MMA files brief supporting communities in Quinn Bill case

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The MMA is supporting two communities that are being sued for reducing payments to police officers – as stipulated in their collective bargaining agreements – after the state failed to meet its funding obligations under the Police Career Incentive Pay Program, commonly known as the Quinn Bill.

On Aug. 12, attorney Philip Collins, a partner with the firm Collins, Loughran & Peloquin, filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the MMA supporting the city of Boston and the town of Falmouth in cases pending in the Supreme Judicial Court.

Contract language in both municipalities states that the municipality is only responsible for its share of Quinn payments; in other words, the community does not have to cover any portion of the state’s 50 percent share in the event that the state does not meet its full obligation.

The MMA brief argues that the state’s decision to reduce its Quinn Bill appropriation by 83 percent for fiscal 2010 abrogates the terms under which communities accepted the local-option program and that such a radical change in the program makes it no longer valid without a new acceptance by the municipality.

Under the program, qualified officers in Quinn communities receive bonuses ranging from 10 percent to 25 percent based on the attainment of criminal justice-related college degrees.

The MMA brief reviews the checkered, 40-year history of the Quinn Bill (M.G.L. Ch. 41, Sec. 108L), with special emphasis on its rapid cost expansion in the past 15 years, which led the Legislature and the governor to decide to virtually abandon the state’s commitment to share half the cost of the program.

The police unions argue that because the Quinn Bill is not referenced in the state’s collective bargaining statute (M.G.L. Ch. 150E), the parties had no right to negotiate over it. They assert that the contact language used in many communities stating that the community is only liable for its share of Quinn payments is null and void.

In response, the MMA brief argues that Chapter 150E has evolved over the past 35 years and that, as a result, many items not mentioned in 150E are routinely bargained over by municipalities and their unions. Among the more common items not listed in 150E but routinely discussed are clothing allowances, the scheduling of vacations for police and fire personnel, and indemnification for medical expenses for personnel who are injured on duty.

The Supreme Judicial Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case within the next six weeks.