Budget Finalized; Lawmakers Consider Alimony Reform

By Sarah Birnbaum

Jul. 11, 2011

This week in Massachusetts politics, lawmakers are poised to approve Governor Deval Patrick’s changes to a budget measure limiting collective bargaining rights for municipal employees and the House takes up alimony reform.

The Governor has been under pressure from unions. On Friday, he agreed to soften a plan limiting collective-bargaining rights for teachers, firefighters and others hired by the state’s cities and towns. The essential parts of the plan are the same: Municipalities will be allowed to make unilateral changes to workers' health-insurance co-payments and deductibles without prior approval from their unions. With the Governor's proposed changes, there will now be some additional protections for retirees and high users of the healt- care system. The House and Senate are expected to approve the deal on Monday. 

Also this week, the Massachusetts House will take up changes to the state's alimony laws. Some complain the commonwealth’s laws in this area are outdated and unfair, requiring one ex-spouse to support the other for life regardless of the duration of the marriage or who ended it. The bill is expected to pass in both chambers.

Critics say the changes would be bad for spouses who have sacrificed their careers for their families, as well as damaging to low- and middle- income women. Men still account for over 90% of alimony-payers in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

And on Monday, the Governor will sign the $30.6 billion state budget for fiscal year 2012.  

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