Legislative Insight

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.

 

Pre-Session Update:

September 23, 2020

The 2021 Washington State Legislative Session begins January 11. This year we are working to:

  • Protect Retiree Medical Benefits
  • Ensure legislators make the actuarilly recommended pension payment to the pension funds.
  • Create legislation to protect at-risk teachers from COVID-19.
  • Pursue an automatic COLA for Plan 1 retirees.

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.

Sincerely,

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:

  • Plan 1 COLA - Passed the House and Senate. There is a last minute attempt by an employees union amend House Bill 1390 and to add a PSERS (Public Safety Employees Retirement System) change. We do not know what that change looks like, but have been told that it has nothing to do with the PERS 1 / TRS 1 COLA. This page will be updated as events develop.
  • The bill to allow Plan 3 members and Deferred Compensation participants to purchase into the pension trust fund with their private retirement savings has passed the Legislature. It will go to the Governor for signature.
  • HB 2662 and SB 6087 are competing bills to lower the cost of insulin. They would each cap monthly out of pocket insulin costs at $100 per month. HB 2662 was amended by the Senate and must receive a concurrence vote by the full House of Representatives. SB 6087 was amended by the House of Representatives and requires a concurrence vote by the full Senate.
  • Senate Bill 6088 creates a board to review large price spikes in medications. This bill was passed by both chambers, but amended by the House and requires a concurrence vote by the Senate.
  • Bills to improve transparency requirements in Medicaid supplemental plans and increase the availability of group homes for seniors have also passed the legislature and are headed to Governor Inslee for signature.

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:

  • Provide a COLA for Plan 1 retirees.
  • Maintain the health benefit improvements gained in the 2019 Legislative Session.
  • Reduce the retirement age for members in Plans 2 & 3.

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.

To Serve, Not To Be Served