Five Blind Mice eviscerate municipal reform

In politics and government as in life there are few immutable truths.  Here is one:

If an elected official is proud of something – if he thinks it is a good thing and worthy of praise –  he does not announce it on a Friday evening, via a written statement.

Here is another:

If an elected official knows something he has done is deserving of criticism, unworthy of praise and likely to draw the earned scorn of interested but impartial observers; if he wishes as few people as possible to notice what he has done, he does announce it on a Friday evening, via written statement.

“Okay, they’re all gone.  Shovels up!!”

As predicted, Governor Patrick pulled a Friday evening special tonight, eviscerating municipal health reform by amending the already watered down compromise legislation hammered out by the House Senate conference committee to make it more “agreeable” to (national!) organized labor.  That fact – the timing of the announcement – is really all you need to know about this deal.  It blows.

With unnamed national labor bosses the cloaked fourth branch of the Commonwealth’s government this week, Patrick was able apparently to gain the cooperation of Speaker Bob DeLeo and Senate President Murray in this legislative assassination, each of whom has promised to bring their respective chambers into session Monday to rubber stamp the “reform” bill’s corpse.

If they deign to address the timing of the announcement, Patrick and co. will undoubtedly claim it was coincidental; that they announced the deal just as soon as it was struck.  Hogwash.  The announcement came at least an hour after Speaker DeLeo fled the scene.  Again, not the behavior of a pol proud of his actions.  Even then the Governor did not provide details.  Those came later, via a State House News dispatch – published to subscribers only, all the better to further limit understanding of the package in advance of a weekend of Administration spin.  Here is the meat (from SHNS):

One amendment will lengthen the moratorium on changes to retiree premium cost-sharing agreements from two years to three years, while another amendment will increase the amount of savings to be returned to employees and retirees.

Patrick’s plan would take up to 25 percent of the total savings from lower premiums achieved through plan design changes and return that money to employees to offset higher co-payments and deductibles, using the same percentage prescribed by the current bill but applying it to a larger base of savings.

Because cities and towns share premium costs with employees, using the total savings rather than just the share paid by a municipality would allow employees to get a better benefit.

Another amendment will require that a city or town desiring to move employees into the state’s Group Insurance Commission prove the savings in GIC would be 5 percent greater than those possible through local plan design changes. Because a move into the GIC would effectively take away employee rights to bargain over what health plans are available to them, the administration official said Patrick believes the bar for savings should be set higher.

The final amendment would adjust language in the budget that defines plan design changes as those related to “co-payments, deductibles, or other plan design changes.” Patrick wants to clarify that last parameter to specify “other cost sharing plan design changes” to avoid the potential for a broad interpretation to be used to alter benefits like mental health coverage outside of collective bargaining.

The reunited Big Three next week will make much of the fact that “municipal officials,” personified by the Mass Municipal Association’s Geoff Beckwith, have announced their support of this evening’s deal.  Know why?  Because it is better than nothing.  And that it is.  Just like to a starving man half a banana is better than nothing.  But it’s still half a flippin’ banana.

They will also trumpet the support of Mike Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers’ Foundation.  That has already started… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS, and be angry.

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