Senator Friedman has sponsored the following bills relative to pensions and retirement in the 2019-2020 legislative session:
- Summary: This bill would allow a small subset of severely injured public safety officers that retire due to accidental disability because they were the victims of a violent act injury to be eligible to receive 100% of their regular compensation, including applicable benefits and stipends, until they reach the age of mandatory retirement. At that time, they would be eligible for 80% of the pension including cost of living (COLA) increases. Under current law, a first responder forced to retire due to a “violent act injury” can only receive benefits through the local retirement board via the home rule legislative process. This process is onerous and has resulted in disparate benefits being granted on a case-by-case basis.
- Summary: This bill would make a one-time, permanent increase to the annual pension amount for public employees who retired prior to July 2004 (or their survivor) and who selected either Option (b) or Option (c). In addition, this legislation would address an inequity created in July 2004 when the Massachusetts Legislature voted to reduce the penalties of those selecting Option (b) or Option (c), leaving an inequity for those who retired previously, as they not only have smaller pensions, on average, but they now also experience a significantly greater penalty for not electing Option (a).
- Summary: This bill would change Massachusetts General Law Chapter 32, section 12 to allow members of the retirement system to choose more than one beneficiary. Many active duty public safety personnel have multiple beneficiaries they would like to be able to leave a pension for (i.e., more than one child) in the event of an untimely death.
- Summary: This bill would stipulate that, upon the death of an active state employee outside of work, their spouse may be entitled to an Option (d) survivor pension, which is similar to survivor benefits afforded under Social Security. Currently, the maximum Option (d) pension for a state employee or state employee survivor is $500 dollars per month. The legislation would increase the Option (d) maximum pension from $500 to $750 per month, or from $6,000 to $9,000 annually.
- Summary: This bill would clarify that any teacher or member of the state retirement system who transfers into the state teachers retirement system as a teacher and begins contributing to the teachers’ retirement system on or after July 1, 2019 will be automatically enrolled in the alternative superannuation retirement benefit program known as the “Retirement Plus” (R+) program. Eligible persons would be given a one-time opportunity to elect out of the R+ program. Current eligible persons who transferred into the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System (MTRS) would be given a new one-time opportunity to elect into the R+ program.
- Summary: This bill would change the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) premium splits for all active and retired state employees to 80/20 from 75/25 to defray the cost to employees for continual increases in co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses.
- Summary: This bill would mandate that certain public safety officials who commit suicide as a direct result of a traumatic event or set of events experienced during the course of the employee’s active duty service be eligible for “killed in line of duty” benefits. A licensed mental health professional would have to establish that the suicide was a direct result of the traumatic event(s) experienced during the performance of the employee’s active duty service.
- Summary: This bill would enact a number of reforms to the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) related to commission appointments and public member background and qualifications. It would also require a minimum 14-day notice period to members of the Commission prior to any vote that would substantially alter the insurance coverage or health plans offered by the GIC, and would require that at least four public hearings be held prior to such vote. Additionally, it would further direct the GIC to consult with stakeholders to review and evaluate the impact of public procurement laws, public record and open meeting laws, and existing regulations on the GIC’s deliberative process and procedures, and make any recommendations deemed necessary.
- Summary: This bill would extend the time period of the deferred property tax rate to one year after the death of the property owner receiving the deferment in order to allow for probate and the settling of any will. This would give heirs time to either sell the property or pay the taxes before the interest rate rises back up to 16% on deferred taxes. This change would only be applicable to active duty military personnel and the elderly who have received a deferment.
Senator Friedman has co-sponsored the following bills relative to pensions and retirement in the 2019-2020 legislative session:
- Summary: This bill would provide certain retirement benefits and medical benefits to the widow and children of Everett firefighter Thaddeus M. Baxter, Jr.
- Summary: This bill proposes increasing the local option cap for property tax deferral to $80,000. Certain homeowners 65 years of age and older currently have the option to defer paying their property taxes. This local option is capped at the maximum allowance under the senior circuit breaker for a single person who is not head of household ($58,000 for tax year 2018). Given the high cost-of-living in MA, this figure is too low and penalizes “house rich & cash poor” seniors living on fixed incomes which exceed the threshold.
- Summary: This bill would update the work of the Tax Fairness Commission, which released its report on March 1, 2014. It would also direct the new commission to consider the impact recent changes to federal tax code have had on Massachusetts, and, importantly, to develop implementation steps for future action.
- Summary: N/A