Legislative Updates

 

Legislative updates will be posted regularly during the legislative session and throughout the interim as conditions warrant.

To sign up for legislative alerts, please send your name and email address to peter@wssra.org.

 

 

February 26, 2024 (Week 7.5)

Ten days to go in this 60-day legislative session! WSSRA’s legislative team is cautiously optimistic at the 50-day mark.

One week ago there was a significant concern that the Washington State Senate would kill the Plan 1 COLA for 2024. Thanks to outstanding lobbying by the State Legislative Committee and retirees, that did not happen. The Plan 1 COLA bill (Substitute House Bill 1985) passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee unanimously last Friday evening. It appears an agreement has been reached on adding COLA funding to the budget.

Cautiously optimistic is not the same thing as a sure bet. SHB 1985 must move from the Senate Rules Committee and receive a vote by the full Senate before Friday night. Funding must also be included in the final operating budget agreement. Please ask your state senator to help get SHB 1985 passed.

The watered-down Month of Death bill (HB 2481) is also in the Senate Rules Committee. It is facing the same Friday deadline as the COLA. This bill is expected to pass.

February 16, 2024 (Week 6)

Another week and the Plan 1 COLA legislation continues to move through votes ahead of schedule. The pared back Month of Death legislation is quickly moving along as well.

Substitute House Bill 1985, providing a Plan 1 COLA for 2024, passed the House of Representatives 97-0. House Republicans offered an amendment to make it a automatic, annual COLA, but the amendment failed. This legislation was sent to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for consideration by the upper chamber. The Ways and Means Committee has scheduled a public hearing for SHB 1985 on Tuesday, February 20.

The Month of Death proposal was significantly pared back be the House of Representatives. The new bill, HB 2481, would pay the PEBB insurance premiums for retirees during their month of death. Not the bill we liked, but it will help surviving spouses avoid catastrophic medical bills. This legislation also passed the House of Representatives 97-0 and has been scheduled for a public hearing on Tuesday, February 20.

The updated state economic and revenue forecast anticipates an additional $200 million in tax revenue between 2024 and 2027. There is money available – even if legislators tell you otherwise.

February 9, 2024 (Week 5)

This week was a bit unusual but had good political outcomes for retirees. The big event of the week was passage of the 2024 Plan 1 COLA bill out of the House of Representatives. Representatives voted unanimously to pass the measure and send it to the Senate. The Senate will take it up starting February 14.

The Senate is where things progressed in an odd manner. The Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee unexpectedly sponsored a Plan 1 COLA bill (Senate Bill 6315). Great news; however, within 12 hours bill amendments indicated the bill would also be used to save money by lowering retiree health costs and benefits (Proposed Substitute Sente Bill 6315). This substitute bill was given a public hearing on February 3 and then killed by its sponsors on February 5. Retirees should watch the Senate closely for amendments to HB 1985, the House Plan 1 COLA bill that will move through the Senate next week.

The lobbying team is keeping an eye on HB 2481. The House Appropriations Committee killed the Month of Death proposal (HB 2013). HB 2481 is a pared back version to only pay’s the retiree’s insurance premium during the month of death. This is to ensure the retiree’s surviving spouse or estate does not miss an insurance premium and go uninsured during the month of death. This bill is in the House Rules Committee and needs to pass the House of Representatives by February 13 if it to be considered by the Senate.

February 2, 2024 (Week 4)

You’ll be shocked (not really) to know that there have been more legislative twists and turns this week.

The latest development is that senators, led by Ways and Means Chair June Robinson, have sponsored a Plan 1 COLA and retiree health benefits reform bill. Senate Bill 6315 would provide Plan 1 retirees with a 3% COLA, up to $125 per month in 2024. The bill also makes technical changes to PEBB retiree benefits and reforms how those insurance plans are funded. We’re working with legislative attorneys to understand all the impacts. This bill is up for a hearing tomorrow, Saturday, February 3.

The House version of the COLA bill – HB 1985 – is still in the House Rules Committee. It is waiting to be “pulled” by representatives to the floor calendar for a vote by the full House of Representatives.

WSSRA members testified on changes to the DRS Month of Death bill. The original bill would pay the pension for the full month of death. The House Appropriations Committee is altering the proposal to only cover the deceased’s insurance premium, and not pay the pension benefit for the full month. Retirees testified that this quarter loaf of a proposal was better than nothing, but to create a debt because someone didn’t have the courtesy to die on the last day of the month is cruel.

January 26, 2024 (Week 3)

There’s a maxim in lobbying – it’s your legislation until a legislator sponsors it, then it’s their legislation. That adage was on display this week.

The House Appropriations Committee passed the 2024 Plan 1 COLA bill out of the Appropriations Committee on Thursday, January 25. Great news, except that an amendment was attached to lower the COLA formula. So now the bill reads 3% COLA up to $110 per month. The previous cap was $125 per month. The bill now goes to the House Rules Committee where it can be considered for the House Floor Calendar.

HB 2013 addressing the pension payment during the month of death didn’t receive a vote. It was scheduled for one on the 25th, but it was pulled at the last moment. A replacement bill has been sponsored – HB 2481. The new bill will pay a retirees’ insurance premium during the month of death. DRS will still need to rescind pension income paid after the day of death. This new bill will likely be scheduled for a public hearing quickly, as the committee deadline is February 5.

The bill enhancing Plan 2/3 pensions has been sponsored and assigned to the House Appropriations Committee. The bill number is HB 2471. This legislation would provide extra pension credit to members of Plans 2/3 who work past 30 years. The bill is prospective, meaning it wouldn’t be retroactive to an employee who already has over 30 years of service. We are working to get a fiscal statement from staff so we can view the full impact of the policy.

It’s been a busy three weeks. Thanks to everyone who has reached out and engaged with their legislators. Forty-one days to go!

January 19, 2024 (Week 2)

Legislators are closing out Week 2 of the 2024 Legislative Session. At this point, nearly all legislators’ is spent in committee hearings and constituent meetings.

Representatives reviewed two important WSSRA priorities in the House Appropriations Committee this week. Legislators took testimony on a the Select Committee Pension Policy recommended legislation for a Plan 1 COLA, and a bill providing a full month of pension benefits when retirees’ pass away. Thank you to everyone who signed in to support those measures. The Month of Death bill (HB 2013) has been scheduled for a committee vote on Thursday, January 25. The Plan 1 COLA (HB 1985) has not yet been scheduled for one – something we’re watching closely.

The State Treasurer is working with legislators to create a retirement savings program for employees of businesses without a retirement plan. Ensuring all workers have access to some type of retirement plan – even if it’s not a pension – is critical to the well being of our community. The bills setting up the program are House Bill 2244 and Senate Bill 6069. Both are up for public hearings on Tuesday, January 23.

Many legislators are grappling with the six citizens’ initiatives being submitted. All six would modify or repeal policies that have been Democratic priorities over recent years. A few would have substantial budget impacts for the state. It is yet another thing to monitor as this legislative session develops.

January 12, 2024 (Week 1)

Legislators have wrapped up the first week of the legislative session. Saying the session is moving fast would be a wild understatement. Approximately 1000 bills have already been sponsored.

On Monday, January 15, legislators are holding public hearings on Plan 1 COLA legislation (HB 1985), legislation to pay retiree benefits for a full month when a retiree passes away (HB 2013), and legislation to lower retiree insurance premiums (HB 2188). All excellent developments.

Legislative attorneys are in the process of drafting a bill to enhance Plan 2/3 pensions. Rep. Shelly Kloba (Lynnwood/Bothell) has graciously agreed to sponsor that bill for us. A bill number should be available in next week's update.

Finally, Senator Mark Mullet and Representative Kristine Reeves have sponsored legislation drafted by the State Treasurer to provide a retirement savings opportunities for workers without workplace retirement plans. This would not affect public sector retirees but would be a major boost for the well being of workers and future senior citizens. We'll be keeping a close eye on these bills. The bill numbers are Senate Bill 6069 and House Bill 2244. 

January 5, 2024 (Week 0)

It's 2024 and the Washington State Legislature is back in town! The 2024 Legislative Session starts this Monday, January 8. Legislators have been filing new legislation since early December. Committees will begin reviewing new proposals on the afternoon and evening of the eighth.

WSSRA is working on five proposals this year:

1. Rep. Joe Timmons (Bellingham) has sponsored the Select Committee on Pension Policy's Plan1 COLA legislation. If passed, this bill will provide a 3% pension increase, up to $125 per month. The House bill is numbered HB 1985.

2. The Select Committee on Pension Policy is researching methods to reinstate an automatic COLA. WSSRA is involved in this process.

3. Retiree healthcare benefits are being debated this session. It's possible the $183 monthly Medicare Eligible Healthcare Benefit could increase.

4. WSSRA is drafting legislation to provide additional pension credit to Plan 2/3 members who earn more than 30 years of service.

5. WSSRA is supporting the Department of Retirement Systems' legislation to pay pension benefits for the full month of a retirees'. death. This reduces emotional pain for surviving spouses, and keeps medical premiums paid for the month of death. The House version is numbered HB 2013.

Legislators are on an unsure footing this year. Extra financial resources are available, but citizen initiatives threaten to remove the tax base that legislators have been relying on. 

WSSRA is currently working to ensure all requested legislation is promptly authored and heard in the appropriate committees. The first big deadline the legislation faces will be in five weeks on February 5. 

Pete Diedrick, Legislative Director

This page will be updated every Friday during the legislative session, and as conditions warrant.

 

Please view the 2023 Bill Report for a final analysis of the 2023 Legislative Session.

To Serve, Not To Be Served