Latest News

KERRY AGREES TO SUPPORT WEP/GPO HEARINGS

SEPTEMBER 12, 2007: After hearing the outcry of Association members, outraged by the lack of federal action on the issues of WEP/GPO repeal, US Senator John Kerry has agreed to support our Association’s request to hold public hearings on the issue of Social Security this fall.

RETIREES OUTRAGED OVER SOCIAL SECURITY STANCE

AUGUST 24, 2007:   The phones in the Association’s Boston office have been ringing white hot with calls from retirees who are outraged by the refusal of Senator John Kerry to hold a public hearing on the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO), as we reported in the September Voice. Many members have notified the Association that they contacted the Senator’s office to express their concern and repeated our request for a public hearing.

July COLA Paid on Schedule

SEPT 2007 - Members of the State and Teachers’ Retirement Systems, as well as those of our 104 local retirement systems, received their new 3% cost-of-living increase this July.

Powerful House Chair Calls For Hearing

Sept 2007 - Spells Out Need - In sharp contrast to the position taken in the U.S. Senate, where a 2007 hearing on Social Security has been all but ruled out, leaders in the House of Representatives are not shying away from addressing the dreaded Social Security offset laws.

Advancing the prospect of full hearings in the House on the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) is House Ways and Chairman Charles Rangel. The powerful New York Democrat has publicly called for hearings to take place, during the current Congressional session, on the issue.

COLA PAYMENTS IN JULY CHECKS

AUGUST 1, 2007: Once again, we are pleased to announce that members retired from each of the 106 retirement systems across Massachusetts did receive a 2007 COLA in their July pension check. The full 3% COLA was approved by each of the 104 local retirement boards for local retirees, as well as by the state legislature for state and teacher retirees.

WAYS AND MEANS CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR HEARING ON WEP/GPO REPEAL

July 6, 2007 (Washington, DC): House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) has called for a hearing on H.R.82, the foremost legislation, supported by the Association, that repeals Social Security’s WEP (Windfall Elimination Provision) and GPO (Government Pension Offset) laws. Chairman Rangel did so in a letter just sent to the Social Security Subcommittee and its chairman, Congressman Michael McNulty, who is also from New York, representing the Albany area. The chairman’s letter had been issued after he met with the leading Democratic sponsor of H.R.82, California Congressman Howard Berman. (The leading Republican sponsor is another Californian, Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon.)

HOUSE AND SENATE ENACT GIC MUNICIPAL HEALTH INSURANCE BILL

July 2, 2007: After years of negotiations, involving our Association, both the House and Senate have enacted legislation that will allow municipalities to join the state health insurance program, administered by the Group Insurance Commission (GIC). “We believe that once it’s enacted, the GIC Municipal Health Insurance Law will offer a viable option to local retirees, unions and officials as they attempt to solve the ever-increasing costs of healthcare,” states Legislative Chairman Bill Hill.

MEDICARE SAVING STATE NEARLY $400 MILLION

Retirees, enrolled in Medicare Part B, saved the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) nearly $400 million in FY06.

With the average cost of non-Medicare retirees coming in at nearly four times higher than Medicare enrollees, the state’s mandatory-Medicare policy continues to be a windfall for the Commonwealth…but at what cost to retirees? Our answer: The state is cheating retirees by not paying a dime toward a major portion of their insurance costs, namely the Part B premium.

Nearly five years have now passed since then-Acting Governor Jane Swift eliminated the state’s Medicare Part B reimbursement with the stroke of her pen. As a result, members, insured under the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC), are forced to pay 100% of the Medicare Part B premium out of their own pockets.

KERRY CENTRAL TO WEP/GPO DEBATE

2007 JULY - As the new chairman of the US Senate’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Bay State Senator John Kerry now finds himself in a pivotal role in the debate over the future of the federal retirement program.

COLA BILL ADVANCES TO SENATE

2007 JULY - $16,000 Base Would Be Indexed - In a bold move, the Joint Committee on Public Service favorably reported the Association’s marquis bill, raising the COLA base, to the Senate on May 14.The bill, now S2234, not only raises the COLA base for state and teacher retirees to $16,000, but also allows local retirement systems to increase the COLA base to any level above the current $12,000 by allowing for adjustments in the long-term pension funding schedules.

DISABILITY REEXAM BILL ADVANCES

JUNE 8, 2007: The
Joint Committee on Public Service favorably released H2510, which limits the
reexamination and reevaluation of disability retirees to the first ten years of
retirement. H2510 was filed by Representative David Flynn (D-Bridgewater) and
Senator Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) on behalf of our Association.

BUDGET WILL INCLUDE 3% COLA

MAY 29, 2007:   The Massachusetts Senate has completed its work on
the Fiscal-Year 2008 state budget, which includes a 3% COLA for state and
teacher retirees. While legislation is advancing that would create a higher
base in future years, the base for the July 2007 COLA remains at $12,000.

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMITTEE RAISES COLA BASE TO $16,000

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.

The
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.

COLA ACCEPTANCE UPDATE

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.

PATRICK BUDGET CONTAINS 3% COLA

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.

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.