Legislative updates will be posted regularly during the legislative session and throughout the interim as conditions warrant.
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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 email@example.com.
Week 8 Legislative Session Update
March 5, 2021
Legislators have been taking floor votes all week. With a successful floor vote by the full chamber, bills can be considered by the opposite chamber. Several senior and retiree friendly bills have advanced. The deadline for floor action is 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 9.
House Bill 1218 to create a long-term-care patients' bill of rights, HB 1438 to expand the senior citizens property tax, and HB 1336 to treat broadband as public utility have all passed the House of Representatives. Senate Bill 5021 to limit pension reductions from Covid-19 furloughs and SB 5203 to allow the state to bulk purchase generic prescription drugs have both passed the Senate.
We are still waiting to see if HB 1460 -- creating new broadband programs for seniors -- will pass out of the House.
Week 7 Legislative Session Update
February 26, 2021
The two bills WSSRA sponsored both died in committee this week. We are proposing the assocition support other bills that have a better chance passing. The memo to the state WSSRA Legislaive Committee has been pasted here for your viewing:
TO: WSSRA Legislative Committee
FROM: Peter Diedrick
DATE: February 26, 2021
SUBJECT: WSSRA Coalition Bills to Support.
WSSRA’s HB 1032 and HB 1040 failed to move out the House Appropriations Committee prior to deadline cutoffs – they are dead for the session. Retirees should continue lobbying appropriators for the $183 Medicare Eligible Healthcare Benefit and actuarially recommended pension payment. There are other worthy legislative proposals from AARP-Washington and the Department of Retirement Systems. It would be valuable for school retirees to support HB 1218, SB 5021, HB 1438, HB 1460, and SB 5203.
House Bill 1218 creates new legal rights for long-term-care (LTC) patients. The bill allows patients to have daily access to one outside caretaker or family member. It also creates an obligation for LTC facilities to provide phone access to patients when requested. Finally, it obligates LTC facilities to have disaster preparedness plans, stock personal protective equipment, notify the public if DSHS places a stop placement order on their facility, and to keep an accurate log of patients to be provided to the state officials upon request. HB 1218 has passed the House.
Senate Bill 5021 ensures public school employees do not see pension credit reductions related to Covid-19 work furloughs. SB 5021 has passed the Senate.
House Bill 1438 expands the senior property tax exemption. Currently, low-income seniors can defer, freeze, or be exempted out of property tax payments. HB 1438 would allow retirees to deduct health expenses – including co-pays and premiums – to qualify for the tax reduction. HB 1438 is in the House Rules Committee.
House Bill 1460 creates new broadband internet and cell services programs for seniors and the economically disadvantaged. New programs include a daily call or check-in service for elderly people living alone, reduced monthly telecommunications fees for older low-income people, reduced broadband fees for schools, libraries, and public computer labs, and grant programs for establishing high-speed internet in rural and low-income areas. It would accomplish these goals by assessing a monthly 25-cent tax on phone lines and internet connections. HB 1460 is in the House Rules Committee.
Senate Bill 5203 would lower the price of generic prescription drugs by ordering PEBB, SEBB, and Medicaid to participate in multi-state bulk ordering agreements – like the way vaccines are purchased. Private insurers and providers would be allowed, but not required to participate in the program. SB 5203 has cleared the Senate Rules Committee and is ready for a vote by the full chamber.
Week 6 Legislative Session Update
February 19, 2021
Two important bills moved to the House and Senate floors this week.
House Bill 1218 creates a senior's bill of rights for long-term-care (LTC) patients. It would allow people in LTC settings the right to have regular contact with one outside family member or caregiver. This bill is now on the House Floor and ready to be considered by the full body.
Senate Bill 5021 will protect pension retirement credits for school employees who was furloughed during the coronavirus pandemic. SB 5021 is ready for consideration by the full Senate. After passage, HB 1218 will be sent to the Senate and SB 5021 will be sent to the House.
WSSRA's top priorities will be settled in the budget -- due out in March. We continue to receive poisitive feedback about maintaining the $183 Medicare Eligilbe Healthcare Benefit. Legislators also appear to be on track for making the required pension payments.
Week 5 Legislative Session Update
February 12, 2021
Legislators are approaching their first set of deadlines. Bills must be out of their respective committees by February 15. The legislature’s financial committees need to clear bills out of their committees by February 22.
It appears that HB 1032 – allowing for early retirement benefits during the coronavirus crisis – will die in the House Appropriations Committee. HB 1040 to open a window for retirees currently locked out of PEBB insurance will suffer a similar fate. It is unfortunate – they were good bills.
This week’s big legislative news came out of the Senate Republican Caucus. Lynda Wilson, the Senate Republican budget lead, sponsored a her caucus’ vision of what the 2021-2023 state budget should look like. The good news for retirees is that Republicans are advocating for keeping the Medicare Eligible Healthcare Benefit stable at $183 per month. This move was followed by Senator Schoesler (R-Ritzville) sponsoring a bill to merge pension funds for the Teachers Retirement System Plan 1 and Law Enforcement Officers & Fire Fighters Plan 1. Currently TRS 1 is underfunded and LEOFF 1 is overfunded. WSSRA will be watching the budget committees closely to see if Democrats incorporate these ideas into their own work.
Week 4 Legislative Session Update
February 6, 2021
There has not been much movement on WSSRA's priority legislation. House Bill 1032 -- reducing early retirement penalties during the Covid-19 crisis -- is stuck in the House Appropriations Committee. House Bill 1040 -- reopening PEBB retiree insurance to certain retirees -- is suffering a similar fate.
The Medicare Eligible Healthcare Benefit and the employer portion of the state's pension benefit are managed through the state budget. Additional information will be available in March.
There is some very good senior citizen legislation moving forward. House Bill 1218 will require nursing homes to keep adequate supplies of personal protective equipment on-hand. HB 1218 is scheduled to move out of the House Healthcare committee on February 10th.
Senate Bill 5203 will allow the state to participate in bulk purchasing contracts for generic prescription drugs, thereby lowering the cost of drugs for Washington residents. SB 5203 passed out the Senate Healthcare Committee and was sent to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for review by appropriators.
Senate Bill 5021 is designed to ensure coronavirus related work furloughs for school employees do not affect their future pension benefits. SB 5021 passed a vote in the Senate Ways & Means Committee has been moved the Senate Rules Committee, where it can become eligible for a vote by the full Senate.
Week 3 Legislative Session Update
January 29, 2021
A big thank you to our State Legislative Committee Members. Our advocacy team spent the week on Zoom and met with legislators about school retiree benefits. The feedback we heard was good: despite the recession, legislators are keen on protecting retiree health benefits. WE MUST STAY VIGILANT, but the initial reports are encouraging.
There are a few important bills moving through the committee stage. Senate Bill 5021, a bill ensuring Covid-19 related furloughs do not affect pension benefits, passed out of Senate Ways and Means Committee and has been sent to the Senate Rules Committee -- where leaders can easily bring it to the Senate Floor.
House Bill 1218 would require nursing homes to stock personal protective equipment and have a disaster preparedness plan. HB 1218 bill is scheduled for a vote in the House Healthcare Committee on February 3rd.
Week 2 Legisltive Session Update
January 22, 2021
The WSSRA political team continues to meet with appropriators and advocate for protecting retiree healthcare benefits. The decision on those benefits will be determined in the budget process, probably in February or March.
WSSRA's bills this session are still awaiting hearings in the House Appropriations Committee. Those bills would be HB 1032 -- early retirement during the coronavirus emergency, and HB 1040 -- open enrollment for retirees locked out of PEBB.
Senate Bill 5021 would ensure that coronavirus related furloughs in school districts do not count against defined benefit pensions. It is scheduled for a committee vote in the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, January 28th.
WSSRA is supporting a series of new bills intended to limit price increases on prescription drugs. Senate Bills 5020, 5075, 5076, & 5203 would allow for the state to conduct bulk purchasing for generic drugs, would penalize drug companies for unnecessary price increases, and would limit pharmacy benefit managers' (pharmaceutical middle men) ability to exclude pharmacies from their networks.
Week 1 Legislative Session Update
January 15, 2021
The Washington State Legislature has convened for the 2021 Legislative Session. As you probably know, this session will look very different. Due to health and security concerns, the majority of the session will be held online.
Executive Director Alan Burke testified twice this week in support of the Governor's 2021-2023 budget proposal. The Governor recommended maintaining the full $183 retiree healthcare benefit, and we appreciate his support.
WSSRA's legislation to reduce early retirement penalties for school employees during Covid-19 (HB 1032) and to reopen PEBB retiree insurance to retirees currently outside PEBB (HB 1040), have both been assigned to the House Appropriations Committee.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold two important hearings this week. On January 18, the committee will review Senate Bill 5021. Many state and school employees were forced to take furloughs over the past six months, and passing SB 5021 will keep furloughed time from affecting retirement calculations. On January 21, the committee will have a public education session on the Washington state pension system. The Department of Retirement Systems and the State Actuary will both be presenting.
January 8, 2021
The 2021 Legislative Session starts this Monday, January 11th.
WSSRA’s agenda is set. The organization is working to protect the actuarially recommended pension payment, maintain the Medicare Eligible Healthcare Benefit, pass a PEBB retiree open enrollment bill for retirees locked out of PEBB, and to pass legislation making it easier for school employees over the age of 60 to retire during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Legislative committee hearings for the 2021 session start on Tuesday. For school retirees, this week’s hearings of note will be the budget committees reviewing the Governor’s budget proposals. WSSRA will sign in and testify in favor of the Governor’s budget because it maintains all current retiree benefits.
All committee hearings will be online this year. If you would like to sign in pro or con, provide written testimony, or provide live testimony, you can use this link:
December 18, 2020
Pre-Session Legislative Update – December 18, 2020
Governor Inslee has released his 2021-2023 budget proposal. The Governor is requesting no changes to retiree benefits – good news in a year with budget problems.
Legislators are having challenges adapting to a digital format. For the foreseeable future, most everything at the state capitol will be handled online. Committee hearings, bill drafting, constituent meetings, and Floor sessions will be digital. Lobbyists and the public have been banned from legislative buildings for the duration of the legislative session. Practice Floor sessions have not gone well. House and Senate leaders are discussing spending as little time as possible in Olympia – get-in, get-out, and get home. Non-emergency legislation will be left for the 2022 Legislative Session.
December 11, 2020
The Washington state budget outlook is still showing deficits, but the situation has improved dramatically. In June, economists expected a $9 billion drop in tax revenue. Appropriators successfully held $3.5 billion in reserve – a tidy sum – but it did not come close to meeting anticipated shortfalls. In the latest tax revenue and budget forecast, economists are expecting a $900 million surplus in the short term, and a $1 billion shortfall over the next four years. Not ideal, but substantially better than in June.
Hidden in the numbers are some bigger challenges. The state incurred some savings this year from reduced school enrollment. For the state’s accountants, that is a win. For school budgets and the well-being of our kids, it is a very bad situation. Therefore, the budget challenge continues to be larger than is shown on paper.
Assume the state has about a $1 billion dollar problem on its hands. There is a $100 million shortfall in the long-term forecast, more than $500 million in emergency needs for schools, approximately $150 million in business aid that been promised by the state, and a depleted unemployment insurance account to manage. The state’s reserve account should cover those needs, but appropriators will be looking to trim the budget where they can. School retirees have benefits that can be cut, and WSSRA should continue to be mindful of the circumstances.
December 7, 2020
WSSRA’s focus in 2021 will be to protect and maintain current retiree benefits. The Covid-19 pandemic has created a budget crisis for the state of Washington – the subject of next week’s update. The pandemic has led legislative leaders to put strict controls on how much legislation can be sponsored. WSSRA’s political team is expecting the entire session to be focused on the state budget and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The top goal for 2021 is to maintain the Medicare Eligible Healthcare Subsidy. This benefit reduces the cost of Medicare supplemental insurance by 50%, up to $183 per month. Eliminating this benefit would save the state approximately $175 million per fiscal year. Retirees depend on this benefit to balance their budgets – we cannot let it get nipped.
WSSRA’s political team is concerned about the state’s contribution to the pension funds. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the state only made partial payments, leading to today’s underfunded status in TRS 1 and PERS 1. Recent legislative leaders have done a good job of making the full payment level. Unfortunately, freshman legislators have discussed skipping this year’s pension payment to balance the budget. WSSRA strongly opposes such proposals.
Regarding Covid-19, WSSRA is developing emergency legislation to reduce the retirement age for school employees. The proposed legislation would reduce the full retirement age to 60 for employees with 30 years of service credit. For employees over age 60 with 20 to 30 years of service credit, it would reduce the early retirement penalty to 3% of the pension per year – the current penalty is over 8% per year. The legislation would only be in effect while the Governor’s emergency Covid-19 proclamations are active. This legislation is being signed by the prime sponsor and sent to the Code Reviser for pre-filing this week.
Additional health legislation being drafted by WSSRA would allow for a one-time open enrollment period for retirees who opted out of PEBB insurance. The Washington State Healthcare Authority has developed two new statewide retiree health plans, and the WSSRA legislative team feels it would be an appropriate time to allow retirees to re-enter PEBB. This legislation is in the drafting and sponsorship phase.
Work to pursue a Plan 1 COLA and other political goals is ongoing. Due to the budget crisis and rules on what type of legislation can be sponsored in this pandemic session, there is little optimism that non-healthcare related measures will pass.
The next several updates will cover the Washington’s budget crisis, rules regarding this unique Covid-19 legislative session, and the Governor’s Budget – due out before January.
September 23, 2020
The 2021 Washington State Legislative Session begins January 11. This year we are working to:
WSSRA is very concerned about the state of the state budget. The treasury is currently scheduled to be in a deficit, and we do not want retiree benefits to be a sacrificial lamb in balancing the budget.
Week 9 (Final) Report
The Washington State Legislature is set to adjourn on-time.
It has been a good session for school retirees. The legislature has passed a Plan 1 COLA which will be implemented July 1st, maintained the Medicare Benefit at $183 per month, passed legislation to help lower prescription drug costs, and passed legislation to give Plan 3 and Deferred Compensation participants more investment options.
Automatic increases also remain in place. Plan 2/3 retirees will receive an inflationary based increase on July 1st and minimum benefit levels for Plan 1 retirees will increase by 3%.
The WSSRA team worked several pension and healthcare bills that did not gain traction. Work on those bills will likely continue over the interim and into the 2021-2022 biennium.
A complete end of session report will be available in April.
Thank you for your input and work this session. If you contacted your legislators during the legislative session, please write back and thank them for their support.
Peter, Alan, Fred, & Michael
Week 8 Report
It has been said that "A week is a long time in politics". That adage has again been proven true in the past seven days.
Monday, March 2nd was a critical committee deadline for all legislation still active in the system. Plan 1 COLA legislation, Senate Bill 5400 and House Bill 1390, passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and House Appropriations Committee ahead of the deadline on the 2nd. Also, SB 6383, a bill to improve investment options for Plan 3 and Deferred Compensation members, passed out of the House Appropriations Committee on the evening of the 2nd.
Friday the 6th served as the deadline to hear bills from the opposite chamber on the Floor of the House and Senate. House Bill 1390 passed out of the Senate just ahead of the Friday evening deadline and the Senate Bill 6383 passed the House on Thursday. Senate Bill 5400 did not move out of the House prior to the deadline, but passage of HB 1390 is sufficient to still pass a COLA this session.
The next major deadline is the end of Regular Session, 11:59 p.m. Thursday, March 12th.
As of March 7th at 4:00 p.m., here is where our bills are:
An update to this post will be provided on March 9th or 10th, depending on Plan 1 COLA action.
Week 7 Report
The WSSRA legislative team is preparing a final push before the end of session. Most bills have to be out of their committees by Monday night (March 2). Starting Tuesday, the House and Senate will be holding Floor votes for the remainder of this session. Legislators have less than two weeks before they must adjourn.
For the Plan 1 COLA, only one of our bills has to pass the House, Senate, and be signed by the Governor. It can be either HB 1390 or SB 5400. HB 1390 has a public hearing and committee vote scheduled late this evening in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. If the vote takes place tonight, it will advance to the Senate Rules Committee.
The lobbyist team has a nightmare scenario for WSSRA members to consider. The House and Senate budget proposals are similar, but not identical. Each budget proposal contains funding for a 3% Plan 1 COLA up to $62.50 per month. The Senate would also spend $100 million on a mental health hospital and another $100 million on fighting climate change. What if the final deal shaves the Plan 1 COLA back to 2% in order to help fund one of those other projects? It could happen. Therefore, early next week we will be asking retirees to contact their legislators one last time before the budget is negotiated and this session of the legislature comes to an end.
WSSRA is continuing to work healthcare, prescription drug, and Plan 3 / Deferred Compensation Legislation. So far those bills have been passing committees ahead of the necessary deadlines. SB 6383 to improve Plan 3 investment options is currently not scheduled for a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee, and it needs to move out of committee prior to the Tuesday deadline.
Week 6 Report
The Washington State Legislature is wrapping up Week 6 of the 2020 Legislative Session. There is some excellent news to report.
Two Plan 1 COLA bills have passed their respective chambers. House Bill 1390 passed the House 98-0 and Senate Bill 5400 passed the Senate 48-0. Senate Republicans proposed a last-minute amendment that would increase the bill to a 5% COLA, up to $100 per month. That amendment failed on a 25-24 vote.
The WSSRA legislative team is now waiting to make sure funding for the COLA bills are included in the House and Senate Budget Proposals. Both chambers will be releasing their budget proposals simultaneously at noon on Monday, February 24th. Additionally, funding for the Medicare Eligible Healthcare Benefit is tied up in the budget and we will be watching for any changes.
The state revenue forecast is much higher than expected. It was announced on the 19th that the state collected $165 million in unexpected tax receipts, the Boeing Corporation has requested the elimination of a $200 million tax break, and the tax revenue forecast for 2020-2023 is up $1.1 billion. Legislators definitely have some money to work with.
Four important pieces of prescription drug legislation passed their chambers of origin. Senate Bill 6087, Senate Bill 6113, and House Bill 2662 all would lower costs for insulin. SB 6088 sets up a prescription drug price review board. It is exciting the bills are doing so well.
The Senate passed one bill to improve investment options in Plan 3 and the Deferred Compensation Program. That bill would allow employees to purchase shares of the state's pension trust fund with their retirement savings. SB 6383 passed 47-0, and has been sent to the House Appropriations Committee.
Please check back early next week for an update after the House and Senate Budgets are released.
Week 5 Report
PART A - Plan 1 COLA Update
The Plan 1 COLA bills have moved from their policy and budget committees to the House and Senate Rules Committees where they can be brought to The House Floor and Senate Floor for votes.
We need your help!
Please contact your legislators and ask that House Bill 1390 be pulled from the House Rules Committee to the House Floor and that SB 5400 be pulled from the Senate Rules Committee to the Senate Floor. Contact information is available here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/
PART B - Medical & Other Pension Issues
The WSSRA lobbying team is always worried about cuts to the Medicare Eligible Healthcare Benefit. Last year the benefit was increased to its pre-recession peak of $183 per month. The situation looks positive this year. House and Senate fiscal committees are considering an increase to the benefit and cuts are not on the table at this time.
HB 2341 & SB 6383 would improve Plan 3 and the Deferred Compensation Program by letting employees invest their private retirement savings in the state's pension trust fund. HB 2341 is the House Rules Committee and SB 6383 has passed the Senate on a 47-0 vote.
SB 6087, SB 6113, and HB 2662 are aimed at reducing insulin costs. Those bills are moving ahead of deadlines and look to have good traction. Senate Bills 6087 and SB 6113 are in the Senate Rules Committee. HB 2662 is in the House Rules Committee.
SB 6088 would create a price review board at the State Healthcare Authority with authority to manage prices for new high cost specialty and biologic drugs. SB 6088 is awaiting a vote on the Senate Floor.
Two bills we supported to ease the importation of drugs from Canada have died. The Trump Administration has been taking action on this issue, and it is likely these bills will resurface in the next legislative session.
Week 4 Report:
Wrapping up Week 4 at the Legislature. A big thanks to our members who came out to Lobby Day, the WSSRA Legislative Committee, and the WSSRA Executive Board Meeting.
The conclusion of week 4 marks the first legislative cutoff deadline. Non budget / fiscal bills must move out of their committee of origin, or they will not be considered in the next step of the process.
Some good news to report. The Senate Ways and Means Committee has taken some action on the Plan 1 COLA. The committee held a public hearing on SB 5400 (Plan 1 COLA) late in the evening on Thursday the 6th. It appears that the committee is getting ready to vote the bill out early next week. The House version, HB 1390, remains in the House Rules Committee.
Two identical bills, HB 2341 and SB 6383, to improve investment options in Plan 3 and the Deferred Compensation program are moving ahead of deadline. HB 2341 is in the House Rules Committee and SB 6383 is in the Senate Rules Committee.
Three bills to lower insulin prices are also performing well. SB 6087 would limit out of pocket costs to $100 per month. SB 6113 would allow for bulk insulin purchasing by the state managed health plans. Both bills are in the Senate Rules Committee. A Republican sponsored House version of 6087 (HB 2662) has moved to the House Rules Committee. SB 6088 to create a drug price review board may be stuck in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. We will know more on SB 6088 early next week.
Week 3 Report:
Today concludes Week 3 at the Legislature. It is day 19 of this 60 day short legislative session.
A quick update on the Plan 1 COLA and Retiree Medical. Both items are part of the budget process, and we will not learn any additional information until the February 19th tax revenue forecast. Rank and file members of the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee have made formal budget requests to include a Plan 1 COLA in the budget. Appropriators are also considering an increase to the Medicare Eligible Healthcare Benefit. If you are on Plan 1 and have not contacted your legislators about a COLA, please do so now.
The WSSRA Executive Board and WSSRA State Legislative Committee are in Olympia next week. Also, Tuesday, February 4th has been set up as a lobby day for our members. We are looking forward to seeing those of you coming to Olympia.
It is exciting that three bills on lowering the cost of insulin are progressing well. SB 6087, SB 6113, and HB 2662 would all cap insulin prices. The result would be huge price decreases for those who need it, as well as reduced costs to the PEBB retiree plans.
HB 2341 and SB 6383 would allow Plan 3 and Deferred Compensation participants to purchase shares of the state's pension fund with the defined contribution portion of their retirement accounts. Those bills have successfully moved out of policy committee and are headed towards Rules Committee and hopefully Floor votes.
Week 2 Report:
This week WSSRA supported two bills to improve investment options in Plan 3 and the Deferred Compensation program. House Bill 2341 and Senate Bill 6383 would allow employees to purchase shares of the state's pension fund with the private savings in their state retirement accounts. HB 2341 is scheduled for a committee vote in House Appropriations on January 29th.
WSSRA registered concerns with Senate Bills 6189 and 6290. They would restrict substitute teachers from being eligible for school health benefits.
Two bills WSSRA is supporting to lower insulin costs are moving forward. SB 6087 would subsidize insulin costs accross insurance plans. SB 6113 would create a centralized insulin purchasing program for government employees, government retirees, and Medicaid participants. Both bills passed the Senate Healthcare Committee and have been referred to Senate Ways and Means where they will receive hearings on Wednesday, January 29th.
Week 1 Report:
Week 1 at the Legislature is wrapping up and it was a busy one for school retirees. WSSRA members testified on the Governor's proposal for a $22 per month Plan 1 increase. Testimony stated that retirees appreciated the Governor giving attention to the issue, but the $22 monthly increase is completely insufficient.
WSSRA also testified in support of five AARP Washington bills to lower the cost of prescription drugs. SB 6087 and SB 6113 would lower insulin prices. SB 6088 would create a prescription drug affordability board. Senate Bills 6110 and 6111 would make importing prescription drugs from Canada easier.
2020 Legislative Preview:
The 2020 Washington State Legislative Session Beings January 13th. This year we are working to:
Governor Inslee did include a Pan 1 increase in his budget propsal. Unfortunately is was a very small increase of $22 per month. The House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee will be reviewing the Governor's Plan 1 proposal during the first week of the legislaive session.
WSSRA is fully supporting AARP Washington in their effort to lower prescription drug prices this legislative session. AARP Washington is sponsoring five bills to support that effort.