The Honorable Sal N. DiDomenico
Chair, Senate Committee on Bills in the Third Reading
State House, Boston

Dear Senator DiDomenico:

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association submits this letter in opposition to H. 2515, An Act relative to disability benefits, which would provide disability benefits under Chapter 41, Section 111F to firefighters who take temporary leave for cancer diagnoses as described in Chapter 32, Section 94B, providing them with leave at full pay for the period of incapacity. While the objective of the legislation is understood, we are concerned that this bill will place an unintended yet significant financial burden on municipalities.

In particular, there are already mechanisms in place to compensate firefighters for time off following a cancer diagnosis, such as accrued paid leave. Because Chapter 41, Section 100 allows municipalities to indemnify firefighters for medical expenses related to an illness that arises in the line of duty, an employee collecting Section 111F benefits would collect full pay, exempt from state taxation, and receive enhanced medical benefits without first drawing on accrued sick leave. This means that municipal taxpayers would essentially pay twice for the time taken under Section 111F – full pay during leave taken, and then full pay (potentially at a higher rate) for the same number of hours upon retirement, depending on the amount of remaining accrued sick leave.

Moreover, we are concerned that the Section 94B presumption, if extended through this legislation, would eventually carry over to police officers through future legislation, following the pattern of how
presumption laws have historically evolved. While allowing firefighters a Chapter 111F eligibility for cancer would exact a financial hardship on municipalities alone, an eventual extension to police officers would place an even greater financial burden on municipal budgets and taxpayers.

We appreciate your consideration of our significant concerns for the impact that this legislation would have on local taxpayers. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or Senior Legislative Analyst Lisa Adams at (617) 426-7272 at any time.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO

CC: The Honorable Harriette Chandler
The Honorable Karen Spilka
The Honorable Bruce Tarr