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The 192nd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

AN ACT TO IMPLEMENT A PROGRAM OF REEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE TO EMPLOYEES TERMINATED AS A RESULT OF THE RESTRUCTURING OF THE UTILITY INDUSTRY.

Whereas, The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to implement forthwith a program of reemployment assistance to employees terminated as a result of the restructuring of the utility industry and to make certain changes in law, each of which is immediately necessary or appropriate to effectuate important public purposes, therefore it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1. To provide for supplementing certain items in the general appropriation act for fiscal year 1999 and for certain other activities and projects in said fiscal year, the sum set forth in section 2A is hereby appropriated from the general fund for the several purposes and subject to the conditions specified herein and subject to the provisions of law regulating the disbursement of public funds for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1999.

NO SECTION 2.

SECTION 2A.

EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATION AND FINANCE.

Reserves.

1599-3843
For a reserve to meet the fiscal year 1999 incremental costs of salary adjustments and other economic benefits authorized by the collective bargaining agreement between the board of higher education and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council, Local; provided, that the amounts provided herein shall be in addition to amounts appropriated in the general appropriation act for such salary adjustments and such benefits for said fiscal year; provided further, that the secretary of administration and finance may transfer from the sum appropriated herein to other items of appropriation and allocations thereof for fiscal year 1999 such amounts as may be necessary to meet the costs of such adjustments and benefits in accordance with a transfer plan which shall be filed in advance with the house and senate committees on ways and means; and provided further, that notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, the comptroller shall charge to the Collective Bargaining Reserve Fund expenditures from the accounts receiving transfers from this item in amounts equal to the amounts of such transfers..................................................................$2,254,488.
Collective Bargaining Reserve Fund...................................100.0%

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT.

Division of Employment and Training.

7002-9500
For the implementation of the program of benefits authorized by section 71I of chapter 151A of the General Laws; provided further, that the department shall bill the employer of an employee receiving benefits from this item in accordance with the provisions of subsection (b) of said section 71I and shall deposit the proceeds of any such billing in the General Fund; provided further, that said department shall file with the joint committee on government regulations, the joint committee on commerce and labor and the house and senate committees on ways and means a quarterly accounting of the number of persons eligible for such program, the total expenditure and average expenditure per person of the funds appropriated herein, the number of persons projected to be eligible for such benefits for the duration of this item of appropriation and the accumulated total billings deposited in the General Fund from the amounts expended herein; provided further, the department shall project, in the final quarterly accounting required hereunder, the number of persons projected to be eligible for such benefits and the projected costs thereof after funds from this item cease to be available for expenditure and prior to the expiration of such program of benefits on December 31, 2005 pursuant to section 343 of chapter 164 of the acts of 1997 and sections 5 and 8 of this act; and provided further, that notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, funds appropriated herein shall be available for expenditure until June 30, 2000..........................$3,635,385

SECTION 3. Subsection (c) of section 38H of chapter 59 of the General Laws, as appearing in section 115 of chapter 194 of the acts of 1998, is hereby further amended by striking out the second sentence and inserting in place thereof the following sentence:- Such payments in addition to taxes shall be made in equal payments on or before July 31, October 31, January 31 and April 30 of each year by such electric company in the following amounts: for fiscal years 1999, 2000 and 2001, in an amount which, when added to the amount of taxes due for each year, equals the amount of tax payments remitted to such host community in fiscal year 1998.

SECTION 4. Session 71I of chapter 151A of the General Laws, inserted by section 119 of chapter 164 of the acts of 1997, is hereby amended by striking out subsection (a) and inserting in place thereof the following subsection:- (a) An employee of a generation facility, an electric company or a gas company, each as defined in section 1 of chapter 164, who is terminated after July 1, 1997 through no fault of his own as a result of the restructuring of the electricity and gas industries in the commonwealth and who is otherwise eligible for unemployment benefits, shall receive reemployment assistance benefits, pursuant to section 71F, and health insurance benefits, pursuant to section 71G. The total amount of reemployment assistance benefits payable to any such eligible employee with respect to the employee's benefit year shall be 13 weeks and shall not otherwise be adjusted by the provisions of subsection (c) of said section 71F for the number of weeks of advance notification given to any such employee by the employer or the number of weeks of separation pay, or the equivalent thereof, received by the employee from the employer. No such employee shall be denied or be determined to be ineligible for any such benefits if the employer has provided notice of the cessation of employment. Such benefits shall be in addition to any benefits an employee may receive pursuant to the provisions of an agreement resulting from collective bargaining by the owners of an electric company or generation facility, who owned such facilities as of July 1, 1997, or a gas company and an organization representing such employee in the negotiations of any such agreement.

SECTION 5. Section 71I of chapter 151A of the General Laws is hereby repealed.

SECTION 6. Section 29H of chapter 217 of the General Laws, inserted by section 221 of chapter 194 of the acts of 1998, is hereby repealed.

SECTION 7. Chapter 164 of the acts of 1997 is hereby amended by striking out section 340 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
Section 340. There is hereby established a special commission on the deregulation and convergence of industry which shall study the ramifications of past, present and future efforts to restructure the major regulated businesses and industries serving the commonwealth's consumers including, but not limited to, the electric utility industry, the telephone and telecommunications industry, including the Internet system, the gas industry, the transportation industry and the cable television industry. Said commission shall consist of: the co-chairs of the joint committee on government regulations, four additional members of the general court, including two members of the senate, one of whom shall be a member of the minority party to be appointed by the minority leader, two members of the house of representatives, one of whom shall be a member of the minority party to be appointed by the minority leader and those legislators among them shall elect the chairman of said special commission, the secretary of administration and finance or his designee, a commissioner of the department of telecommunications and energy to be appointed by its chair, the attorney general or his designee, the director of consumer affairs and business regulation, one representative from each of the five aforementioned major regulated industries who shall be appointed by the governor, one of whom shall be a consumer protection advocate, two of whom shall be members representing the interests of industry employees, one of whom shall be a representative of organized labor, and one of whom shall be a member of the Massachusetts Municipal Association to be nominated by the president of said association. Said commission shall study and make recommendations relative to the convergence of such industries in merged or joint projects or activities and the future regulatory role of the commonwealth over such industries including, but not limited to, requiring the department of telecommunications and energy to promulgate model rules and regulations governing the conduct, operation, and rate structure of merged regulated industries including, but not limited to, merged electric and cable television companies, merged electric and gas companies, and merged telephone and cable television companies, and the impact of such merged industries on consumers. Said commission shall issue an initial report to the joint committee on government regulations on or before July 1, 1999.

SECTION 7A. Item 4000-0122 of section 2 of chapter 194 of the acts of 1998 is hereby amended by striking out the figure "$1,000,000" and inserting in place thereof the following figure:- $1,775,000.

SECTION 8. Section 5 of this act shall take effect on December 31, 2005.

SECTION 9. Sections 2A, 3, 4 and 6 of this act shall take effect as of July 1, 1998.

Approved January 15, 1999.