MSCA Perspective - July 2001

At The State House

During the spring semester state legislative committees held many hearings on bills sponsored by the MTA and endorsed by the MSCA. Most bills concerned retirement issues and were heard before the Joint Committee on Public Service, co-chaired by Senator Brian A. Joyce of Milton and House Representative Brian S. Dempsey of Haverhill. The MSCA was fortunate to have the following members from across the state travel to the State House and demonstrate their support for our legislative agenda: R. Clarke Fowler (Salem State College), SB 258; Sheila Fredette, Elizabeth Shaw and Jean Worfolk (Fitchburg State College), HB 320; Dolores Torti (Framingham State College), HB 320; and Patricia Markunas (MSCA President), SB 258, HB 320, HB 333.

Thanks go to MCCC President Philip Mahler (Middlesex Community College), for his testimony on HB 320, APA President David Morwick (Bridgewater State College) for his testimony on HB 333, and Joan Rasool (Westfield State College) for her testimony on SB 1414. Assistance was also provided by MTA Consultant John Flannagan and Massachusetts Nurses Association lobbyist Charles Stefanini.

The following discussion of proposed bills concerning retirement issues for higher education is summarized from MTA Today (June 2001).

MTA President Stephen E. Gorrie was the lead-off witness at the May 15 hearing. Gorrie emphasized that the creditable service bills being heard that day and on May 22 and May 24 would not only provide needed educator retirement improvements but also would enhance the state's chances in recruiting and retaining educators at the both K-12 and higher education levels. The bills heard on May 15 included:

H354 providing for pension equity and fair vesting for part-time higher education faculty who taught or teach at least two three-credit courses per semester or four three-credit courses per calendar year.

H320 permitting state and community college professors of nursing to purchase toward retirement up to ten years of teaching experience in the state's hospital diploma schools of nursing in operation prior to 1975.(This bill was subsequently reported out of committee favorably.)

S1363 allowing public higher education faculty and professional employees to purchase up to two (2) years of creditable service toward retirement for approved non-sabbatical leaves of absence to accept a prestigious award, fellowship, scholarship or other special assignment opportunity that benefits both the individual and the employing institution.

The bills heard on May 22 included:

S1401 permitting teachers and state employees to purchase up to three (3) years of service in the Peace Corps, VISTA or Americorps as creditable service toward retirement.

S1414 permitting the purchase of up to ten (10) years of creditable service for state employees with 03 service exceeding two years.

H2239 providing that there would be no break in service when a teacher is or was laid off due to budget cuts and who rejoins the public work force later, provided applicable pension contributions are paid.

H2781 clarifying the veterans' creditable service law by permitting those with National Guard or Reserve service to purchase up to four (4) years of creditable service on a basis where five years of reserve or guard service equals one year of creditable service.

The bills heard on May 24 included:

H318 permitting all higher education professional employees to be eligible for the state's Optional Retirement Program (ORP) currently open only to college presidents and faculty members.

H333 providing for a one-time retirement incentive for higher education employees enabling those with at least twenty-five (25) years of service to add up to five years of age and/or service to their base when calculating their retirement allowance.

Hearings were held on June 26th on SB 1425, a bill to make part-time faculty eligible for GIC health insurance benefits, and SB 1344/HB 2613, the Domestic Partnership bill. Four part-time faculty from the community colleges, along with MCCC President Philip Mahler and MSCA President Markunas, testified in support of SB 1425.

As we go to press, the budgets proposed for fiscal year 2002 for the state colleges are at or below levels for the past fiscal year. The House of Representatives recommended maintenance budgets at less than the levels proposed by outgoing Governor Cellucci, and the Senate recommended only 1% increases in all accounts for the state colleges. The conference committee, to be appointed soon, will make final recommendations to the Legislature.

Two positive aspects of to the budgets recommended by both the House and Senate are the rejection of Governor Cellucci's recommendation of an increase in health insurance premiums for state employees and the establishment of a blue-ribbon commission to review the validity and reliability of the Massachusetts Educator Certification Test (MECT), as proposed in SB 258.