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Posted by Jerry Bender


The Nexus Group: Retirement & Benefits for Jan. 16

Although it is still early in the session, some bills have been introduced that could impact present and future employees and retirees. Other bills are expected. It’s important to keep in mind that after introduction, some bills move on, some don’t, and some bill proposals change as they move along.


Last session, legislation was passed to eliminate the annual option a member of Plan 3 has had to change his/her contribution rate. If you’re a TRS Plan 3 member, you have one last opportunity in January 2015 to change your contribution rate. If you decide to do so, please complete the TRS Plan 3 Contribution Rate Change. Once you have filled out the form, submit it to your employer between January 1 and January 31. After that, TRS Plan 3 members would only be able to change their rate when they change employers, as is the case currently with PERS and SERS Plan 3 members.

This change was made because the Internal Revenue Service has provisionally qualified the state of Washington’s TRS Plan 3 with an important condition – that the annual rate change option be removed.

Bills Introduced

HB 1036: Addressing survivor benefits from the public employees’ retirement system for survivors of members in registered domestic partnerships prior to December 2012. The Department of Retirement Systems would develop rules to permit the designation of the registered domestic partner as the ‘post-retirement marriage survivor.”

HB 1109: Authorizing membership in the teachers’ retirement system for certificated employees of the superintendent of public instruction. The title says it all. If passed, it would authorize certificated employees of the superintendent of public instruction to become members of the teachers’ retirement system.

HB 1163: Concerning paid vacation leave. This bill would compel an “employer” to grant two hours of vacation leave for every 40 hours an employee worked. A similar bill was introduced last session but did not advance. One difference in this current bill is that it explicitly states under definitions that “employer” does not mean a school district, a community or technical college, or an institution of higher learning. These parties, as currently written would be exempt from provisions of this bill. At this point, the objections WASA pointed out last year were heard and adopted in this present proposal. However, this is always subject to change as the bill moves through the legislative process. Sponsors of this bill are: Representatives Tarleton, Walkinshaw, Moeller, Ortiz-Self, Gregerson, Pollet, S. Hunt, Appleton, Ormsby, and Goodman.

HB 1168 (SB 5211): Correcting restrictions on collecting a pension in the public employees’ retirement system for retirees returning to work in an ineligible position or a position covered by a different state retirement system. This is legislation requested by the Select Committee on Pension Policy to correct a error in a previous piece of legislation. It corrects restrictions on collecting a pension in the public employees retirement system for retirees returning to work in an ineligible position or a position covered by a different state retirement system. It is a ‘technical’ fix, not a substantive change in present pension policy.

HB 1273: Implementing family and medical leave insurance. This bill establishes a family and medical insurance program through the Employment Security Department. It would be funded by charging an employer 2/10th of 1% of an employee’s wage. The employee could be responsible for paying half that amount. The charge would rise to 4/10th of 15 in 2018. Those collected dollars would fund the program. Of course, this overlooks the cost for paying for a substitute, and it is unclear how this would work if an employee was already entitled to paid leave from their employer. More information is needed on this bill.

SB 5148: Allowing members who retire early under alternate early retirement provisions as set forth in RCW 41.32.765(3) and 41.32.875(3) to work as substitute teachers and continue receiving retirement benefits at the same time. This title is self-explanatory. Legislators have clearly heard from their local school districts and association lobbyists. Various newspaper articles across the state have also addressed the need for change to improve the pool of available substitutes. WASA has been assured that this bill will be heard in the Ways and Means Committee. Sponsors of the bills are Senators Parlette, Dammeier, Chase, Conway, McAuliffe, O’Ban.

AWSP members are encouraged to continue to let their legislators know of the importance of this bill to help fix a problem. This is a first step.

The bill does not allow for substitute work for classified employees who retire at age 62 with 30 years. They would remain ineligible to return to work until age 65. If districts are having problems with filling substitute bus driver, cook, janitor, aide, etc employees, then legislators need to hear of that need as well.

Bills Expected

As this is being written, the press is writing of expected bills to increase minimum wage. One bill being mentioned would increase minimum wage to $12/hour over a four-year period. The bill has not been introduced as of yet.

Updates on new bills and on the status of those of import will continue throughout the session. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Fred Yancey/Scott Nelson
The Nexus Group