Retirement & Health Benefits for February 28, 2020

Fred Yancey & Mike Moran | The Nexus Group
Feb 28, 2020


It is like balancing an egg on a spoon while shooting the rapids. ~ Colin Jarman

Mr. Jarman above was describing auto racing. But given the increasing pace of the current legislature projected to end on March 12th, it also describes trying to get one’s proposed legislation through the process.

Here is a summary of bills that are ‘alive’ to date. (Remember that no bill is really ‘dead’ until Sine Die. Bills with fiscal impacts can be deemed ‘necessary to implement the budget’ (NTIB) or just plain deemed necessary by a majority of a legislative body.)

Retirement Related Proposals

Proposed bills dealing with providing a benefit increase to those members in TRS1 and PERS 1 plans can easily be seen as NTIB (Necessary to Implement the Budget) so will remain alive until Session ends.

SB 5400 | At the request of the Select Committee on Pension Policy grants TRS/PERS Plans 1 beneficiaries, an increase to their monthly benefit of three percent multiplied by the beneficiaries’ monthly benefit, not to exceed sixty-two dollars and fifty cents on the first $25,000 of benefit. Its companion bill is EHB 1390.

Both bills unanimously passed their respective houses. Both budgets also funded this cost of living adjustment. The challenge is that one of the bills has to still pass out of an appropriations committee, be sent to the respective Rules Committee, be pulled and sent to the respective floor calendar, and then brought before the body for debate and a vote.

It ’appears’ EHB 1390 will be the vehicle that makes this journey. It has been scheduled for a public hearing on 2/28 before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

HB 2956 | Introduced late Thursday, 2/27. It proposes to take the extra dollars the state will receive once it repeals the Boeing tax preferences the legislature had granted them in the past to provide funding for the unfunded liabilities in the teachers’ retirement system and the public employees’ retirement system Plans 1. (Boeing has asked for this repeal to avoid receiving substantial fines from the European Union)
Sponsors: Stokesbary, Fitzgibbon.

It is NTIB so will be one of many suggested uses of these ‘extra’ Boeing dollars.

School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB) and Other Health Related Proposals

ESSB 6189 | Directs the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee to study the number and types of part-time employees that are eligible for School Employees’ Benefits Board coverage. Direct the Health Care Authority to analyze changes to the requirement that employers pay premiums when employees waive coverage. Reports are due Sept. 1, 2021. Prohibits dual enrollment in School Employees’ Benefits Board and Public Employees’ Benefits Board plans.

This bill passed the Senate 47/1. It has not yet been scheduled before the House Appropriations Committee.

HB 2458 | Concerning optional benefits offered by school districts. Specifies that school district optional benefits may not compete with any basic or optional benefits offered through the School Employees’ Benefits Board. Grants school districts express authority to offer employee-paid, voluntary benefits to school employees that are paid by employees through a payroll deduction that may fall under the SEB Board’s authority, but that are not being provided by the SEB Board. This can include personal lines homeowner’s insurance, private passenger automobile insurance, and accident only, specified disease, and other fixed payment benefit insurance. Includes a legislative finding that supplemental fixed payment insurance plans offer financial protection and do not conflict or compete with basic medical or disability plans.

This bill passed the House 97/0 had a public hearing on Feb. 26th and is scheduled for Executive Action before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on 2/28.

HB 2325 | The 2019–21 the proposed Supplemental Budget adopted an amendment that directs the office of the superintendent of public instruction, in consultation with the healthcare authority, to study and report on school districts’ utilization of substitute teachers and the impact of the school employees’ benefits board program on substitute teacher staffing. By December 1, 2020, and in compliance with RCW 43.01.036, the office of the superintendent of public instruction must submit the report to the appropriate fiscal and policy committees of the legislature. The report must include the following: * (i) The number of individual and full-time equivalent substitute teachers employed in the 2018–19 and 2019–20 school years by district. * (ii) Substitute teachers as a percentage of classroom teachers for the 2018–19 and 2019–20 school years by district. * (iii) The number of substitute teachers eligible for the school employees’ benefits board program by district. * (iv) Impacts, both positive and negative, of the school employees’ benefits board program on substitute teacher staffing.
* (v) Options for substitute teacher eligibility under the school employees’ benefits board program, including possible exceptions for substitute teachers.
* (vi) Recommendations for preserving an adequate pool of substitute teachers while consistently classifying substitute teachers for health benefits eligibility. The bill passed the Appropriations’ Committee and has been sent to House Rules for further action.

Other Bills

ESHB 1813 | Mandates that the costs of contracted employee health and retirement benefits must be built into school district contracts for pupil transportation.

This bill passed the House 60/36. The Senate Early Learning and K–12 Education Committee had a brief public hearing and it is scheduled for Executive Action on 2/28.

The Chair had thirteen bills to hear during the public hearing and only selected representatives from two school districts and the Teamster’s Union to testify. Others, like WASA, (who was opposed/con), were asked to submit their testimony in writing to members of the committee. This issue is clearly dear to the heart of the Rep. Claire Wilson, Vice-Chair of the committee and so is likely to pass the committee and be sent to Senate Rules.

Read the written comments/testimony that WASA would have given to the committee.

Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/HR Impacts For Districts

SHB 2614 | Concerning paid family and medical leave. Makes numerous revisions to the Paid Family and Medical Leave program to provide clarity and improve the program’s administration, including waiting periods, conditional waivers, and supplementation of benefits. Exempts casual labor from the types of covered employment. Grants the Employment Security Department (ESD) statutory authority to administer oaths, take depositions, issue subpoenas, or compel a witness’ attendance in an administrative proceeding. Allows ESD to apply for and obtain a superior court order authorizing a subpoena in advance of its issuance. Authorizes employees to bring a private right of action to recover damages for an employer’s unlawful acts, under specified conditions.

This bill is agency request legislation. It has been passed to Senate Rules for further action.

HB 2739 | Adjusting certain requirements of the shared leave program. Provides that state employees seeking shared leave due to illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition are not required to deplete all of their annual and sick leave before receiving shared leave. Allows intermittent and non-consecutive use of shared leave.

This bill has been moved to Senate Rules for further action.

ESSB 5473 | Studying the impact of making unemployment benefits accessible to persons with family responsibilities and other availability issues and making clarifying changes.

This bill has been moved to House Rules for further action.

SB 6123 | Allowing state employee leave for organ donation. Requires agencies to allow employees to take paid leave as needed, not exceeding 30 days in a two-year period, for participate in life-giving procedures.

This bill has been referred to House Rules for further action.

Fred Yancey/ Mike Moran
The Nexus Group

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