All eighteen bills heard by public service

The last of the eighteen Association bills that were assigned to the Joint Committee on Public Service had a public hearing in October.

On Tuesday October 17th, Association CEO Shawn Duhamel and Legislative Liaison Nancy McGovern attended the public hearing held by the Joint Committee on Public Service. Chaired by State Representative Ken Gordon and State Senator Mike Brady, the hearing largely focused on disability retirement.

The Association offered testimony in support of S.1630, an act relative to ordinary disability retirement. This is a bill we filed this year with State Senator Brendan Crighton. It aims to reform the ordinary (nonwork related) disability retirement by better aligning the benefit with what is available to private sector retirees under Social Security Disability (SSDI). In recent years it has become increasingly clear that the current benefit is not meeting the needs of many active employees, who are forced to retire due to a non-job connected illness or injury.

While this specific proposal would not immediately change benefits for current retirees, our Association has a long tradition of leading the way in formulating retirement policy and working to improve the overall system. Ordinary disability is a prime example of one area of our retirement law that needs to be modernized and improved.

The final three bills filed by the Mass Retirees for this session that were before the Joint Committee on Public Service had a hearing on Tuesday October 31st. Association President Frank Valeri and Legislative Chair Tom Bonarrigo testified before the committee in favor of the legislation.

The bills heard on that Tuesday were HB2494 & SB1662 filed by Representative Mike Day and Senator Paul Feeney. The legislation makes any increases to premium splits by a municipality to retirees of that municipality prospective, thereby protecting an already retired employee at the time from incurring the higher percent.

The third bill was SB1752, filed by Senator John Velis, which seeks to extend the definition of veteran that was expanded in 2004, for certain retirees. The expanded definition included those who served during non-wartime periods, as well as the National Guard in limited cases. However, the definition was only applied to those who retired after 8/26/04. The legislation seeks to extend the definition to those who qualify under the expanded definition and retired before 8/26/04.

What to Expect Next Once the hearing process for the Public Service Committee is complete, we are anticipating the Chairs will move forward with Executive Sessions. During this process the Committee makes recommendations on the next step for these three bills, as well as our other fifteen that were previously heard.

The last piece of legislation that is still awaiting a hearing is before the Joint Committee on Financial Services. HB1003 filed by Rep. Rodney Elliott (D-Lowell) would move the date by which a municipality would need to notify the GIC that they are exiting for the next plan year from December 1 to March 1.

Looking ahead, January 2024 will begin the second year of the legislative session and formal sessions will resume after the holiday break. January also begins the Fiscal Year 2025 budget cycle. The Governor will file her second budget three weeks after the legislature convenes, which works out to be the 4th Wednesday of January. The House Ways and Means Committee will release the House version and debate in April and the Senate Ways and Means Committee will follow with the Senate version and debate in May. The process culminates as close to July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, as possible.

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