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Published on Thursday, April 28, 2016

Interesting session for personnel and pension issues

Few bills related to personnel and pension issues passed in the 2016 session, and we were successful in stopping some that were considered costly for local employers. Included in that category were the following bills: HB 2399 effectively prohibiting performance evaluations for any traffic enforcement activities for police officers; HB 2806 expanding the types of diseases considered presumptive for Workers’ Compensation coverage; and HB 2805 requiring mandatory, employer paid reporting of hazardous exposure for firefighters.

The Legislature did pass a priority bill for counties; SB 6475 requires the state’s Public Employees’ Benefit Board (PEBB) to accept small political subdivisions (including cities) that want to purchase health insurance coverage.

As the Legislature worked to find agreement on the supplemental operating budget, the Senate Republican budget leaders proposed a merger of the LEOFF 1 and TRS 1 (Teachers’ Retirement System) pension systems. The proposed merger would have saved the state money in helping to fund the underfunded TRS 1 plan. AWC expressed concern about the long-term impacts of a merger and because the proposal did not refund any of the excess revenue from LEOFF 1 to employers. In the end, the merger proposal was not included in the final budget. However, the budget does require the study of both a LEOFF 1/TRS 1 merger and a LEOFF 1/LEOFF 2 merger. AWC anticipates staying highly engaged in these merger discussions to ensure that employers’ interests are represented.

Finally, the supplemental budget that the Legislature passed included a reduction to the Fire Insurance Premium tax shared with 44 cities to help offset costs associated with pre-LEOFF and LEOFF 1 medical costs. Fortunately, Governor Inslee exercised his veto authority to remove those changes from the final budget. However, this is an important reminder that the Legislature will continue to look to reduce or eliminate state-shared revenues as they struggle with their own budget challenges. This case was particularly challenging as the costs associated with pre-LEOFF and LEOFF 1 medical obligations are not well understood by legislators.

BillTracker Bill # Descriptive title Final status
  SB 5435 Expanding participation in the Washington State deferred compensation program Law; Effective 6/9/2016
  SB 6475 Requiring the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) health care program to accept small political subdivisions Law; Effective 6/9/2016
  HB 1345 Establishing the Employee Retaliation Act Failed
  HB 2307 Requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnant women Failed
Yes HB 2399 Prohibiting consideration of traffic tickets issued during law enforcement performance reviews Failed
  HB 2404 Requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnant women Failed
  HB 2805 Requiring mandatory reporting of firefighter hazardous exposures Failed
  HB 2806 Expanding presumptive occupational disease for firefighters Failed
  SB 6087 Increasing the state minimum wage Failed
  SB 6149 Requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnant women Failed
  SB 6250 Giving fire department employees the right to volunteer or obtain part-time employment Failed
  SB 6331 Requiring local police departments to reimburse training costs when hiring newly-trained state troopers Failed
  SB 6578 Preempting cities from enacting minimum wage and sick leave laws Failed
Yes SB 6668 Merging the LEOFF 1 & TRS 1 retirement systems Failed