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Reduced Employer Access to Criminal Records Harms Ex-Offenders

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Nov 13, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Update: The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill last week that will narrow employer access to the criminal records of job applicants. AIM believes such restrictions will hurt the very ex-offenders they are designed to help. 

It also seeks to expunge some offenders’ criminal records. Both the House and Senate bills would allow convictions to be sealed after seven years for a felony and three years for a misdemeanor, down from 10 and five years today.

The House bill would also allow someone to seal a conviction for resisting arrest, which currently cannot be sealed.

The House bill expands the ability for someone who had a record sealed to be able to say he has no record in applications for housing or professional licenses.

The House and the Senate will next convene a committee of conference to negotiate the differences in the two pieces of legislation and then send it to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk.

AIM told members of the state House of Representatives this morning that  the proposed narrowing of employer access to the criminal records of job applicants will reduce employment opportunities for former offenders.

ScalesofJusticeVerySmall.jpgAIM is concerned about language in a criminal justice reform to be debated today that would make access to information through the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) more difficult by sealing records and limiting access.

AIM believes the changes would harm the very people those the measure is designed to help.  Without access, employers are left without relevant information about potential hiring decisions. Restricting an employer’s access to information has been shown to hinder job applicants and employer’s ability to maintain a safe workplace. 

The commonwealth’s largest employer association has provided feedback in a number of ways during the current legislative session. AIM sent letters to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary on April 28, 2017 and on July 17, 2017, and also hosted a briefing on this topic with the legislative sponsor and AIM members.

AIM appreciates that those and other conversations resulted in the inclusion of a negligent-hiring provision contained in SECTION 87 subsection 100S of the proposed reform bill.  AIM is also supportive of a provision that would enable the commonwealth to move towards fingerprinting and exchanging data with the National Criminal Information Center (NCIS) to ensure that records are accurate and connected to the correct person.

The Massachusetts Senate approved its own version of criminal justice reform on October 26.

AIM is concerned about the following provisions:

Sections 81-86 and 87: Sealing and Expungement of a Criminal Record: As proposed, the language would reduce the wait time to seal a misdemeanor conviction from five years to three years and a felony conviction from 10 years to seven years.  To address this AIM supports:

  • Amendment #50 to remove sealing and expungement provisions
  • Amendment #132 to allow employers that have employees with access to financial information, cash instruments and vulnerable populations to retain access to five years of misdemeanors and 10 years for felony convictions as currently provided under law
  • Amendment #134, to provide employers with six months to make changes to job applications, internal policies and to conduct training for hiring managers

Section 84 and 87 Job Applications: This language requires employers to amend job applications to acknowledge the candidate’s proposed rights under the expungement provision.  Employers would be required to add the language from section 84 and section 87, which contains similar language for job applications.  To address this AIM supports:

  • Amendment #130 and #131, to retain currently proposed language into one paragraph to address a candidate’s rights regarding sealing and expungement.
  • Amendment #120, to provide employers with six months to a year to fully implement changes in job applications, internal policy documents and to conduct training for hiring managers.

AIM supports amendment #50 to strike the language and amendment #118, which would provide for six months for employers to be in compliance and conduct training for hiring managers.

Sections 49-56, 62: Felony Thresholds: This language will make it challenging for employers to address growing concerns with larceny and ongoing threats related to personal information and credit card fraud.  AIM supports amendment #126, which would strike these provisions.

Takeaways:

 

 

Topics: Employment Law, CORI, Massachusetts House of Representatives

Boston Lawmaker Named Chair of Ways & Means Committee

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jul 13, 2017 2:18:38 PM

House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Sunday named a Boston legislator with extensive experience in health-care policy to chair the Ways and Means committee that crafts the state budget.

Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez of Jaimaica Plain will take over from Representative Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill, who announced last week that he will resign from the Legislature to take a job at lobbying firm ML Strategies.

Sanchez.jpg"Representative Sanchez is an exceptionally thoughtful legislator who has worked with Associated Industries of Massachusetts on some of the most complex issues facing the business community, especially managing the cost of health care," said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

"We look forward to working with him in his new role as chair of the Ways & Means Committee."

Sanchez currently chairs the Health Care Financing Committee and previously co-chaired the Legislature's Joint Committee on Public Health. He has been active on economic justice issues and legislation aimed at addressing racial and ethnic health disparities, and recently co-chaired a special commission that examined price disparities in the health care sector.

His nomination will come before a Democratic caucus today.

Hinting at the potential for challenging health care policy changes at the federal level, DeLeo told State House News Service that the work Sanchez has done as committee chairman "will be crucial as we address the health care challenges inherent to the budget and grapple with uncertainty on the national level." 

Dempsey had served in the Legislature since 1991 and has overseen the past six state budgets. He will become senior vice president and chief operating officer of ML Strategies, an AIM member, in September.

“AIM congratulates Chairman Dempsey and looks forward to working with him in his new role at ML Strategies,” Regan said.

“Mr. Dempsey has always been willing to consider the opinions of the business community and has been a thoughtful voice of moderation in guiding the fiscal course of the commonwealth.”

Dempsey said in a statement: "It has been an incredible honor to serve the people of Haverhill in an elected capacity since 1988. I am proud of all that we have been able to accomplish together. I would like to thank all of my supporters, friends and family for their encouragement and help through the years.

"While I am moving on to a new chapter in my life, Haverhill will always be my home, and we will continue to keep the city moving in the right direction."

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Massachusetts House of Representatives

House Establishes Process to Study Health Assessment

Posted by Katie Holahan on Apr 10, 2017 1:08:24 PM

The Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee wants the Baker Administration to examine the assumptions underlying its controversial proposal to have employers pay for a shortfall in the MassHealth program.

StateHouse-resized-600.pngThe proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget released by the committee today would create a six-month review of the $2,000-per-employee “Fair Share Assessment” that the administration included in its own budget proposal in January.

The House plan would require the administration to conduct public hearings and determine the potential effect of the assessment on small business. It would also limit the definition of a full-time employee in any assessment by excluding temporary and seasonal employees.

Perhaps most importantly, the House envisions that any assessment would generate $180 million instead of the $300 million initially projected by the administration. MassHealth is the commonwealth’s Medicaid health-insurance program for low-income people.

“The issues surrounding the MassHealth deficit and the proposed employer assessment are extraordinary complex. We believe the House proposal lays out a prudent process for reviewing the issue in a manner that will allow AIM to continue its ongoing discussions with lawmakers and the administration,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

The administration’s plan would impose a $2,000-per-employee assessment upon companies at which at least 80 percent of full-time worker equivalents do not take the company’s offer of health insurance, and that do not make a minimum contribution of $4,950 annual contribution for each full-time worker. If 70 percent of a company’s employees accept company health insurance, the company would be assessed $2,000 per employee for the number of employees represented by the 10 percent difference.

The employer assessment represents an expansion of the so-called fair share contribution plan that was a linchpin of the 2006 universal health care law in Massachusetts before it was repealed to make way for the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

The House Ways and Means budget will require the administration to consider the following factors in developing any sort of health-care assessment on businesses in Massachusetts.

  • What a reasonable utilization (uptake) rate might be by reviewing other entities, such as the Group Insurance Commission;
  • Whether employees receive premium assistance through MassHealth;
  • Whether employees receive primary MassHealth benefits;
  • Whether employees receive insurance from other, non-MassHealth sources (spousal; parental; veterans);
  • Whether employees are residents of the commonwealth (and thus eligible for MassHealth);
  • What average Massachusetts employer contribution rates might be.

The review of the proposed assessment would involve multiple state agencies, including the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Department of Revenue (DOR), the Health Connector, the Division of Unemployment Assistance, the Center for Health Information and Analysis, and MassHealth.

A public hearing on proposed regulations must be held by the first week in October 2017.

The administration would be required to implement all regulations relative to an assessment by November 1. Full implementation of any resulting policy would occur on January 1, 2018. A small-business impact statement must be filed.

AIM has opposed the employer assessment because the growing shortfall at MassHealth, which provides health insurance to 1.9 million low-income Massachusetts residents, is attributable largely to problems arising from the ACA. Federal reform made access to health insurance an entitlement based on expanded income eligibility and significantly expanded the roles of people on Medicaid.

The House budget would require the administration to seek an ACA waiver that would allow the original prohibition to be reinstated.

Topics: Budget, Health Care Costs, Massachusetts House of Representatives

Speaker Outlines Objective to Create 'Jobs, Jobs and More Jobs'

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 7, 2016 7:54:11 AM

The formal portion of the 2015-2016 session of the Massachusetts Legislature produced landmark laws governing energy, economic development and pay equity. House Speaker Robert DeLeo recently sat down with AIM Executive Vice President John Regan to talk about the sesssion and what the results will mean for employers.

Topics: Massachusetts Politics, Massachusetts economy, Massachusetts House of Representatives

Power and Collaboration on Beacon Hill

Posted by Rick Lord on Sep 21, 2016 4:27:48 PM

An article in yesterday’s Boston Globe, Business lobby holds new sway on Beacon Hill, accurately reports that Associated Industries of Massachusetts exerts unique influence on Beacon Hill on behalf of employers.

statehousedome.jpgWe do. That’s why your company is a member.

Unfortunately, the article also distorts AIM’s position on an important piece of legislation - the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act – and contains a glaring factual error. I feel it is important to set the record straight.

The article reports that AIM opposed The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act during the 2015-2016 legislative session. But the article does not tell you that our opposition reflected legitimate concern among employers that the legislation duplicates existing law and provides an applicant or employee with the power to reject multiple and reasonable offers of accommodation by an employer.

The issue is similar to the recent debate over wage equity, in which AIM initially opposed a flawed bill meant to accomplish a goal we all supported. Far from exercising “veto power” over the House of Representatives, as one senator asserted to the Globe, AIM was able to work with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and the attorney general to develop an acceptable piece of legislation that we were ultimately proud to support and that Governor Charlie Baker signed.

The Globe article fails to mention that AIM has signaled the Legislature that we are willing to enter into the same type of negotiations on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. AIM executives told reporter Frank Phillips on several occasions that the association supports fair treatment of pregnant women and is open to discussions to eliminate provisions of the bill that would place an undue burden on employers.

The article also inaccurately reports that Cape Air, the business owned by retiring Senator Dan Wolf, D-Harwich, is a member of Associated Industries of Massachusetts. For the record, Cape Air has not been a member of AIM since 2003.

As member employers you should be proud of that AIM represents your interests with unparalleled skill and integrity. You should also acknowledge that the Massachusetts House of Representatives is developing workable legislation for the people of Massachusetts by working collaboratively with the business community.

The bottom line of the Globe article is that no organization is more prominent in public policy debates that AIM.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the article or AIM’s positions.

 

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts senate, Massachusetts House of Representatives

Legislative Scorecard Paints Tale of Two Chambers

Posted by John Regan on Aug 29, 2016 7:35:05 AM


Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) today released its 2015-2016 Legislative Scorecardd, the most widely read report on the voting record of Massachusetts legislators on issues important to employers. AIM releases the Legislative Scorecard at the end of each two-year session to ensure that members know legislators’ records on key economic and public-policy issues, and to recognize lawmakers who understand the importance of a vibrant economy for all residents.

Scorecard2016.jpgThe 2015-2016 legislative session was a tale of two chambers. While the House of Representatives and Speaker Robert DeLeo successfully forged consensus on important measures such as wage equity and energy, the Senate hewed to a more progressive, ideological approach that produced a steady stream of bills with the potential to harm the Massachusetts economy. The divergent approaches are reflected in the Legislative Scorecard results.

Virtually every member of the House of Representatives earned grades of 50 percent or higher and 126 reps ended the session at 75 percent or better. The ratings were based on a dozen roll-call votes dealing with issues ranging from economic development to restricting the use of non-compete agreements.

In the Senate, meanwhile, only five of 40 members managed grades above 50 percent and a staggering 15 Senators posted scores of 18 percent. The highest score in the Senate belonged to Senator Don Humason of Westfield at 59 percent.

The Senate scores were based upon many of the same issues debated by the House, as well as additional votes on so-called wage theft and efforts to modify the commonwealth’s punitive treble damages law. Two key Senate votes – on energy and non-compete agreements – were not included because they were conducted as voice votes.

The Legislative Scorecard selects votes that reflect the objectives of The Blueprint for the Next Century, AIM’s long-term plan for economic prosperity in Massachusetts. The plan maintains that only a vibrant, private-sector economy creates opportunity that binds the social, governmental, and economic foundations of our commonwealth.

The Blueprint contains four specific recommendations against which AIM measures public policy issues:

  1. Develop the best system in the world for educating and training workers with the skills needed to allow Massachusetts companies to succeed in a rapidly changing global economy.
  2. Support business formation and expansion by creating a uniformly competitive economic structure across all industries, geographic regions and populations, rather than picking winners and losers.
  3. Establish a world-class state regulatory system that ensures the health and welfare of society in a manner that meets the highest standards of efficiency, predictability, transparency and responsiveness.
  4. Moderate the immense long-term burden that health care and energy costs place on business growth.
"We hope that employers find the Legislative Scorecard informative, and that they will share the results with your colleagues and associates," said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Massachusetts senate, Massachusetts economy, Massachusetts House of Representatives

House Non-Compete Bill Seeks Middle Ground

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Jun 28, 2016 1:20:25 PM

The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 149-0 Thursday to approve compromise legislation governing the use of non-compete agreements.

ScalesofJusticeVerySmall.jpgAssociated Industries of Massachusetts has opposed efforts to ban or limit the use of non-competes, but has also engaged in productive discussions with House Speaker Robert DeLeo on the issue.

“AIM recognizes and appreciates the approach that Speaker DeLeo has taken in the debate over non-compete agreements,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

“The speaker recognizes the need to protect business interests at a time when non-competes are a vital part of protecting investments and ideas created by employers of all sizes and from all industries. As the speaker has noted in the past, Massachusetts cannot be an ‘invented here and manufactured elsewhere’ commonwealth.”

The House proposal makes three positive changes from legislation originally advanced by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor & Workforce Development.  The changes address some of the major concerns expressed by AIM and other members of the business community in a June 20 meeting with Speaker DeLeo:

  • Garden Leave: A provision that would have required employers to pay workers half their salary during the restricted period of a non-compete agreement has been modified to recognize “other mutually-agreed upon consideration between the employer and the employee.” That means companies that compensate employees at the time they sign non-competes would not have to pay them again during the restricted period. While AIM would prefer to eliminate the “garden leave” provision entirely, the revision provides some flexibility to employers.
  • Amending contracts:  The compromise legislation would allow courts to reform or alter non-compete contracts to ensure that both parties are treated fairly.  Previous language would have forced a court to invalidate a contract in full. 
  • Effective date: The legislation would provide time for businesses to update contracts by moving the effective date from July 1 to October 1, 2016.  As previously proposed, the law would not apply retroactively to contracts signed as of October 1, 2016.

AIM has expressed support for several provisions of the revised bill that clearly define the conditions under which non-competes may be used:

  • Non-compete agreements could be only one year in duration.
  • Those subject to non-compete agreements would have to be given prior notice of the need to sign the agreement, as well as the opportunity to consult with legal counsel.
  • The non-compete would extend to a second year should an employee unlawfully take property belonging to the employer.

Amid these improvements, concerns remain.  AIM urges the House of Representative to consider several changes:

  • Stock options:  Make stock-option offerings exempt from being directly tied to non-compete agreements since such grants are used for attracting and retaining talent.
  • Exemptions:  Change the criteria under which workers would be exempt from non-competes from the Fair Labor Standards Act to a standard that relies on the minimum wage.
  • Garden Leave: Make technical changes to underscore the fact that non-compete agreements are often part of broader standardized national or international compensation plans.
  • Choice of Law Provision: Strike language that sets arbitrary rules for selecting the court where a claim may be brought.
  • Garden Leave exemption:  Create language to allow a non-compete to remain enforceable when an employee receives a severance payment or other long-term compensation.
  • Independent Contractors: Strike language that defines employee to include independent contractors within the definition of full-time employee. 
  • Damages:  Strike language that would preclude an employer from recouping damages or costs associated with a stolen “sales list” if an employee were to leave voluntarily.

AIM continues to maintain that there is no evidence that the use of non-compete agreements harms Massachusetts’ position as as a globally recognized leader in innovation. In fact, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings indicate that the well-heeled venture capitalists pushing to limit non-competes use such agreements themselves.

Employers believe selective use of non-competes protects the significant investments that allow their companies to be global leaders in their industries and to create jobs in the commonwealth.  The compromise legislation begins to recognize that Massachusetts employers need flexibility and legal options to protect intellectual property. 

AIM looks forward to working with members of the Legislature to address the changes that remain to be made.

Employers seeking to learn more about the non-compete issue may contact me at bmacdougall@aimnet.org.

 

Topics: Speaker Robert DeLeo, Employment Law, Massachusetts House of Representatives, Non-Compete Agreements

Video Blog | Speaker DeLeo Talks Energy, Economic Development

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 23, 2016 7:30:00 AM

House Speaker Robert DeLeo touched on energy costs, work force training and economic development during his keynote address to the AIM annual meeting on May 13.  DeLeo said that the House of Representatives shares with AIM a commitment to ensure that the economic growth buoying the Boston area spreads through the commonwealth.

Here is a video of the speaker's full address:

Topics: Speaker Robert DeLeo, AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts House of Representatives

Speaker Pushes Statewide Economic Growth

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 13, 2016 2:59:38 PM

The Massachusetts House of Representatives shares with Associated Industries of Massachusetts a commitment to ensure that the economic growth buoying the Boston area spreads through the commonwealth, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo told the AIM annual meeting today.

DeLeogood.jpg“For the past two years, extending the circle of economic prosperity from Boston to each corner of the commonwealth has been a chief priority of the House. I’m proud to say that through economic development bills, trips around the state, and a recently launched initiative called the Bay State Business Link, we are making gains,” DeLeo told more than 750 executives gathered at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel.

DeLeo noted that he last keynoted the AIM annual meeting during the height of the recession in 2009.

“I’m proud to say that in the past seven years we have overcome adversity and set a foundation for sustainable recovery,” he said.

 “In the House, we embrace our legacy of creating workable, practical solutions. Our goal is to create sustainable legislation that will result in positive long-term consequences. From workforce training; to economic development bills that focus on diverse regions and industries; to education; to our nationally-heralded gun safety legislation: we are known for pairing bold ideas with commitment to collaboration.”

DeLeo’s remarks followed the presentation of the inaugural AIM Vision Awards for contributions to the Massachusetts economy to General Electric Company of Boston, Nuance Communications of Burlington and noted brain researcher Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University. AIM also presented the John Gould Education and Work Force Development Award to Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries of Massachusetts.

AIM Board Chairman Daniel Kenary announced in his annual remarks that the AIM Board of Directors has approved a restructuring that will allow AIM’s human resources operation to accelerate its growth, while the larger organization recommits itself to being the best public policy advocacy group in the nation.

AIM HR Solutions, formerly known as the Employers Resource Group, will become its own business center with the goal of building on annual revenues of $2.1 million. AIM HR Solutions will help employers wrestle with the complexity of managing a work force and comply with an ever- growing maze of employment laws.

“The change is intended to allow our managers to push full throttle on two business units that are already remarkably successful.  There isn’t an association anywhere in the world that would not give its right arm to have these two businesses. Your Board of Directors is excited about the possibilities this change will create,” said Kenary, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Harpoon Brewery.

Kenary also suggested that AIM is at a crossroads born of an increasingly volatile political environment that is challenging employers to articulate a positive and compelling vision for the role they play in the larger society. He called for employers to adopt an “entrepreneurial populism” under which they engage with the political process in their home communities.

“The late House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s maxim that ‘all politics is local’ has never been truer that it is today. And if all politics is local, the employer community represents a sleeping giant with enormous potential to drive sound public policy from the bottom up,” Kenary said.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Economic Development, Massachusetts House of Representatives

Pulling the Plug on Solar Reform

Posted by John Regan on Apr 6, 2016 3:05:08 PM

Massachusetts lawmakers last week imposed an $8 billion tax on electric ratepayers and put the money into the pockets of solar energy developers.

solarpanels.small.jpgThe state Legislature approved a bill that does nothing to reform the commonwealth’s bloated solar-energy subsidy program. The result: businesses and homeowners will continue to foot the bill for twice as much in solar giveaways as residents of other states.

Governor Charlie Baker said Friday that he will sign the measure.

And big solar isn’t done. Even before the ink dries on the current bill, solar energy advocates are rallying to raise the cap again before the end of the legislative session, continuing what appears to be a never-ending demand for government-mandated support.

“AIM supports the development of solar energy and takes pride in the fact that many of its 4,500 member employers have installed solar at their plants and offices,” said Robert Rio, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

“But this bill represents lawmakers turning their backs on ratepayers to perpetuate an ideologically based energy policy.”

The solar bill that emerged from a legislative conference committee on Tuesday would raise the cap on net metering – the process by which solar developers sell excess electricity back to the power grid – by 60 percent for private projects and 75 percent for public projects. The primary reform contained in the measure would lower the net metering credit to 60 percent of the retail rate, but that reduction would not apply to facilities owned by municipalities and government entities.

“Municipalities and other government entities will still receive retail rates for net metering – a sad case of ‘taking care of your own’ while others pay,’ ” AIM said in a letter to the Legislature this morning.

The proposal will add $8 billion to the energy bills of Massachusetts consumers during the next 10 years - 2.0 cents/kilowatt hour for residential customers and 1.6 cents/kWh for Commercial and Industrial customers.   

AIM supports reform of solar subsidies because Massachusetts employers already pay some of the highest rates for electricity in the country. The legislature with the current bill has shown neither the will nor the inclination to say no to unnecessary subsidies, even when other states have reformed their programs in the face of falling costs for solar installations.

Solar subsidy advocates are already planning to seek additional increases in the program.

"With the bill's 3 percent increase to the program cap, we expect to address net metering again next year in order to avoid endangering solar jobs yet again,” said Sean Garren of VoteSolar.

AIM urges the state Senate not to pass the conference report and asked Governor Charlie Baker to veto it.

Topics: Massachusetts House of Representatives, Energy, Solar Subsidies

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