Here is the Globe's coverage, and here is the State House News Service.

Bottom line - the MA House voted overwhelmingly to authorize cities and towns to make changes to employee health care plans which is expected to save $100 million the first year and more in subsequent years.

Voters Count will be posting the roll call later today so you can thank your rep for voting the right way... or let them know you're disappointed in how they voted.
 
 
Commonwealth magazine summarizes the municipal health care debate: "Public sector unions in Massachusetts are going to be making health care givebacks; the only question is how they make them and how much of those givebacks they eventually reclaim." Read the rest here

(Then call your state rep!)
 
 
This is it folks - the very reason Voters Count came into existence is for the opportunity we have right here, right now. State representatives are going to spend this coming week debating 2 issues: 1) municipal health care reform, and 2) the Pacheco Law. These are both money-wasting boondoggles (over $150 million a year combined) and we have a chance to end them!!

But to be successful, your state representatives need to hear from you. If they only hear from labor representatives, all hope is lost. Regular voters far outnumber the special interests that are doing heavy lobbying to kill any reform, so let's get those calls and emails going and show them we are watching!

1. Find out how to contact your STATE REP by clicking here.
2. Tell him or her, either via email or phone, the following:
-- I am contacting you about 2 issues, municipal health care reform and the Pacheco Law.
-- I urge you to support Amendment 6 which would repeal the Pacheco Law.
-- I also strongly urge you to support House Speaker DeLeo's municipal health care proposal. The governor's plan is too vague and Rep. Walsh's plan is not reform at all.
-- I will be watching very closely how you vote on these issues, as they are very important to me.
-- Thank you.

Try to find out if they are supportive or not, and let us know at voterscount@gmail.com. And forward this message to a friend and get them to call & email too!

BACKGROUND
The Pacheco Law is the most restrictive anti-privatization law in the country and is estimated to waste over $55 million a year. Click here for more details on it.

Municipal health care reform would make it easier for cities and towns to offer more affordable (but still generous) health care coverage to their employees. It is estimated to save over $100 million a year. For more background and a simple compare-and-contrast chart of the various options on the table at this time, click here.

Thank you for making your voice heard! It is the only way to make a difference.
 
 
Five Representatives have proposed an amendment as part of the 2012 House Ways and Means Budget to repeal the Pacheco Law. Reps. Jones (R-North Reading), Peterson (R-Grafton), Hill (R-Ipswich), Poirier (R-North Attleboro) and deMacedo (R-Plymouth) have signed onto Amendment 6, calling for a repeal.

Call and email your representatives now and urge them to support the amendment!
 
 
Finding it hard to keep track of who is promoting what plan to bring down the cost of municipal health care coverage? Voters Count has now made it easy for you to compare and contrast the 3 options presented publicly so far. Click here and scroll down to the bottom.
 
 
House Speaker Robert DeLeo has put forth a reasonable proposal to bring down the cost of municipal health care and save $100 million for cities and towns every year. Unfortunately
"labor has rallied 50 House Democrats behind a proposal that’s billed as a compromise but would be better described as the Municipal Health Care Trojan Horse," according to Globe columnist Scot Lehigh:

- Unions and municipal managers would have a 45-day period to negotiate health-plan changes, though no savings would be required.
- If they failed to reach agreement, the matter would go to arbitration.
- arbitration awards would be binding on a city or town unless rejected by a two-thirds vote of the council or selectmen.
- the arbitration process is frequently skewed toward labor.

Read the whole piece here

The legislature will be debating municipal health care reform THIS WEEK.. which means calls and emails to your legislators needs to happen this week. We will be issuing an Action Alert on this issue tomorrow. Watch this space or better yet, sign up with your email address to receive it.
 
 
Today's Boston Globe praises the municipal health care reform plan from House Speaker Robert DeLeo and calls on legislators to support it: "The long-overdue change goes well beyond a fuzzier plan by Governor Patrick that calls for further negotiations between towns and local unions, and it’s far superior to a union-backed plan that raises the prospect of binding arbitration. The $100 million a year the House plan will save would greatly assist municipal governments in preventing layoffs, keeping parks and libraries open, and preserving education programs. The House plan would ease the adjustment for local employees by allowing cities and towns to use 10 percent of the first year’s savings to pay for health-related expenses. But ultimately, local workers would be under the same rules as state employees — who still enjoy more extensive health benefits than comparable private workers."

To read the rest, click here
 
 
From Friday's Globe: "Boston’s labor leaders signed an unprecedented agreement with Mayor Thomas M. Menino yesterday that will require municipal workers to pay $70 million more for their health insurance over the next four years and deliver substantial savings to the city as early as June." Read the rest here.

This shows that the proposal by House Speaker DeLeo is already having an effect, and ramps up the pressure on the Legislature to pass his bill or something close to it; Menino's agreement with the unions on health care becomes nullified if the legislature does not pass health care reform legislation by the end of 2011.
 
 
According to yesterday's Herald, public sector unions are fighting the proposal to reform municipal health care benefits. "Bay State union honchos yesterday struck back against House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo’s $30.45 billion budget that includes legislation giving cities and towns broad powers to raise health-care co-payments and deductibles for their workers.

“It’s almost Wisconsin-esque, I would say, that they would eliminate our right to bargain, sit down and meet with our employer on the issue of health insurance,” said Raymond McGrath, legislative director of SEIU-NAGE. “The movement in the great liberal state of Massachusetts is not to the liberal end of things, it’s to the conservative end of things.”

Municipal health care reform will save millions of dollars for cash-strapped cities and towns, money that can go toward education and public safety - which not incidentally means union jobs. Municipal health care reform is not "anti-union", it is pro-taxpayer and pro-good governance.
 
 
From today's Globe: "House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, setting up a major fight with unions, proposed yesterday to strip local public employees of most of their rights to bargain over health care, as part of a $30.5 billion annual state budget that imposes the largest year-to-year spending cut in two decades." Read the rest of the article here.

And read the statement in support by the Mass Municipal Association here.

This is just the beginning - the governor has to offer his proposal, and the Senate will offer their version as well, but it really looks like action is going to be taken to stop wasting $100 million dollars a year on extravagant health care benefits for municipal employees.

Also the devil will be in the details, and Voters Count is in the process of finding out what those details are. We will be sending out an Action Alert in the next few days so you can tell your legislator to support real reform - if you are not on our list, please sign up!  We need all hands on deck to hold our legislators accountable!