Retirement & Health Benefits for March 13, 2020

Fred Yancey & Mike Moran | The Nexus Group
Mar 13, 2020

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“Church ain’t over til the choir stops singing…” ~ Anonymous

Sine Die occurred and the 66th Legislature has concluded. The last act is the Governor’s responses to the various legislative proposals that have delivered to his office. Once his ‘singing’ is done, attention will shift to the upcoming national and local election.

There will be a more complete ‘End of Session’ summary to follow, but this is just an update on some selected bills.

Retirement Related Proposals

EHB 1390 | 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. This bill passed both Houses and being sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

SB 6383 | Concerning the retirement strategy funds in the plan 3 and the deferred compensation programs. Basically, retirement strategy funds offered by the State Investment Board in the Plans 3 and DCP (Deferred Compensation Program) may include investment in the State’s Commingled Trust Fund.

This bill passed both Houses and is being sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

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

ESSB 6189 | The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee will conduct a study to identify the number and types of part-time employees and their eligibility for SEB Board benefits. The report is due to the Legislature by September 1, 2021.

The Health Care Authority must analyze the impacts of changes to the requirement that school employers remit premiums for employees that waive medical coverage. The analysis is due to the Legislature by September 1, 2021.

When school districts report annually to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction on data related to substitute teachers, they must include the hours worked by each substitute and the number that were eligible for SEB Board benefits.

Beginning with the 2022 plan year, dual coverage under the SEB Board and benefits provided under the PEB Board is prohibited for the same type of coverage. The SEB and PEB Boards shall adopt policies to reflect this single enrollment requirement. School employees’ eligibility for benefits provided by the SEB Board is maintained for the remainder of the school year if, during the Novel Coronavirus (COVID–19) declared state of emergency, the employee would otherwise lose eligibility because of a school closure or changes in operation, an employee being quarantined or required to care for a family member, or an employee must take care of a child during a school, day care, or child care provider closure.

This bill passed both Houses and is being sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

HB 2458 | The SEB Board is provided with explicit authority to study and, subject to the availability of funding, provide the following employee-paid benefits: emergency transportation; identity protection; legal aid; long-term care insurance; noncommercial personal automobile insurance; personal homeowner’s or renter’s insurance; pet insurance; specified disease or illness-triggered fixed payment insurance, hospital confinement fixed payment insurance, or other fixed payment insurance offered as an independent, non-coordinated benefit regulated by the office of the insurance commissioner; travel insurance; and voluntary employees’ beneficiary association (VEBA) accounts.

If the Board is not providing these benefits a school district may provide these benefits to employees. With the exception of VEBA accounts, benefits provided by a district must be employee paid and may be administered using a payroll deduction.

If a district is found to be providing a benefit that competes with any form of basic or optional benefits that are provided by the Board the district, the provider, and the Health Care Authority are directed to work together to eliminate the conflict. This bill passed both Houses and is being sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

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 died by Senate action placing it on the “X” file, but it is expected to return in some form during the 2020–2021 session.

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.

This bill passed both Houses and has been delivered to the Governor.

HB 2739 | Modifies definitions for purposes of the shared leave program. This bill originated with a constituent who teaches in the Edmonds School District and has a child with multiple chronic conditions that require intermittent attention. He found that, given current policy, employees would be required to be on full-time leave and exhaust all or nearly all leave to accept shared leave. Across Washington, many people going through difficult circumstances are helped by caring colleagues that support them through shared leave donations. This bill provides clarification on current law and also helps people who have intermittent health needs.

This bill passed both Houses and is being sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

ESSB 5473 | Requires the Employment Security Department to study the impacts to the unemployment trust fund and employer contributions for unemployment insurance by allowing exceptions to provisions disqualifying individuals from receiving unemployment benefits for leaving work voluntarily without good cause related to: (1) inaccessible care for a child or vulnerable adult; (2) substantial increases in job duties or working conditions without commensurate increase in pay; (3) separation from a minor child. Requires ESD to meet at least three times with business and worker representatives to discuss the information gathered by ESD. Removes modifications to the term good cause for unemployment purposes for the separation due to inaccessible care for a child or vulnerable adult and related to separation from work related to the death, illness, or disability of a family member.

This bill passed both Houses and is being sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

SB 6123 | An agency must allow an employee to take paid leave as needed to participate in life-giving procedures if the employee provides written proof from an accredited medical institution, physician, or other medical professional that the employee participated in a lifegiving procedure. Leave granted to participate in life-giving procedures must not exceed thirty days in a two-year period.

This bill passed both Houses and has been delivered to the Governor.

Fred Yancey/ Mike Moran
The Nexus Group


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