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

Published on Friday, February 14, 2014

Dueling political philosophies on personnel legislation

The division in the legislature continues to impact personnel legislation. The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus tends to focus on businesses and employers while the House is controlled by the Democrats with a tendency to focus on labor related issues. The result is the two bodies passing legislation that will not be well received by the opposite house. AWC is monitoring a wide variety of personnel related bills, but the politics of the legislature will likely mean that few if any significant personnel measures pass.

Cities support bill for workers comp retro programs

SSB 5112 provides Workers Compensation Retrospective Rating Programs the ability to assist in scheduling independent medical exams and vocational rehab appointments. The goal is to streamline the scheduling process to help employees resolve their cases more quickly. This bill is not a reform measure, but an administrative processing issue. AWC and the AWC Retro Program have been actively supporting this bill. The bill is now awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

We would encourage cities who participate in the retro program to contact your Senator and urge them to support this bill.

Another workers compensation measure of interest to cities is SB 6179. It would authorize any group of employers who are substantially similar to adopt a plan for self-insurance to address compensation claims. AWC supports this legislation as a good option for public employers. The bill is currently awaiting action by the full Senate.

Pension bills up for consideration

HB 2479/SB 6397 – clarify that if a LEOFF 2 retiree returns to employment in a position that would qualify the position for LEOFF 2 (whether or not the position is full-time, fully compensated or designated as an independent contractor), the retiree could not continue to receive a LEOFF 2 pension. Both bills are awaiting action in their respective Rules Committees.

HB 2407 – A PERS retiree who returns to work in a PERS covered position may work up to 867 hours per year without suspension of benefits. In 2011, legislation passed that removed the 867 hour option for PERS 2 and 3 members who return to work in other DRS systems (TRS SERS, etc.). Thus, these members would experience an immediate suspension of their benefits. DRS is not administering this to PERS 2 and 3 who return to work in other DRS systems or in ineligible positions. HB 2407 clarifies that the PERS retirees who return to work in any position covered by other DRS retirement systems will continue to receive their benefits for the first 867 hrs. The 867 return to work rule only applies to PERS retirees who return in an eligible position. The bill passed the House and will now go to the Senate for consideration.

SB 6201 – allows members of LEOFF 2 to purchase optional actuarially equivalent life annuity from LEOFF 2 fund with a minimum payment of $25,000. The bill is awaiting action by the Senate.

SB 6321 – In 2003, legislation changed PERS 3 and SERS 3 members’ options and allowed members to choose their contribution rate each year instead of being locked into one rate. This change was never administered due to a change in IRS policy. TRS 3 members remain the only plan that can change their rate option each year. This bill removes the option to change the rate from PERS 3, TRS 3 and SERS 3. The bill passed the Senate and now heads to the House.

Occupational disease proposals under consideration

SB 5125 – modifies the definition of occupational disease to state that it must arise out of and in the course of employment where the worker is exposed to the disease. The bill outlines a four-part test:

  • The disease is proximately caused by the distinctive conditions under which the work is performed and risk of exposure inherent therein;
  • The disease arose as a natural incident of the employment-related exposure;
  • The worker would not have ordinarily been exposed to the disease outside of the worker’s employment; and
  • The disease is not an ordinary condition of life to which the general public is exposes without regard to employment

SB 5125 also shortens the statute of limitations on all occupational disease claims from two to one year. The bill is awaiting action in the Senate Rules Committee.

SHB 2576 – directs the Department of Labor & Industries to convene a work group to establish definitions, policies, and procedures for mandatory reporting of hazardous exposures suffered in the course of employment by firefighters and report back to the legislature December 31. While AWC was neutral on the establishment of the work group, we are very concerned about the possibility of creating a new and costly mandate for reporting. The bill passed the House and now moves to the Senate. We will continue to follow this bill closely and express our concerns.

Collective bargaining open to the public?

SB 6183 – requires public employee collective bargaining sessions to be open meetings.  The bill is sponsored by Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia). While we have concerns about the impact this may have on bargaining, AWC has not yet weighed in on the issue. The bill is opposed by members of public employee labor unions. It seems unlikely that the bill will be favorably received by the House Democrats should it pass the Senate. The bill is in Senate Rules awaiting further action.

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