The Baltimore City Council passed a bill yesterday that would retroactively reduce the required marriage period to one year for surviving spouses to collect benefits from the Elected Officials Retirement System.
Until now, widows and widowers had to be married to a Baltimore elected official for five years. Joanna Sorensen Myers, who was married to former City Councilman William J. Myers of South Baltimore for a little more than four years before he died while in office on Jan. 6, 1990, was ineligible. Under the new bill, Mrs. Myers will be able to receive benefits.
Council members, who passed the bill on a voice vote with no dissent, said the change was fair because the pension plan covering firefighters and police officers required one year of marriage.
A bill that would extend the reduced marriage requirement to all other city employees was introduced in the council last night. Council staff members said the extension would reduce the marriage requirement for an estimated 40,000 current and retired city employees covered by the Employees Retirement System and standardize the requirements for all three city retirement systems.
The bill on elected officials was introduced and forwarded to the Taxation and Finance Committee more than a year ago.
The city Law Department initially opposed the bill, saying it would break a city law forbidding elected officials from having their pay or benefits increase during their term of office. The law office eventually changed its mind.
Longtime South Baltimore politico Harry McGuirk, who is executive assistant to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, wrote to the council twice last year urging the bill's passage. Mrs. Myers is a secretary in the governor's office.
Last week, Council President Mary Pat Clarke urged Timothy D. Murphy, D-6th, chairman of the tax committee, to bring the bill out of committee for a council vote, saying she wanted to deal with the bill before the September primary.