Massachusetts Harbor Watch: Senate Bill Number 528 Proposes to Require Strict Veteran's Preference


In the state of Massachusetts Senate, a new bill which could affect the selection of Boston Harbor marine pilots is under consideration. Sponsored by MA State Senator Morrissey in the Natural Resources Committee, the bill’s full text is set forth below:

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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. Section 3 of chapter 103 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2004 Official Edition, is hereby amended in line 20 by inserting at the end of the first paragraph the following:- “The commissioners when employing pilots shall establish a strict veterans preference, consistent with chapter 31 and chapter 32, to be given to persons who have served in the military or naval forces of the United States in time of war and have been honorably discharged from such service or released from active duty therein. Said individuals who qualify as veterans pursuant to this statute shall be given absolute preference on hiring consistent with chapter 21 and chapter 32.”

MarEx Analysis:

The bill by itself is innocuous enough and could serve as a commendable effort to give full consideration to those who have served the nation honorably in the armed services. Certainly, it is a bill that, on its own merits, would have full support in the public government sector. In this case, however, the bill proposes to direct the Pilot Commissioners and the Boston Marine Society how to screen and hire the individuals who will ultimately be responsible for the difficult job of providing marine safety on the water, including, but not limited to, the guidance of large, high-profile LNG vessels in and out of Boston Harbor.

Behind the scenes, there is credible talk of rewriting this bill to more fully accommodate the needs of one individual who desires to become a marine pilot. The qualifications of this one individual may or may not be qualified to assume such duties. Absolute preference for veterans is one thing; absolute preference for a fully qualified veteran is another. Massachusetts already sets forth one of the toughest qualification standards in the nation for marine harbor pilots. This is a good thing. The bill, as currently written, could change all of that.