AIMBlog_Logo_Resized

Senate President Calls for 'Bold Steps'

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 15, 2019 11:20:37 AM

 

Senate President Karen E. Spilka today called for Massachusetts to take “bold steps” to address issues such as transportation, education, health-care costs and economic development in the face of relentless changes to the state economy.

SP.Spilka“The common thread of all the challenges we face is unprecedented change. The success of our Commonwealth will ultimately be measured by how well we navigate and harness the potential of this change,” Spilka told more than 300 business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum on Waltham.

She said Massachusetts finds itself in a unique political moment that will determine the future course of its economy.

“It would be a mistake to waste this moment on incremental changes and small ideas,” she said. “Now is the time to be bold. That said, we have to find a way to reach consensus on our bold ideas.”

Spilka said state leaders must replicate the collaborative model of last year’s “grand bargain,” which brought together employers, advocacy groups and legislators to hammer out a compromise on paid family leave and the minimum wage. She thanked the business community for engaging in those conversations and invited employers to continue to participate in major policy debates.

The Senate President cited the growth of the Metrowest district she represents as an example of the challenges and opportunities facing the Massachusetts economy. Technology and innovation have transformed Metrowest from a Boston bedroom region to the home of major employers like Staples, TJX and Boston Scientific, but that growth has stressed the transportation infrastructure and priced some workers out of the housing market.

She acknowledged that resolving these issues carries a large price tag.

“I firmly believe we must create an economic development and tax framework for the 21st century where innovative technology-driven businesses can develop and thrive here but where we also capture new revenue to continue providing essential services, and fund our vision for our future,” she told the audience.

“So far, we have been addressing these new industries on a piecemeal basis, which only serves to breed confusion for business, government, and consumers. We must work together to find a balance that benefits us all, especially as we will be relying on these industries to continue to fuel our economic success.”

Spilka said the Senate will address health-care costs by looking at the price of prescription drugs and the cost transparency of the medical system. She praised the initiative led by AIM and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation to reduce unnecessary use of emergency rooms.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, AIM Executive Forum, Senate President Karen Spilka

AIM's John Regan Talks Issues on Comcast Newsmakers

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 31, 2019 12:38:52 PM

John Regan, AIM's Executive Vice President of Government Affairs, recently joined Comcast Newsmakers and host Jenny Johnson for a look at the issues facing employers as the Massachusetts Legislature begins a new, two-year session.

Regan.Comcast.2019

 

 

 

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker

AIM Calls for End to MassHealth Employer Assessment

Posted by Rick Lord on Jan 2, 2019 8:57:01 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts and its 4,000 member companies today called upon the Legislature and Governor Charlie Baker to end to the two-year assessment imposed on employers last year to close a financial gap at the state’s MassHealth insurance program for low-income residents.

health_careAIM believes the assessment is no longer necessary because employers last year paid tens of millions of dollars more than anticipated under the levy. Businesses are on track to contribute some $519 million by the time the assessment sunsets at the end of this year instead of the $400 million envisioned under the 2017 legislation.

At the same time, enrollment in MassHealth has fallen as the Baker Administration has initiated steps to ensure that only people eligible for benefits receive them. And state tax collections have exceeded targets over the past several months, putting the state on firmer financial footing.

“The conditions that led to the imposition of the surcharge no longer exist. Employers who have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in assessments believe it is fair to look at ending the surcharge in year two,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

The Legislature passed the assessment in July 2017 minus a set of structural reforms proposed by Governor Baker to place the MassHealth/Medicaid program on a firm financial footing. The assessment fell most heavily upon companies in which employees elect to use MassHealth rather than the employer-sponsored health plan.

The Boston Globe: Employer group balks at fees to prop up MassHealth

An existing assessment called the employer medical assistance contribution (EMAC) increased from $51 to $77 per employee. Employers also were required to pay up to $750 for each worker who receives public health benefits.

Employers may request a waiver from the fees if they prove a hardship. Of 246 such waiver requests, administration officials said they have allowed 99.

Governor Baker originally proposed a $2,000-per-employee assessment upon companies at which at least 80 percent of full-time worker equivalents did not take the company’s offer of health insurance, and that did not make a minimum contribution of $4,950 annual contribution for each full-time worker. That proposal encountered significant opposition from the business community.

AIM member employers are proud to lead the nation in providing health care coverage to their employees. Sixty-five percent of Bay State companies offer health insurance coverage to their workers, compared with 56 percent of employers nationwide. A full 100 percent of Massachusetts employers with 200 or more employees offer coverage. 

Employers stand ready to work with policymakers to make long-term structural reforms to both the MassHealth program and the commercial insurance markets to make the financing of health care for Massachusetts residents sustainable.

“Eleven years ago, employers joined with doctors, hospitals, patient advocates and lawmakers to forge a health-reform law that required all parties to share the responsibility for improving access to health care. The employer community calls for that same sense of shared responsibility now to solve the MassHealth shortfall,” Regan said.

Please contact Katie Holahan, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, keh@aimnet.org, for updates on this issue.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Health Care, Charlie Baker, Employer Health Assessment

Potential Legislative Involvement in Lockout Sets Dangerous Precedent

Posted by John Regan on Nov 2, 2018 8:34:04 AM

Proposed legislation that would penalize National Grid during the ongoing lockout of gas workers represents a troubling – and perhaps unconstitutional – foray by Beacon Hill into a private-sector labor dispute.

State House 2015The bill, called An Act relative to the employment of certain workers by National Grid, would prohibit National Grid from:

  • receiving public funds for the upgrade, repair, installation or maintenance of its gas distribution system
  • applying for funds to assist in paying the costs of gate box maintenance and improvements, or
  • receiving from the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities any increase in its rates for consumer gas or electric distribution.

The bill would also require National Grid to continue to provide health insurance under its expired collective bargaining agreements with Steelworkers Locals 12003 and 12012-04.

The House of Representatives has admitted the bill, but no hearing has been scheduled. The measure is unlikely to pass before January since the Legislature remains in informal session when a single legislator may stop a bill.

National Grid, which provides natural-gas service to 116 Massachusetts communities, has 85 communities impacted by a lockout of 1,250 workers after the Steelworkers rejected a five-year contract offer that will boost the current average employee salary, including overtime, from $120,000 a year to $137,000.

The offer also includes a 10 percent increase in the pension plan for current employees, while new employees would be assigned to a completely company-funded defined contribution plan with a 3 to 9 percent company match, in addition to a regular 401 (k) with a company match. The company’s health insurance proposal would also introduce modest deductibles and coinsurance, which the unions currently do not pay.

Intervention in a private labor dispute is beyond the scope of the Massachusetts Legislature and sets a dangerous precedent for the ability of government to takes sides in negotiations between companies and their workers. If lawmakers interject themselves in the National Grid lockout, what would prevent them from also becoming involved in disputes involving manufacturing, service or technology companies across the commonwealth?

The bill would tread upon and regulate a sphere of private sector collective bargaining that is intended to be unregulated by the U.S. Congress.  As such, the legislation is pre-empted by the National Labor Relations Act.  Strikes and lockouts are both federally protected actions.

The federal courts have a long history of pre-empting local and state efforts to shape labor disputes. In 1986, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court pre-empted the Los Angeles City Council’s bid to condition renewal of a taxi license on the resolution of a labor dispute.

The proposal could also violate the United States Constitution because, in targeting National Grid and only National Grid, it constitutes a Bill of Attainder proscribed by Article 1 of the Constitution. 

No one likes labor disputes and AIM joins others in hoping that National Grid and its unions can find common ground soon. That hope should not, however, lead elected officials down the road of political expediency.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Energy, Organized Labor

Compromise Produces Solid Legislative Scorecard

Posted by John Regan on Oct 3, 2018 1:30:00 PM

A legislative session marked by grand compromises and outside ballot initiatives gave state lawmakers generally solid grades in the 2017-2018 AIM Legislative Scorecard released today.

Scorecard2AIM publishes the Legislative Scorecard at the end of each two-year Beacon Hill session to ensure that employers 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.

The 2017-2018 legislative session was dominated by a wave of ballot initiatives that forced employers and lawmakers to forge a broad compromise establishing paid family and medical leave, increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour and eliminating overtime pay for Sunday retail work.

AIM helped to negotiate the compromise because the proposed ballot questions on those issues were dangerous to business and almost certainly would have passed in a year of unprecedented electoral activism.

A separate potential ballot question establishing a surtax on incomes of more than $1 million died in the face of a court challenge lodged by AIM President Richard Lord and four other prominent business leaders.

And employers struggling to provide good health insurance to their employees remained frustrated at having to pay a $200 million annual assessment to close a budget gap in the MassHealth program for low-income people with no prospect of reforms.

Virtually every member of the House of Representatives earned grades of 60 percent or higher. Eight representatives topped the list at 100 percent, while 36 ended the session at 80 percent.

The ratings were based on five roll-call votes dealing with issues ranging from economic development to energy.

In the Senate, 29 of 36 members posted scores of 50 percent or better, with three senators leading the way at 75 percent. Six senators ended the session at 38 percent and three were at 25 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.

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. That structure must include a reliable and efficient transportation system.
  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.

Should the Legislature resume formal sessions before January, AIM may issue an updated Scorecard.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Massachusetts senate, Massachusetts House of Representatives, Charlie Baker

Slow and Steady Approach to Clean Energy Protects Ratepayers

Posted by Robert Rio on Aug 27, 2018 8:30:00 AM

The energy bill passed in July by the Massachusetts Legislature, signed by Governor Charlie Baker and supported by AIM has been criticized by environmental advocates for not being “aggressive” enough in promoting the use of renewable energy.

WindTurbinesOceanSmallThe new law doubled the requirement for purchasing new renewable power over the next ten years and allowed the procurement of an additional 1600 MW of offshore wind, in addition to the 1600 MW of offshore wind and 1200 MW of hydro power already on tap.

It’s true that AIM urged lawmakers to take a cautious approach on the measure, especially since a sweeping 2016 energy bill that created a host of new initiatives is still being phased in.

But AIM has learned over the years that moving slowly and deliberately often leads to a better environmental and economic outcome than reacting quickly to the latest fad.   

Remember Cape wind? 

Back in 2010 the same environmental advocates and the administration of then-Governor Deval Patrick fell all over themselves supporting the Cape Wind project, even when it became obvious the development was in trouble. AIM recognized Cape Wind for what it was – a no-bid project with sky high prices that would have added hundreds of millions of dollars to 
the electric bills of Massachusetts ratepayers.

The 30 cents-per-kilowatt hour average price of Cape Wind would have become even worse than it seemed at the time because the wholesale cost of electricity has plummeted over the last eight years due to low natural-gas prices. 

Abandoning Cape Wind allowed offshore wind technology (and the law) to catch up to a place where we now have zero carbon-energy at reasonable costs. New offshore wind turbines are expected to produce electricity at less than a third of the cost of Cape Wind.   

AIM and its 4,000 member employers deserve a share of the credit for that cost shift.

It was AIM, not the environmental advocates, that ensured that the 2016 energy bill required all future offshore wind contracts to be transparent and competitively bid, because we knew competition would drive down prices. The bidding process also attracted world-renowned companies because they knew the process would be fair and open.

The 2016 law included two other important provision pushed by AIM. First, any future offshore wind contracts would have to be cheaper than any existing contract, guaranteeing lower prices in the future as technologies and experience levels become better. Second, these contracts would have to be cost-effective to the ratepayers of Massachusetts.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence it was widely criticized. Eighty-six changes were eventually made to that first draft, and the final document was shortened by one-fourth.   

 Our country’s founders weren’t against independence – they just wanted to make sure they got it right.

It worked backed then and we think it’s the best approach now.    

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Massachusetts economy, Energy

AIM Urges Governor to Sign Energy Bill, Parts of Economic Development Bill

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Aug 6, 2018 8:00:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts on Friday urged Governor Charlie Baker to sign a clean-energy bill and approve portions of a $1.2 billion economic-development bill passed by the Legislature earlier in the week.

State_House_and_One_BeaconIn a letter to the governor, AIM expressed support for key portions of the economic-development bill ranging from an apprenticeship tax credit to imposition of reasonable limits on the use of non-compete agreements. But the largest employer association in the commonwealth urged the governor to strike other elements of the bill, including a “patent-trolling” provision that could prevent companies from protecting their intellectual property.

“The patent trolling language contained in the bill pending before you is materially different from the compromise language approved by the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure committee (S.2432),” AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord wrote to Baker.

“The changed language appeared within the final days of the legislative session and has raised significant concerns from employers who believe it may limit the ability of companies to protect intellectual property.”

The economic-development and energy measures were part of a flurry of activity as the Legislature ended the formal portion of its 2017-2018 session early Wednesday morning. Governor Baker has 10 days to sign the bills, veto them or send back amended language.

The language in the economic-development bill governing use of non-competes mirrors a compromise that AIM and other business groups reached two years ago with House Speaker Robert DeLeo. The measure limits non-competes to one year and gives employees the opportunity to consult a lawyer when signing a non-compete but does not require companies that compensate employees at the time they sign non-competes to pay them again during the restricted period.

AIM fought relentlessly for more than 11 years on behalf the vast majority of Massachusetts employers who wish to preserve the use of non-competes to protect intellectual property. The new bill accomplishes that goal.

The new energy bill authorizes an additional procurement of offshore wind power, increases the renewable portfolio standard that governs the amount of clean energy utilities must purchase, and establishes an energy storage target. The renewable portfolio standard will increase by one percent until the end of 2019, then by two percent each year until the end of 2029. It would then set the state on a track of one-percent increases each year thereafter.

The bill “is a measured approach to public policy. It changes only those programs that need changing without disrupting newly established programs before they have had a chance to work. It will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in Massachusetts while being considerate of our high electric prices,” Lord wrote in a separate letter to the governor.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Economic Development, Energy, Charlie Baker

Beacon Hill Passes Energy, Non-Compete Bills; No Agreement on Health Measure

Posted by John Regan on Aug 1, 2018 8:16:11 AM

The Massachusetts Legislature ended its 2017-2018 formal session last night by mandating increased use of clean energy, establishing limits on the use of non-compete agreements and curbing the practice of “patent trolling.”

statehousedome1Lawmakers meanwhile were unable to reach agreement on a massive health-care bill that had generated concern among employers because it leveled assessments on medical providers and insurers that would eventually be passed on to consumers. The bill also contained no reform of the MassHealth program even as employers contribute $200 million per year to close a budget gap in the health-insurance program for low-income people.

Beacon Hill lawmakers crossed the finish line early this morning after a frenetic day that saw passage of bills covering everything from economic development to opioid care.

Governor Charlie Baker now has 10 days to review all the legislation. AIM will consult with member employers on the issues before recommending that the governor sign or veto each measure.

The new energy law authorizes an additional procurement of offshore wind power, increases the renewable portfolio standard that governs the amount of clean energy utilities must purchase, and establishes an energy storage target.

The compromise calls for the renewable portfolio standard to increase by one percent until the end of 2019, then by two percent each year until the end of 2029. It would then set the state on a track of one-percent increases each year thereafter.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts had supported a measured approach that would neither harm ratepayers nor elbow out other zero-carbon generation such as hydro-electric power. AIM supports the final bill.

“H.4857 An Act to Advance Clean Energy constructively builds upon the success of last year’s omnibus energy legislation,” said Robert Rio, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

“By following this measured approach, Massachusetts avoids disrupting the energy sector by making significant changes to programs that are themselves in the middle of being finalized. AIM feared that course would have delayed our effectiveness in meeting our greenhouse gas reduction goals.

“The measure will continue our aggressive transition from fossil fuels to a zero-carbon future while at the same time recognizing the importance of cost on Massachusetts ratepayers.”

(Contact Rio at rrio@aimnet.org or 617.262.1180 to learn more.)

The law governing use of non-competes, included in an economic development bill, mirrors a compromise that AIM and other business groups reached two years ago with House Speaker Robert DeLeo. The measure limits non-competes to one year and gives employees the opportunity to consult a lawyer when signing a non-compete but does not require companies that compensate employees at the time they sign non-competes to pay them again during the restricted period.

“AIM has fought relentlessly for more than 11 years on behalf the vast majority of Massachusetts employers who wish to preserve the use of non-competes to protect intellectual property. The new bill accomplishes that goal and reflects the productive compromise brokered two years ago by the speaker,” said Brad MacDougall, Vice President of Government Affairs.

The economic development bill also contains a provision to limit the practice of patent trolling, in which third parties demand financial settlements for alleged infringement on patents they do not even own. AIM maintains concerns about the language of the provision because some employers may be unable to engage in legitimate protection of their intellectual property amid an avalanche of state litigation.

“The language of the bill is materially different from the compromise language previously approved by the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure,” MacDougall said.

“This is an important and legally complex issue, one that should be addressed by federal law.  However, given Congress’ failure to act, if Massachusetts is to establish a policy, we need to get right for our AIM members who are victims of patent trolls and patent holders.”

(Sign up for future updates here on non-compete and patent legislation, or contact MacDougall at bmacdougall@aimnet.org or 617-262-1180 to learn more.)

The demise of the health-care bill turned on differing approaches by the House and Senate to capitalizing community hospitals. 

House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano told the State House News Service early this morning, "We were just too far apart philosophically to a come to a resolution that fit our agenda."

The Quincy Democrat said the House was focused on trying to find a way to financially stabilize community hospitals in the short-term with assessments on insurers and large hospitals, while he said the Senate "wanted a market driven approach." "We just thought we couldn't wait," Mariano said.

Katie Holahan, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, said, the lack of agreement on health care reflects the enormous complexity of the issue. She said AIM and its employer-members will continue to work with the Legislature to find ways to moderate the cost that companies face in providing health coverage for employees.

“While final action was not taken on major health-care legislation, we remain gravely concerned that – without long-term reform to MassHealth and the commercial market – Massachusetts’ health-care costs will continue to increase unchecked. Until reform is achieved, no relief is in sight for employers and their workers seeking to access care at a reasonable cost,Holahan said.

The conclusion of formal sessions on July 31 of even-numbered years generally means the end of the line for controversial bills. Lawmakers will meet for the remainder of 2018 in informal sessions, when a single lawmaker may stop any measure with an objection.

(Contact Holahan at kholahan@aimnet.org or 617.262.1180 for more information.)

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Non-Compete Agreements, Energy, Health Care

Health Care, Energy, Non-Competes on Table in Final Days for Legislature

Posted by John Regan on Jul 30, 2018 9:12:20 AM

Beacon Hill lawmakers will complete their version of final-exam week Tuesday at midnight as the Legislature races to complete bills before the end of formal meetings for 2017-2018 Beacon Hill session.

State House 2015The conclusion of formal sessions on July 31 of even-numbered years generally means the end of the line for controversial bills. Lawmakers will meet for the remainder of 2018 in informal sessions, when a single lawmaker may stop any measure with an objection.

The most important issues to employers have already been resolved in advance of this year’s end-of-session rush. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court last month invalidated a potential income-tax surcharge constitutional amendment, while negotiations over three other ballot questions produced agreement on a compromise paid family and medical leave law, as well as a minimum-wage increase.

Three key employer issues remain on the table during the waning hours of debate:

  • Health care reform – The House and Senate passed different versions of health reform and a conference committee is working to hammer out a consensus bill. AIM remains concerned about both bills because they include expensive assessment. Neither bill reforms the MassHealth program for low income residents, where employers are paying a $200 million assessment to close a funding gap.
  • Energy – Measures passed by both the House and Senate could significantly increase the percentage of clean-source electricity used by Massachusetts consumers. AIM believes the bills could have the perverse effect of squeezing out clean hydro power and interrupting the successful roll-out of the 2016 energy law.
  • Non-compete agreements – The Senate, as part of an economic development bill, largely adopted the same modest restrictions on non-competes that AIM and other business groups supported two years ago as part of a compromise with House Speaker Robert DeLeo. But deep-pocketed venture capitalists continue to press for an outright ban and prospects for passage remain uncertain.

Employers also received some good news last week when Governor Charlie Baker signed the budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. The budget authorizes the administration to develop a hardship waiver for employers liable for the MassHealth surtax. Details remain to be developed.

The budget also provided full funding for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

Please contact me at 617.262.1180, or jregan@aimnet.org if you need more information on any of these issues. 

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Controlling Health Care Costs, Non-Compete Agreements, Energy

History and Hope in the Massachusetts Senate

Posted by Rick Lord on Jul 26, 2018 8:00:00 AM

SP.SpilkaJPGThe passing of the Massachusetts Senate presidency today from Harriett Chandler to Karen Spilka represents a transition from one woman who has gracefully led the chamber through a period of turbulence to another who offers significant hope for an inclusive approach to the employer community.

Senator Chandler, a Worcester Democrat, assumed the presidency in December after former President Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst resigned amid a scandal. She steered the Senate through the ensuing months while developing consensus on important issues such as the “grand bargain” that headed off a dangerous ballot question on paid leave.

Senator Chandler deserves tremendous credit for conducting her work with the decorum and decency so often missing in American politics these days. She and Senator Spilka jointly announced the transition in April after the Ashland Democrat secured the support needed to guarantee her election as president.

Senator Spilka, who has chaired the Senate Ways and Means Committee for more than three years, has already reached out to Associated Industries of Massachusetts on key issues ranging from health-care reform to the sensible use of non-complete agreements. We look forward to additional issue conversations as the Legislature moves toward the end of its two-year formal session next Tuesday.

AIM stands ready to work with the new Senate president, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Governor Charlie Baker to prioritize policy matters that can improve the economic climate of the Commonwealth and, thereby, the lives of the residents of our state.

 

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Massachusetts senate, Karen Spilka

Subscribe to our blog

Posts by popularity

Browse by Tag