Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Honorable Kenneth I. Gordon, House Chair
The Honorable Michael D. Brady, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Public Service
State House, Boston
Dear Chair Gordon, Chair Brady, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,
On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association appreciates the opportunity to submit the following comments on several bills currently in your Committee. We appreciate your careful consideration of the local government position on these important matters regarding presumption legislation, managerial rights, and other mandated benefits.
The MMA strongly opposes several bills that would establish legal presumptions for certain injuries or illnesses that are deemed to occur or are contracted as a result of on-the-job exposures, extending accidental disability benefits or injured-on-duty pay through a blanket presumption, rather than evidence of actual causality. The passage of any one of these bills would be incredibly costly for municipalities and local taxpayers, increase municipal unfunded pension liabilities, and translate into reductions in available funding for municipal services. This would have a disproportionately large financial impact on smaller towns.
In 2018, a law passed providing firefighters with injured-on-duty benefits under M.G.L. Chapter 41, Section 111F, for categories of cancer diagnoses. These cancer cases, which are extremely costly to municipalities, are beginning to accrue under the new law, and cities and towns are still in the process of learning how to manage them. Adding new presumption legislation at this juncture would create untenable burdens on communities and local taxpayers with respect to financial, health care and personnel administration.
Despite the good intentions of policymakers, passing new presumption bills without first engaging in adequate cost and risk analyses is a “leaping-before-looking” practice that fails to adequately understand the policy and its financial ramifications. Often, the data presented to support a rationale for presumption legislation is national data, which isn’t likely compatible with Massachusetts cities and towns, and does not include projections of the long-term financial cost to taxpayers. Therefore, taxpayers deserve to have the correct data with respect to risk factors and exposures specific to Massachusetts before acting on presumption bills. This type of state-based analysis is necessary to understand the incidences and the actual prevalence of diseases and illnesses among public safety personnel in Massachusetts, and whether the levels are in fact higher compared to the Massachusetts general population.
These bills would provide an unprecedented extension of benefits that would be paid by local taxpayers with little recourse and little understanding of the magnitude of the burden placed on communities. We respectfully urge the Committee to NOT report the following bills out of Committee without first conducting thorough Massachusetts-based risk and health analyses, and providing the public and local taxpayers with a comprehensive actuarial projection of the impact on communities and public retirement systems, and a method of funding these costs:
– H. 2522, An Act relative to Parkinson’s disease disability and death in firefighters
– S. 1681, An Act relative to Parkinson’s disease disability and death in firefighters
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
– H. 2594, An Act relative to the disability or death caused by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
– S. 1637, An Act relative to the disability or death caused by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
– S. 1645, An Act relative to disability or death caused by post-traumatic stress disorder
Contagious, Infectious Diseases, or COVID-19
– H. 2528, An Act relative to disability or death cause by contagious disease; presumption
– S. 1636, An Act relative to disability or death caused by contagious diseases; presumption
– S. 1740, An Act relative to the safety of fire, police, and emergency medical technicians from contagious diseases
– S.1688, An Act extending killed-in-line-of-duty benefits to those deceased as a result of COVID-19
Expanded Cancer Presumption
– H. 2552, An Act relative to the cancer presumption for police officers
– H. 2659, An Act providing for disability and death benefits for explosive device canine handlers and bomb technicians
– S. 1673, An Act relative to 911 emergency telecommunicators inclusion in the heart bill
– H. 3795, An Act relative to 911 emergency communicators
Lung or Respiratory Tract Diseases
– H. 2452, An Act relative to defining certain disabilities
– H. 2529, An Act relative to maintenance of physical examinations records for public safety personnel
– S. 1666, An Act relative to maintenance of physical examinations records for public safety personnel
The MMA opposes H. 2554, An Act relative to labor relations. This bill would amend the labor relations statute (Chapter 150E), by requiring municipal employers to negotiate over the manning of shift coverage for firefighters. Shift coverage is a right essential to an employer’s management of the workplace. The employer is in the best position to determine shift coverage, taking all of the affairs of the workforce and the management of employees into consideration. Removing shift coverage as a managerial right would result in a loss of an important management function and significantly reduce an employer’s ability to manage the workforce and the workplace. We respectfully ask the Committee to not report this bill out of Committee.
Reimbursement of Expenses
The MMA strongly opposes H. 2467, An Act relative to expenses incurred in defense against unfair labor practices. H. 2467 would amend Chapter 150E by requiring reimbursement of reasonable expenses to any labor organization who successfully challenges an unfair labor practice for which they engaged an attorney. This bill would place an unfair burden on taxpayers and incentivize more litigation against public employers. The cost of losing section 111F claims and labor law disputes have a large enough impact on municipal employers and taxpayers without imposing additional costs. We ask the Committee to not report this bill out of Committee.
The MMA opposes legislation relative to increasing disability benefits and line-of-duty survivor benefits. Despite laudable aims, these bills would significantly increase costs for municipalities, when they are already facing daunting pension and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) liabilities that are double that of the state, at more than $30 billion. Before any action by the Committee, we respectfully urge the Committee to perform a cost analysis on:
– H. 2443, An Act relative to firefighter retirement benefits
– S. 1623, An Act relative to survivor retirement benefits
– H. 2545, An Act relative to line-of-duty death and survivor benefits
– H. 2638, An Act relative to police officers and firefighters relative to Chapter 41, Section 111F
– S. 1749, An Act relative to accidental disability retirement for police officers and firefighters
The MMA also opposes H.2516, H. 2536, H. 2567, S. 1680, and S. 1736, all bills extending accidental disability pensions to employees subject to violence while performing their jobs. There is already a proven avenue through the home rule petition process for an employee to receive additional disability retirement benefits in the uncommon circumstance of injury through a violent act. Local officials must retain the ability to pay accidental disability benefits to victims of violent crimes as any individual cases arise. To date, there have been few people retired for permanent disabilities incurred as a result of a violent act, and all have been permitted through the existing home rule petition process. The home rule petition allows cities and towns and the Legislature to acknowledge the sacrifice of public employees at the local level on a case-by-case basis, and ensures that accidental disability benefits are extended only when appropriate. We ask the Committee to not report these bills out of Committee.
The MMA opposes H. 2439, An Act relative to evaluations on a retired veteran disability. This bill would amend section 8 of Chapter 32 of the General Laws, by exempting veterans retired for disability from further evaluations after their first five years of retirement. Section 8 requires those currently retired for disability to undergo an evaluation to determine whether the member is able to perform the essential duties of the position from which they retired, or a similar job within the same department for which they are qualified. The evaluation also requires a determination as to whether a member’s return would be expedited by participation in a medical or vocational rehabilitation program. These evaluations occur once a year during the first two-year period after the date of retirement, then once every three years thereafter, or any time upon a member’s written request.
Requiring examinations and reevaluations of employees retired for disability allows employers to ensure that retired employees (who in these cases are receiving public funds in the form of a higher-percentage disability pension) are still unable to perform the essential duties of the position from which they retired. This remains an important tool for managers assessing the impairments and determining the functional limitations of those employees retired for disability, and also allows managers to determine the future path for employees unlikely to return to work. It would be impossible to predict the individual circumstances of each case, and exempting veterans retired for disability from further evaluations after five years precludes employers from evaluating each case independently based on the particular circumstances. This bill would reverse an important reform implemented by the Legislature to curb abuse of the system and to ensure that taxpayer dollars are appropriately spent. We ask the Committee to not report H. 2439 out of Committee.
We greatly appreciate your consideration of these important local government concerns. Municipal leaders are deeply committed to the health, safety, and financial well-being of their employees. Yet, substantial extensions and increases in benefits must be defensible in terms of causality, supported by Massachusetts-based data, and affordable for the citizens of the Commonwealth. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Senior Executive and Legislative Director Dave Koffman at email@example.com or 617-426-7272, ext. 122, at any time.
MMA Executive Director and CEO