JAN 2007 - “One advantage I have is a lengthy institutional memory and
I’d like to share that with our members in regard to group life insurance. I
believe it’s relevant when we compare the GIC Commissioners of 35 years ago to
what they are today,” offered President Ralph White.

Prior to 1971, state and local employees who had the $2,000
group life insurance, which was the maximum at that time, were immediately
reduced to $1,000 when they retired. “That never made sense to me,” said White,
who was relatively new on the public retirement scene then.

It was Bill Burke, GIC Director and then-Governor Frank
Sargent, both Republicans, who opened the door for retirees’ equality.

“When I approached Burke about this unreasonable way of
saving money for the state on the backs of retirees, he agreed and helped me
draft the $2,000 legislation for retirees which was then filed by Senator Dan
Foley and others. After enactment, it was promptly signed by Sargent, who
always had an open door, as Chapter 146 of the Acts of 1971,” White pointed

Burke went on to work with our Association in drafting
successful legislation which would allow cities and towns to increase their
retirees’ insurance to $2,000. Again, it was Dan Foley, who filed the bill, and
Governor Sargent, who signed it into law as Chapter 673 of the Acts of 1972.

Aside from life insurance, it was Bill Burke who drafted
most of our health insurance legislation that allowed the state to make greater
premium contributions to retirees and survivors under Chapter 32A, (state
insurance) and Chapter 32B (municipal insurance). The retirees and survivors
had previously lagged behind active employees. “It was a gradual catch-up game,
and we had to fight for most benefits on our own in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.
The Group Insurance Commissioners had great respect for Burke and were never a
problem,” White said.

Bill Burke died of a heart attack on November 12, 1981 at
age 61. He will always be remembered in the annals of our Association as a true
pioneer and advocate of many of the insurance benefits we enjoy today. He truly
helped to bring retirees out of the dark ages to which they had earlier been

During the 1985 legislative session, our Association
introduced a bill that required the state to increase life insurance for
retirees and employees to $5,000. Neil Chin, the GIC director back then, helped
draft the legislation, which was ultimately signed by Governor Michael Dukakis
on December 23, 1985 as Chapter 648. It was a direct result of our Legislation
(H4861) filed by Representative Frank Woodward who sponsored the bill as House
Chairman of the Insurance Committee.

Representative Mike Ruane of Salem, a member of the House
Ways and Means Committee, carried the bill out of that Committee and, assisted
by Representative Kevin Blanchette, guided it to the House for engrossment.
Senator Anna Buckley carried the bill out of the Senate Ways and Means
Committee and engineered its Senate engrossment and final enactment on December

In 1986, we won $5,000 legislation for cities and towns.
Because of Prop 2 1/2 it was required to be local option legislation and again
signed by Governor Dukakis as Chapter 705, Acts of 1986. Again it was Rep.
Frank Woodward who sponsored the legislation and with Kevin Blanchette, House
Chairman of the Public Service Committee, carried it through the House, and
then Sen. Buckley in the Senate.

“There are communities in our state that never increased
their retirees’ life insurance beyond $1,000 and certainly several that are
still at $2,000. On the other hand, communities such as Braintree, under Walter
Kirkland, increased coverage to $10,000 several years ago. Locally there is no
longer a limit on the amount of life insurance.

“I know we haven’t been able to do all the things for all
people. However, I guarantee that we will continue to be the best possible
advocates – and yes – lobbyists, on behalf of our members of all retirement
systems,” White concluded.