service are now in full swing.

Several factors have contributed to this year’s slower start. During the last election cycle the House of Representatives witnessed the largest turnover in membership in decades. Several high-ranking members either retired or were elected to higher office, such as Boston Mayor Marty Walsh – a former State Rep. from Dorchester.

Changes in the Senate were even more drastic, with the election of Stanley Rosenberg as Senate President and the ushering in of an entirely new leadership team. Rosenberg and several members of his inner circle have long been staunch supporters of public retirees.

“We’re very fortunate that both the House and Senate leadership teams now contain legislators who have previously chaired the Public Service Committee and have a deep understanding of our public pension system,” says Legislative Director Shawn Duhamel. “Pension law is a complicated issue area, so it is extremely beneficial to have leaders who are knowledgeable about how our system works.”

Committee Process

While new to leadership positions on the Public Service Committee, Senator Jim Timilty (D-Walpole) and Rep. Jamie Murphy (D-Weymouth) have a wealth of experience in working on the issues of importance to public retirees. Both have close relationships with local retirees within their respective districts.

In mid-May, Public Service conducted a hearing on COLA legislation, as well as the issue of Option C recalculation. Both issues will likely be advanced favorably by the Committee within the coming months.

The Committee has scheduled weekly public hearings through the months of June and July. Under the Massachusetts Constitution all legislative proposals must be granted a public hearing. Association officers are present at each meeting of the Public Service Committee and have close working relationships with Committee staff.

The public hearing process is one of several steps for proposals (bills) through the legislative process. Committee members must weigh the pros and cons of each bill, as well as calculate the potential financial impact on the Commonwealth or municipalities.

“Often the greatest difficulty our Association faces in advancing a bill is the cost. Pensions and health care benefits tend to be very expensive programs and many of our proposals, while highly legitimate issues that need to be addressed, carry a heavy price tag,” adds Duhamel. “However, as they say ‘the squeaky wheel gets the oil’. We don’t shy away from advocating change just because it might be expensive and hard to accomplish. Every bill we file is important and gets our full effort.”