Presented by Legislative Director Jamie Kenneally
As most already know, the new Legislative Session is well underway at the State House. This year marks the 192nd Session of the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As in years past, thousands of bills have already been proposed at the start of the session. In fact, at last check, over 6,000 bills have been filed. Obviously, not every bill will make it to the Governor’s desk but there are a few that will most assuredly impact our members and we certainly want you to be aware of. With that point in mind, I’ve enclosed below a list of six (6) bills that, if passed, would most certainly be beneficial and impactful to our members.
BILL #1: HB.2808 (Formerly HD. 1794) To date, this bill, HB.2808 filed by Rep Jon Zlotnik of the 2nd Worcester District, has received a ton of attention and created a considerable amount of buzz amongst our members. Please note, this bill was once referred to by its docket number, HD. 1794, but will herein be referred to by its recently assigned bill number, House Bill #2808. As proposed, H. 2808 would provide a COVID-19 retirement bonus or benefit, in the amount of 3-years either in either age or years of service, to essential public sector workers forced or required to work outside during the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic which, according to Governor’s Office, ran from March 10, 2020 to December 30, 2020. Many have asked, “Are we included in the bill?” And, the short answer is, “Yes.” Members should know that, not only are we included in the bill, but we are also listed amongst its many co-sponsors. At last check, the bill has over 150 co-sponsors which is noteworthy and, hopefully, indicative of a healthy appetite for the bill’s passage.
BILL #2: Senate Bill 1669 – Members should know that Senator Nick Collins filed a bill similar to H.2808 in the Senate. In fact, his bill, due to its similarity to H.2808 is considered or called a companion bill. As proposed, S. 1669 would do exactly what H. 2820 seeks to achieve. At some point, we would expect the House and Senate to combine these bills in order to push for the passage of one. But, again, the fact that similar bills have been filed in both the House and Senate is generally considered a positive sign.
BILL #3: Senate Bill 1719 – Many have also asked about S. 1719 which was filed by Senator Cindy Friedman of the 4th Middlesex District. As proposed, this bill, also known as the vacation buyback bill, would preserve the practice of including annual payments in lieu of vacation as regular compensation where such a benefit existed as of May 2018. To be eligible for the benefit, members would obviously have to show that they utilized the benefit before it was rescinded. So, being able to show regular contributions or deductions as of May 1, 2018, would be a must.
BILL #4: Senate Bill 1621 – This is one of two COVID-presumption bills being considered up at the State House. Senate Bill 1621 was filed by Senator Michael Moore of the 2nd Worcester District. As proposed, S. 1621 is designed to cover any police officer exposed to or infected by COVID while on duty which then leads to or causes an inability or incapacitation for that officer to perform their duties. Clearly, we remain in full support of this bill.
BILL #5: House Bill 2414 – This is the companion bill to S. 1621 (see above). This bill was filed by Rep. James Arciero of the 2nd Middlesex District. As proposed, this bill, again similar to the S. 1621, would provide a COVID-presumption to any police officer infected or exposed to COVID while on the job. It shall be presumed, if you test positive for COVID, the infection to the disease occurred on duty. We remain in full support of this bill.
BILL #6: House Bill 2730 – This bill, filed by Rep. Paul McMurtry of the 11th Norfolk District (Dedham) is the latest version of a 25/75 piece of legislation. In conversations with elected officials, this bill has not received a ton of traction. However, it’s still early. Regardless, we will keep an eye on this bill and provide favorable testimony when the opportunity presents itself. As of now, no hearing date has been scheduled.
CONVERSATIONS: Members should know that, despite the anti-police sentiment which seems to dominate the national scene, there remains in the Commonwealth, elected officials who, believe it or not, still love police officers. In fact, we recently met three at our Union Hill.
MEETING #1: We had a refreshingly positive conversation with newly-elected State Rep. Jess Giannino of the 16th Suffolk District which represents Revere, Chelsea & Saugus. Make no mistake about it, Rep. Giannino is a huge fan of law enforcement. And, as you probably guessed or maybe suspected, yes, she does have law enforcement in her family. In fact, her father, Chris Giannino is a Revere Police Sergeant. So, clearly, we’re happy to grow and cultivate that relationship.
MEETING #2: On a similar note, we had an equally positive and productive meeting with Jeff Turco, the newly elected State Rep. from Winthrop. Turco, who fills the big shoes left behind by former Speaker Robert DeLeo in the 19th Suffolk District, is another huge fan of law enforcement. In fact, before we could even ask a question, Turco blurted out, “Before we start the meeting, I just want you guys to know that I’m a huge fan of police and fire and I will spend my time in the House fighting for you.” Not a bad opening line. Should you bump into either Reps. Giannino or Turco up and around the State House, please be sure to let them know we appreciate the support.
MEETING #3: As for candidates for the Citywide City Council, we had a positive meeting with Erin Murphy who is again running for Citywide City Council after finishing a respectable 3rd in the 2019 election won by Councilor Julia Mejia. With two open seats on the Citywide Council due to the fact that both Councilors Wu and Essaibi-George are running for Mayor, we believe Erin Murphy has a really strong shot of filling one of those vacated seats. During our conversation, Erin made no bones about her support for police officers. Having grown up in Dorchester, she grew up with a lot of police officers and she considers them all good, hardworking people deserving of appreciation and respect. If elected, she told us that she would work hard to support the men and women of BPD. Clearly, she is another candidate we are eager to support.
CONFERENCE CALLS: Additionally, we had productive conversations with Jon Spillane and Bridget Nee-Walsh. Both are running as first-time candidates for Citywide City Council. Both are pro-police. Jon, in fact, is the son of retired BPD Lieutenant Matt Spillane and the brother of active BPD Sergeant Matt Spillane, Jr.
As for District 6, the race to replace Matt O’Malley, we had a really positive conversation with Mary Tamer. Mary is running against Kendra Hicks who is on the record saying she wants to defund the police. Suffice to say, Mary Tamer does not share that opinion.
On the Mayoral side, we have a First Responders Political Forum scheduled for June 10. At last check, 4 of the 6 candidates for Mayor have agreed to participate in the forum. Those four are: John Barros, State Rep. Jon Santiago, Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George and Michelle Wu. We look forward to hosting a professional, highly informative forum hosted by Boston Herald reporter Sean Cotter. The forum itself is scheduled to last 2 hours. In addition to opening and closing statements, we anticipate there will be time to ask anywhere between 8 – 10 questions. As for questions, BPPA, Boston EMS, MAMLEO, BPSOF, BPD Detectives and Boston Fire have all been asked to provide questions. Each organization was asked to suggest 2 questions. Again, looking forward to a professionally run forum. In closing, if you know of a candidate who would like to address our members or is interested in an endorsement, please have them reach out to me directly (email@example.com). And, as always, should you have any questions about legislative matters, please, as most of you have already, do not hesitate to reach out to me.