GLAA testifies for two bills amending domestic partners law
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GLAA testifies for two bills
amending domestic partners law

Testimony on Equitable Expansion of Health Care Benefits Amendment Act of 2004


Testimony on Bill 15-0756,
The Health Care Benefits Expansion Amendment Act of 2004 Delivered before the Committee on the Government Operations
May 20, 2004


Good morning, Chairman Orange, Councilmembers and fellow citizens.

My name is Bob Summersgill. I am the treasurer of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C. (GLAA), the oldest continuously active gay and lesbian civil rights organization in the country.

We are in favor of this legislation and we are pleased that Councilmembers Kathy Patterson and Jack Evans have introduced the bill. We would also like to thank the bill’s ten co-sponsors.

The bill will address a significant failing of the original Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992 by providing health insurance benefits for domestic partners equal to that of existing family plans. The original law allowed D.C. government employees to purchase medical insurance coverage for their partners, but with no contribution by the D.C. government. Any other family members covered would have 75% of the cost paid for by the D.C. government. The budget crisis at the time required that the legislation be revenue neutral.

Currently, only two D.C. government employees are participating in the program, and even if the participation went up a hundred-fold, the cost to the District would be minimal, and a net savings would be achieved by providing more people with insurance. People without insurance are among the most costly to the District.

We do not see any reason to phase in the coverage over two years. The plan could begin immediately. The delay is not a benefit to the city.

Even with this legislation, the District still will not be treating domestic partners as equal to other family members in the cost of health insurance. Premiums paid by the D.C. government, or any other employer, for the health insurance of a domestic partner is a taxable benefit. The same premium paid for family members is not. In this case D.C. follows the federal government’s taxation formula, but all we do is create a disincentive for getting the uninsured into private healthcare. Although the Council cannot correct the federal government’s taxation error, the District tax needs to be rescinded.

We also support including the employees hired before October 1, 1987 in this legislation as bill 15-0751, the Equitable Expansion of Health Care Benefits Amendment Act of 2004, seeks to bring that group into the limited benefits currently available. Ideally, the two bills will be combined by this committee to eliminate any confusion.

Bill 15-0756 brings D.C. forward in supporting employees with domestic partners and makes the District government a more competitive employer; however, there are still related areas that need to be addressed to provide equal treatment of employees.

GLAA has identified 11 sections of the D.C. Code that provide retirement benefits for married spouses that are not offered to domestic partners. These all need to be amended to include domestic partners.

§ 1-529.01. Officers and Employees Generally. Spouse Equity. Application.

§ 1-529.03. Officers and Employees Generally. Spouse Equity. Compliance with court orders.

§ 1-626.04. Retirement. Definitions.

§ 1-702. District of Columbia Employees Retirement Program Management. Definitions.

§ 1-901.02. Police Officers, Fire Fighters, and Teachers Retirement Benefit Replacement Plan. Definitions.

§ 5-131.03. Performing Police Band. Retirement of Director--Conditions; annuities.

§ 5-701. Police and Firefighters Retirement and Disability. Definitions.

§ 5-716. Police and Firefighters Retirement and Disability. Survivor benefits and annuities.

§ 38-2021.09. Retirement of Public School Teachers. Deferred annuity; annuity to survivors.

§ 38-2021.23. Retirement of Public School Teachers. Increased annuities for certain surviving spouses.

§ 38-2023.02. Retirement of Public School Teachers. Annuity for unremarried widow or widower.

Domestic Partners of employees or agents of the D.C. government also need to be treated in the same manner as spouses for ethical and public reporting purposes. There are 11 sections of code that should be amended to include domestic partners to avoid conflicts of interests or the appearance of conflicts of interest.

§ 1-1106.01. Election Campaigns; Lobbying; Conflict of interest.

§ 1-1106.02. Election Campaigns; Lobbying; Disclosure of financial interest.

§ 3-609. Boxing and Wrestling Commission. Liability of Commission members.

§ 3-1204.01. Health Occupations Boards. Qualifications of members.

§ 3-1320. Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board. Persons ineligible to purchase tickets or shares or receive prizes.

§ 3-1328. Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board. Persons ineligible for suppliers' license.

§ 6-211. District of Columbia Housing Authority. Board of Commissioners.

§ 11-1530. Judges of the District of Columbia Courts. Financial statements.

§ 11-1561. Judges of the District of Columbia Courts. Definitions.

§ 21-582. Hospitalization of the Mentally Ill. Petitions, applications, or certificates of physicians or qualified psychologists.

§ 44-1002.05. Nursing Homes and Community Residence Facilities Protections. Appointment of receiver; continuation of ex parte appointment.

All of these areas in the D.C. Code and much more are covered in our report on Marriage Law in the District of Columbia. A copy of the report was delivered to every councilmember’s office in February, and copies are available in pdf format on our website at www.glaa.org.

Thank you, I am available to answer any questions that you may have.



Testimony on Bill 15-0751,
Equitable Expansion of Health Care Benefits Amendment Act of 2004 Delivered before the Committee on the Government Operations
May 20, 2004


Good morning, Chairman Orange, Councilmembers and fellow citizens.

My name is Bob Summersgill. I am the treasurer of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C. (GLAA), the oldest continuously active gay and lesbian civil rights organization in the country.

GLAA supports bill Equitable Expansion of Health Care Benefits Amendment Act of 2004. District government employees should not be penalized for their long service.

We appreciate Councilmember Graham for introducing the bill and Councilmembers Carol Schwartz, Phil Mendelson, Vincent Orange, David Catania, and Harold Brazil for cosponsoring.

A decision was made for the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992 to only consider the District government employees who were not enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Care Benefits Program. While this was a reasonable decision at the time, the growing inequity in options for those employees with domestic partners must now be addressed. This bill will remove the disincentive to continued long-term employment with the D.C. government and help make the District a more desirable employer.

We also support the District government paying for 75% of the premiums for the covered employees as bill 15-0756, the Health Care Benefits Expansion Amendment Act of 2004, seeks to do with the employees hired after October 1, 1987. Ideally, the two bills will be combined by this committee to eliminate any confusion.

There are 22 related areas of D.C. law related to benefits provided by the District to its employees that should also be modernized to include domestic partners. I have enumerated those sections of law in my testimony for bill 15-0756 also being considered at today’s hearing.

A full listing of related areas in the D.C. Code is provided in our report on Marriage Law in the District of Columbia. A copy of the report was delivered to every councilmember’s office in February, and copies are available in pdf format on our website at www.glaa.org.

Thank you, I am available to answer any questions that you may have.


[Addendum. Bob Summersgill offers the following notes from the hearing that was held on both bills.

[Committee members Vincent Orange, Jim Graham and Kathy Patterson attended the hearing. GLAA was the only witness from the public.

[Bill 15-751, introduced by Jim Graham creates a significant administrative problem for the Office of Personnel. The current set up allows an employee to be in the D.C. benefits program or the federal, but not both. The federal plan does not recognize domestic partners, and it will take congressional action to do so. Providing domestic partner health benefits to people on the federal plan is only possible if they are tracked through the D.C. system, which is not permitted.

[The government witnesses from the Office of Personnel were not opposed to the legislation, but they don't know how to make it happen. They discussed going to a private vendor who could bill the employees directly, but D.C. can't take the money out of their paychecks if they aren't in the D.C. system. They will be working with Councilmembers Graham and Orange to craft a solution. There was general agreement that there is no legal impediment to the bill, just an administrative one.

[The only change suggested by the Office of Personnel on bill 15-756 is that the start date not be the calendar year, but rather the contract year, beginning March 1.

[Because of the nature of the hearing that combined both bills into one session, I didn't read the testimony, but rather summed up the points. I said that we would have no objection to moving the start date, which seems like a reasonable way to avoid an administrative problem. Kathy Patterson also said that she had no objection to moving the start date to coincide with the contract year.

[Vincent Orange did not indicate when the committee would mark up (i.e. vote on) the bill.]


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