Legislative priorities address funding, range of issues 

The MTA’s legislative priorities for the 2019-2020 session include the Fund Our Future campaign, aimed at passing legislation to increase state funding for public education by $1.5 billion a year, as well as proposals covering a wide range of issues.

They call for ending the destructive impact of high-stakes testing, addressing fairness issues for adjunct faculty members, and helping to provide educators with a fair and dignified retirement. In response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision last summer, the MTA is also backing legislation protecting the rights of workers and labor unions.

Other MTA Legislative Priorities

Supporting Our Students

High-Stakes Testing

An Act creating a grant program on alternative assessment models (Senate)
An Act to place a moratorium on high-stakes testing (House)

This legislation would address the destructive impacts of standardized testing by:

  • Placing a three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing, during which no department shall implement or mandate state standardized assessment to satisfy accountability provisions.
  • Requiring the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to create and implement a grant program to support the establishment of district task forces to develop and pilot alternative assessment models. The purpose of the grant program is to enable educators, students, parents and local districts to establish a vision and goals for their public schools.
  • Directing the state auditor to audit DESE this year and, going forward, once every three years. The audit would include a review of contracts between DESE, Measured Progress and Pearson, the key organizations involved in Massachusetts student assessment.

Lead Sponsors: Senator Michael Rush (D-West Roxbury) and Representative Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge)

Senate BillHouse Bill

An Act to guarantee debt-free public higher education

This legislation would guarantee free public higher education as a right for all residents by:

  • Directing the Board of Higher Education to create a grant program to pay the equivalent of tuition and mandatory fees to an eligible student at any Massachusetts public college or university, or certificate, vocational or training program at a public institution, up to the equivalent of four years of public college or university.

Lead Sponsors: Senator James Eldridge (D-Acton) and Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster)

Senate BillHouse Bill

An Act relative to physical and social recess in schools

An Act relative to physical and social recess in schools (Senate)
An Act relative to recess for elementary school children (House)

This legislation would mandate at least 20 minutes of unstructured free-play recess per school day for public school students in grades K-5. It would also prohibit public schools from decreasing the amount of time allotted for recess due to changes in standards or curriculum.

Lead Sponsors: Senator Michael Rush (D-West Roxbury) and Representative Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge)

Senate BillHouse Bill

An Act creating a special commission to study classroom temperatures

This legislation creates a special commission consisting of state legislators, commissioners of DESE, public health officials, members of the MTA and others to:

  • Study the regulation of minimum and maximum allowable air temperatures in public school classrooms and facilities.
  • Find relevant statistics on the number of air-conditioned public schools in Massachusetts.
  • Determine the impact this has on students and create recommendations for future legislation to address this issue.

Lead Sponsors: Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) and Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth)

House Bill

Progressive Revenues

An Act to strengthen the foundation of the Commonwealth

This legislation would strengthen the foundation of the Commonwealth by raising substantial new revenue through progressive means, including:

  • Raising the rates on Part A interest and dividends income and Part C capital gains income to 8.95 percent, while also creating an exemption in calculating that income for certain seniors.
  • Implementing a tiered corporate minimum excise tax, with a corporation paying an amount ranging from $456 to $200,000 based on its total sales in the Commonwealth.
  • Ending the step-up-in-basis for capital gains taxes on wealth inherited and sold beginning in 2020.

Lead Sponsors: Representative Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge) and Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton)

House Bill

Fair Share Amendment

Proposal for a legislative amendment to the Constitution to provide resources for education and transportation through an additional tax on incomes in excess of one million dollars

A proposed legislative amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that would create an additional 4 percent tax on annual income over $1 million, raising approximately $2 billion a year for public education and transportation.

Lead Sponsors: Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) and Representative James O’Day (D-West Boylston)

Senate BillHouse Bill

Ensuring Fair Public Higher Education Workplaces

An Act to ensure fair public higher education workplaces

This omnibus bill that would ensure fair public higher education workplaces by:

  • Providing adjunct faculty with access to health insurance and state pensions, provide adjuncts pay parity with equivalent full-time faculty, and give them priority consideration for new or vacant full-time positions.
  • Establishing a minimum state contribution of 7.5 percent of an employee’s salary to the mandatory OBRA retirement plan for those who work less than half time.
  • Streamlining the process through which public higher education collective bargaining agreements are validated and funded by having completed contracts go directly to the Legislature for approval.
  • Eliminating the 60-day waiting period for newly hired employees to begin receiving health insurance coverage through the GIC.

Lead Sponsors: Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) and Representative Paul Mark (D-Peru)

Senate BillHouse Bill

Ensuring a Fair and Dignified Retirement

An Act to provide fair and affordable public retiree benefits

This legislation would help to provide public-sector retirees with a more secure retirement by:

  • Immediately increasing the base on which the annual state pension COLA is calculated, from $13,000 to $18,000, and over time raising that base to align with Social Security’s maximum allowable benefit for an individual worker.
  • Freezing municipal retirees’ health insurance premium contribution rates at the rates paid on the day of their retirement.
  • Capping out-of-pocket expenses for non-Medicare eligible retirees.

Lead Sponsors: Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro) and Representative Daniel Donahue (D-Worcester)

Bill SummarySenate BillHouse Bill

An Act relative to the teachers’ retirement system

An Act relative to the teachers’ retirement system (Senate)
An Act relative to the Massachusetts teachers’ retirement system (House)

This legislation would fix a RetirementPlus enrollment issue impacting certain members of the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System who have previous creditable service from another Massachusetts contributory retirement system.

Lead Sponsors: Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) and Representative Tackey Chan (D-Quincy)

Senate BillHouse Bill

Protecting the Rights of Public Employees

An Act to ensure minimum wage and paid family medical leave benefits for municipal employees

This legislation would ensure that municipal employees are covered by the Commonwealth’s minimum wage and paid family and medical laws. Currently, the state’s minimum wage law does not apply to municipal workers and municipalities are not required to participate in the paid family and medical leave program.

Lead Sponsors: Senator Michael Brady (D-Brockton) and Representative David Rogers (D-Cambridge)

Senate BillHouse Bill

An Act protecting the right to strike

This bill would provide public employees with the right to engage in a strike.

Lead Sponsors: Representative Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge)

House Bill

An Act relative to collective bargaining dues

A bill in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision that would:

  • Protect the right of unions to meet with bargaining unit members and newly hired employees.
  • Create a more stable process by which employees use the employer’s payroll system to pay membership dues.
  • Ensure that a public employee’s personal contact information maintained by the government employer for internal administrative purposes is not shared with the public at large.
  • Allow unions, if they so choose, to recoup the reasonable costs associated with grievance or arbitration proceedings for non-members.

Lead Sponsor: Senator Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop) and Representative Tackey Chan (D-Quincy)

Senate BillHouse Bill

An Act to create a special commission to improve transparency and affordability at the Group Insurance Commission

This bill would establish a special commission to:

  • Assess public transparency at the Group Insurance Commission with respect to its procurement and contracting processes.
  • Make recommendations to improve transparency at the GIC, including but not limited to requiring the public disclosure of its vendor contracts involving health care costs and pharmaceutical pricing.
  • Evaluate the potential use of reference-based pricing as a means of making medical costs through the GIC affordable and uniform.
  • Investigate the value and viability of a public option health insurance plan available to public and non-public employees in Massachusetts.

Lead Sponsors: Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) and Representative Sean Garballey (D-Arlington)

Senate BillHouse Bill

An Act reforming the Group Insurance Commission

This legislation would improve transparency and amplify the voice of workers at the Group Insurance Commission by:

  • Adding additional labor seats to the commission.
  • Ensuring that commissioners are provided with advance notice and relevant information prior to votes that would substantially alter health care plan designs, costs or offerings.
  • Requiring that public hearings be held in advance of commission votes that would substantially alter health care plan designs, costs or offerings.
  • Mandating that appointive member vacancies on the commission are filled within 90 days.
  • Ensuring that the governor’s appointees to the commission have substantial experience in health care and employee benefits administration.

Sponsor: Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington)

Senate Bill

An Act Relative to GIC composition and transparency

This legislation would improve transparency and amplify the voice of workers at the Group Insurance Commission by:

  • Adding additional labor seats to the commission.
  • Ensuring that commissioners are provided with advance notice and relevant information prior to votes.
  • Requiring that public hearings be held in advance of commission votes that would substantially alter health care plan designs, costs or offerings.
Sponsor: Representative Peter Capano (D-Lynn)

House Bill

An Act relative to group insurance commission procurement

This legislation would ensure that proposals and bids made or received by the Group Insurance Commission, as well as the commission’s communications made in connection with reviewing proposals and bids, are public records.

Sponsor: Senator Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough)

Senate Bill

In the MTA’s legislative package are measures to:

Address high-stakes testing. A comprehensive bill would end the high-stakes nature of statewide standardized assessment — including graduation requirements, the use of test scores in educator evaluations, and school and district leveling — and establish pilot programs that encourage up to 25 percent of districts to develop and implement alternative local assessment models in consultation with educators and parents. The legislation also directs the state auditor to review contracts involving the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Measured Progress and Pearson, the key organizations involved in student assessment.

Promote health and safety in schools. This legislation would mandate at least 20 minutes of unstructured free-play recess per school day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Another bill would seek to ensure that public school facilities are kept at safe and comfortable temperatures throughout the year.

Protect retired educators. The legislation would immediately increase the cost-of-living base from $13,000 to $18,000 and, over time, raise the base to align with Social Security’s maximum allowable Legislative priorities address range of issues benefit for an individual worker. That figure was $33,456 in 2018. The bill would freeze municipal retiree health insurance premium contribution rates at the rate paid on the day of retirement and cap outof- pocket expenses for retirees who are not eligible for Medicare. The legislation would also provide a solution to a RetirementPlus enrollment issue impacting certain members of the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System.

Address workplace fairness on college campuses. This omnibus bill would ensure workplace fairness for adjunct faculty members by providing access to health insurance and state pension options, requiring pay parity with equivalent full-time faculty, establishing a state contribution of 7.5 percent of an employee’s salary to the mandatory OBRA Plan retirement account for those who work less than half time, and giving current adjunct faculty members notice and priority consideration for new or vacant full-time positions. The legislation also would streamline the process through which public higher educationcollective bargaining agreements are validated and funded by having completed contracts go directly to the Legislature for approval, and it would eliminate the 60-day waiting period for newly hired employees to begin receiving health insurance coverage through the Group Insurance Commission.

Ensure debt-free public higher education. This bill would direct the Board of Higher Education to create a grant program to pay the equivalent of tuition and mandatory fees for all eligible students at any Massachusetts public college or university — or costs for a certificate, vocational or training program at a public institution — for the equivalent of four years of college.

Protect public employees. The legislation would establish a commission on the GIC to achieve transparency in contracts involving health care costs and pharmaceutical pricing and call for consideration of “reference-based pricing” as a means of making medical costs reasonable and uniform, as well as for examining the value and viability of a public-option health insurance plan that would be available to public and non-public employees in Massachusetts. The legislation also would make applicable to all municipal employees the Commonwealth’s recent minimum wage hike to $15 an hour and access to paid family and medical leave.

Promote labor rights. Legislation written in coordination with the AFL-CIO Public-Sector Task Force includes bills that would provide public employees with the right to strike, add additional labor seats to the GIC and ensure greater transparency in GIC decision-making, and protect the rights of workers and unions.

Revive the Fair Share Amendment. Legislation backed by Raise Up Massachusetts, of which the MTA is a member, would revive the Fair Share Amendment. This legislation would amend the Massachusetts Constitution, creating an additional tax of four percentage points on annual income over $1 million. A legislative constitutional amendment requires two consecutive constitutional convention votes by a majority of the Legislature. If those approvals occur, the measure would be placed on the ballot in 2022.