S.1719 An Act to preserve the practice of including annual payments in lieu of vacation as regulation compensation for current retirees and active retirement system members where such benefits existed as of May 2018
This bill does not create a new benefit but would preserve the retirement benefits of inactive members and classify payments instead of vacation leave for members in service prior to May 1, 2018 who have previously taken advantage of this benefit. The classification of these payments as regular compensation would only apply to members who were in service as of May 1, 2018 and had received these payments prior to May 1, 2018. Payments instead of vacation leave to members who began after May 1, 2018 but who might be entitled to this benefit under their CBA, contract or applicable municipal plans or ordinances, would not be classified as regular compensation under this bill.
S.1720 An Act relative to line of duty death benefits
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. Benefits would include:
- a one-time payment of $300,000 (non-taxable by the Commonwealth) paid to the surviving family members, and
- an annual pension as specified in MGL c. 32, s. 100 paid to the surviving family members.
S.1721 An Act relative to the teachers retirement system
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. This bill is not a new retirement program for teachers; it’s a technical change to allow the MTRS and the Boston Retirement System (BRS) to confirm the intent of educators on their R+ election, and to make sure the system receives the required R+ contribution rate.
S.1722 An Act relative to disability pensions for violent crimes
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. This bill would allow a small subset of severely injured Group 4 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 percent 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 percent of the pension including cost of living (COLA) increases.
The bill would also provide the member’s pension benefits to the member’s spouse or children should the member predecease them. The spousal pension rate would be 75 percent of the member’s pension, including COLA increases. Children would divide the pension allowance evenly until reaching either age 18 or age 22 if they are enrolled in college, or indefinitely if they are permanently physically and mentally incapacitated.
This bill would provide indemnification for hospital, medical and healthcare bills by the local retirement board for any costs not covered by health insurance and which were sustained due to the violent act injury. It would also allow members to receive supplemental employment outside of jobs in Groups 1-4 in the retirement system.
Finally, this bill would not prohibit additional benefits not required in statute from being granted by local retirement boards.
S.1723 An Act relative to the annual allowance for certain survivors of public retirees and employees
Upon the death of an active 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. This bill would increase the Option (d) maximum pension from $500 to $750 monthly, or from $6,000 to $9,000 annually.