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Welcome to AWC’s online library of Legislative Bulletin and CityVoice news articles and other updates.

Published on Monday, August 14, 2017

Significant developments in personnel and pensions in 2017

This session saw significant changes to the personnel environment with the Legislature passing a new Paid Family & Medical Leave program. Additionally, 2017 saw a big debate about the state’s role in funding the LEOFF 2 pension system. There were also a number of issues debated in 2017 that didn’t pass but will be back in 2018.

After intense negotiations, the Legislature adopted SB 5975 creating a new Paid Family & Disability Leave program. The new program was the result of compromise between representatives from the labor and business communities and the four legislative caucuses. Washington joins only four other states in having a program of this type. The program is intended to cover all employees and provide paid leave for a medical disability as well as paid leave to care for a family member. The new program will apply to all private and public sector employers and employees including cities. Premiums will begin to be collected in 2019 and benefits will follow in 2020. Employers with 50 or fewer employees will not be required to participate in the program. For more about the specifics of the new legislation check out this previous article.

There were some interesting discussions around the Law Enforcement and Fire Fighters Plan 2 (LEOFF 2) pension system throughout the session. At one point, the Senate proposed a budget that included shifting the state’s share of pension contributions for LEOFF 2 to city and county employers. Currently, the state contributes 20 percent of the pensions for LEOFF 2 members with the local employer contributing 30 percent and employees 50 percent. This proposal would have shifted over $70 million to cities for the biennium. AWC and our cities fought back hard against this proposal and it was not included in the final budget. We want to thank everyone who took time to talk to your legislators about the negative impacts of this proposal. In the future, we will need to continue to remind the Legislature that they have a responsibility for public safety and that includes funding their share of LEOFF 2 contributions.

That wasn’t the only interesting LEOFF 2 development in 2017 – there was a “back of the budget” surprise. The budget, SB 5883, included a provision in section 963 that requires local employers to also pay the state’s share of LEOFF 2 contributions for salaries that are reimbursed as part of a contract with a third-party, non-LEOFF 2 employer. Nothing prohibits the local government from recovering the cost of this contribution from the third party. The provision began July 1 and the Department of Retirement Services (DRS) is rushing to develop a reporting method and provide guidance on implementation. DRS has indicated that this new provision will not apply to contracts between cities and other cities and counties nor will it apply to contracts with the Department of Natural Resources or the Department of Fish and Wildlife. We are continuing to work with DRS as they develop their new guidance. Overall, AWC is concerned about this change in contributions given the earlier discussions about the State’s commitment to the LEOFF 2 system. We will continue to watch this and any other LEOFF 2 developments closely.

Finally, there were several issues of note that have come up in previous sessions that were also raised in 2017 and will likely be proposed in 2018. The first is around occupational disease presumptions for workers’ compensation. HB 1655 would have exempted police officers and firefighters from current prohibitions against claiming stress-related mental conditions as occupational diseases. The bill was stopped in the Senate, but the proponents are interested in continuing this conversation specific to PTSD injuries. We anticipate work over the interim on this topic and another bill in 2018. The second recurring issue worth noting is the push to open collective bargaining sessions to the public. SB 5545 would have required collective bargaining sessions to be open public meetings. AWC has opposed these efforts. However, there continues to be interest and a handful of jurisdictions in Washington have moved to open their bargaining sessions to the public, so we believe it will be back on the table in 2018.

Bill #

Descriptive title

Final status

HB 1755

Requiring notice to state fund employers for certain workers' compensation third-party settlements

Law, Effective 7/23/2017

SB 5661

Addressing interruptive service credit for members of the law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system

Law, Effective 7/23/2017

SB 5835

Promoting healthy outcomes for pregnant women and infants

Law, Effective 7/23/2017

SB 5975

Relating to paid family leave

Law, Effective 10/19/2017

HB 1094

Concerning medical marijuana patients and their employers

Did not pass

HB 1116

Implementing family and medical leave insurance

Did not pass

HB 1227

Concerning correctional industries' insurance costs

Did not pass

HB 1298

Prohibiting employers from asking about arrests or convictions before an applicant is determined otherwise qualified for a position

Did not pass

HB 1301

Concerning the employee antiretaliation act

Did not pass

HB 1533

Addressing wage and salary information

Did not pass

HB 1560

Addressing plan membership default provisions in the public employees' retirement system, the teachers' retirement system, and the school employees' retirement system

Did not pass

HB 1655

Providing industrial insurance coverage for stress-caused mental disorders and disabilities of members of the law enforcement officers' and firefighters' retirement system

Did not pass

HB 1708

Allowing new government employees the option of opting out of retirement system membership if the employee is age sixty or older when first hired, or when the employee's employer opts into retirement plan participation

Did not pass

HB 1951

Requiring public employee collective bargaining sessions to be open meetings

SB 5276

Allowing new government employees the option of opting out of retirement system membership if the employee is age sixty or older when first hired, or when the employee's employer opts into retirement plan participation

Did not pass

SB 5545

Requiring public employee collective bargaining sessions to be open meetings

Did not pass

SB 5822

Improving workers' compensation system costs and administration and worker outcomes through modification of procedures for claims to self-insureds, clarification of recovery in third-party legal actions, clarification of occupational disease claims, and lowering age barriers for structured settlements

Did not pass

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