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Energy, Health-Cost Bills Highlight AIM Agenda

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 16, 2015 1:03:00 PM

Measures to control electric rates and the cost of health care highlight a package of 19 bills filed with the state Legislature today by Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

ThumbThe AIM filings include bill designed to clarify details of the paid sick leave law approved by voters on November 4.

The association filed the bills on behalf of its 4,500 member employers as the Senate and House of Representatives begin a two-year Beacon Hill session that will run through July 2016. It is a session that will play out amid uncertain political dynamics among with newly elected Republican Governor Charlie Baker, newly elected Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and incumbent House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

The AIM health-care bill would limit the growth of medical spending to two percentage points below overall economic growth. The 2012 Massachusetts Health Cost Containment law currently sets a benchmark equal to the growth of Gross State Product.

The energy legislation seeks to stabilize the cost of electricity by reorganizing the Department of Public Utilities into an independent agency and requiring that at least one DPU commissioner have experience in commercial and industrial ratepayer issues.

“Moderating the costs of health insurance and electricity is a central objective of AIM’s Blueprint for the Next Century,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs, referring to the long-term economic strategy AIM is developing in connection with its 100th anniversary.

“We’re wasting no time in getting these critical issues before the Legislature as the 2015-2016 session gets underway.”

AIM lobbied aggressively in 2012 to limit the growth of medical spending to “GSP minus two” but lawmakers eventually approved, and Governor Deval Patrick signed, a compromise measure setting the target initially at GSP, moving to half a percentage point below GSP in 2018. Medical spending during the first year of the cost-control law increased 2.3 percent, well under the 3.6 percent growth rate for the economy.

“The system is showing that two percentage points less than overall growth is certainly a reasonable target, especially since experts agree that one-third of medical spending is wasteful,” Regan said.

Filing of the electricity bill comes as Massachusetts employers and homeowners face increases of up to 37 percent in their electric bills because of natural gas pipeline capacity issues. Representative Patricia A. Haddad, D-Somerset, filed a separate omnibus energy bill on Friday, signaling that the cost of power will be a major topic of debate for lawmakers during the next 18 months.

“Average electric rates in Massachusetts are the third highest in the nation for industrial ratepayers, according to the United States Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. AIM looks forward to working with Representative Haddad and other members of the Legislature to lower electricity prices while increasing the use of clean energy,” said Robert Rio, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

Regan stressed that the paid sick leave corrections bill does not represent an attempt to circumvent the will of the voters, but rather to provide employers with a clear roadmap for complying the with new law.  AIM has received questions from thousands of employers since November on issues such as eligibility and how the new statute works with existing paid time off benefit plans.

The AIM bill would:

  • Clarify who is eligible for leave and how the leave is appropriately taken.
  • Clarify the accrual process and use of earned sick time in a manner that conforms to current payroll systems.
  • Provide flexibility for companies to integrate existing Paid Time Off (PTO) systems with the law.
  • Clarify documentation and disciplinary actions.
  • Provides a smooth transition year when the earned sick time law becomes effective

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