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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
2023 Legislative Session Updates
April 23, 2023 (Week 15 - Final)
Sunday is day 105 of the 105-day legislative session. Legislators are quickly concluding their work and expect it to finish ahead of the midnight deadline.
Appropriators negotiated a $69.5 billion biennial budget. The Senate proposal was $68 billion in spending and House suggested $71 billion. It is a pleasure to report that within that budget is funding for many school retiree goals.
Legislators have passed a Plan 1 COLA for 2023. It is a 3% increase capped at $110 per month. It is not the long-sought after automatic COLA restoration, but it restores some missing purchasing power for Plan 1 retirees.
The 2023-2025 operating budget will maintain the $183 monthly Medicare Eligible Healthcare Benefit. This $300 million item is not a contractual benefit and maintaining it is critical for retirees' financial security.
House Bills 1008 and 1056 to streamline health insurance access and return-to-work rules for members of TRS, PERS, and SERS plans 2/3 have passed and been delivered to the governor.
The budget also maintains adequate funding to pay off the Plan 1 unfunded liability. It maintains a $250 million paydown for TRS 1 and adequate annual payment rates. The PERS 1 and TRS 1 unfunded liabilities should be paid off in the next few years.
Legislators have one thorny social issue to manage before adjournment and then will adjourn SINE DIE for the year.
April 15, 2023 (Week 14)
It’s almost over. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn SINE DIE (without resumption) on Sunday, April 23. WSSRA’s bills are well positioned for the conclusion.
WSSRA has been working on six legislative proposals: Plan 1 COLA, Retiree Medical Benefits, Plan 1 Pension Funding, Plan 2/3 Return-to-Work Rules, Improving TRS / SERS 2 PEBB Access, and Senior's Jury Duty Deferrals. Two of these bills have passed the legislature. The other four are on the verge of passing. In all, it’s been an effective and positive legislative session.
Two bills have passed the legislature and will be signed by the Governor. House Bill 1008 allows TRS / SERS 2 employees to defer their retiree access to PEBB if they separate from service without immediately drawing their retirement. House Bill 1312 ensures that seniors over age 80 do not have to be burdened by obtaining a physician’s note if they need to delay jury duty due to an illness. This bill request came to us from a local unit and our team was pleased to help with the request.
Legislators seem determined to ensure Plan 1 retirees recieve a capped COLA this summer. They also seem determined to ensure that the COLA is capped at 3% and does not match the 9% inflation retirees have been experiencing. This bill should be negotiated and passed over the next few days.
Plan 1 funding is an ongoing issue. Legislators are negotiating Senate Bill 5294 to decrease pension rate slightly, but will also get PERS / TRS 1 to 100% funding relatively soon.
House Bill 1056 to ensure all retirees are able to work at least 867 hours in retirement is nearly passed. The House of Representatives needs to concur on some technical amendments made by the Senate.
Every year the legislature must reauthorize $150 million in subsidies for PEBB Medicare retirees. This money reduces premiums by 50%, up to $183 per month. Legislators look ready to pay for this benefit through Calendar Year 2025.
This will likely be the last report before the end of legislative session. If all goes to plan – never a guarantee with the legislature – your next update will be an end-of-session update on Monday, April 24.
April 7, 2023 (Week 13)
The end is nigh. There are sixteen days left in this legislative session. It’s been a long session, literally and figuratively. This is a 105-day budget writing session – next January’s will be a 60-day supplemental. Seventeen hundred bills have been sponsored by Washington state legislators since January. Several thousand amendments have been written.
PLAN 1 COLA
The odds of a TRS / PERS Plan 1 COLA look good. The current proposal is for a 3% COLA capped at $110 per month. This is not locked in and WSSRA’s advocacy team is still lobbying hard to make sure it’s retained in the budget.
Retirees would prefer an automatic annual COLA or one that matched this year’s 8% inflation rate. Legislators seem uninterested in addressing the issue in a wholistic way this session. WSSRA will continue that fight into the interim and next session.
MEDICAL BENEFITS (ALL PENSION PLANS)
The Governor, the State Healthcare Authority, the House of Representatives, and the Senate are all on board with continuing the $183 monthly Medicare Eligible Healthcare Benefit. This is good news. The benefit is noncontractual and must be reapproved every two years.
PLAN 1 FUNDING
For years retirees have advocated for the elimination of the TRS 1 and PERS 1 pension unfunded liability. Those funding gaps are one of the often-cited reasons for not restoring a permanent Plan 1 COLA. The current payment plan would have the TRS 1 and PERS 1 unfunded liabilities paid off by the year 2026. Payments would then cause the funded status to surge past over 150% in the 2030’s. A scenario WSSRA would be fine with, but understandably causes significant heartburn for legislators with budgeting responsibilities.
Legislators prefer a different scenario. Appropriators are trying to finesse the payment structure to provide 100% funding this decade and then smooth contributions so funding stays at 100% in the future. WSSRA believes those pension contribution savings should be used to fund an automatic COLA for TRS 1 and PERS 1 retirees. Many legislators disagree.
TRS & SERS PLANS 2/3 ENHANCEMENTS
WSSRA is working on passage of two bills to improve and equalize benefits within TRS 2/3 and SERS 2/3. Both bills are technical and somewhat boring; but both will provide real benefits to retirees. House Bill 1008 equalizes PEBB deferral rights within Plans 2/3. If passed, this bill would allow all future retirees to defer their PEBB retiree insurance if they separate from service early without drawing a retirement. House Bill 1056 equalizes return-to-work rules so all retirees, even administrators and general government employees, will be able to work a minimum of 867 hours in retirement without jeopardizing their pension payments. Both bills are currently parked in the Senate Rules Committee. They need to be voted on before April 12.
March 31, 2023 (Week 12)
To quote a popular piece of literature, "The board is set, the pieces are moving".
The Washington State House of Representatives and Washington State Senate have released their 2023-2025 budget proposals and plans for retiree benefits. It is a mixed bag.
The good news is both the House and Senate are set to retain the $183 monthly Medicare Eligible Healthcare Benefit. Also, both chambers plan 1 provide a capped Plan 1 COLA of 3% up to $110 per month.
There is also a good chance of passing added improvements to the TRS 2/3 and SERS 2/3 pension plans. House Bill 1008 allows TRS/SERS 2 members to separate from service and delay their PEBB retiree insurance -- as TRS/SERS 3 members are already allowed to do. Substitute House Bill 1056 would allow all TRS 2/3 and SERS 2/3 members, including administrators, at least 867 hours of post-retirement employment without jeopardizing their pension benefits.
TRS 2/3 and SERS 2/3 retirees are already set for a 3% COLA starting in July.
This is the last good time to contact your legislators and have it make a difference this session. Please follow the link and send a note to your elected representatives. A draft message is already filled out. You can edit it to your liking and hit send. The computer program will send it to the correct legislators.
Click here to send a message: https://www.votervoice.net/WSSRA/campaigns/103393/respond
March 24, 2023 (Week 11)
School Retirees’ bills keep moving along. Plan 1 COLA, retiree medical, and Plan 2/3 improvement legislation is still in a good position.
Legislative Week 11 was marked by three important events:
1. The Senate released a budget proposal for 2023-2025. The budget would pay for a 3% Plan 1 COLA (subject to passage of Senate Bill 5350) and maintain the $183 monthly medical benefit. It also retains a $250 million portion of the $800 million TRS 1 unfunded liability paydown.
2. The state revenue forecast was updated. The state has collected $200 million in unexpected tax receipts since November. The forecast for March-June 2023 is up $200 million from previous projections. The 2023-2025 fiscal cycle is expected have more tax revenue than 2021-2023; however, the forecast is down $500 million from the previous estimate released in November.
3. Supreme Court Justices have rules that a capital gains tax is an excise tax and not an income tax. The capital gains tax will remain on the books.
The House of Representatives is expected to release a 2023-2025 budget proposal on March 27. That will give us additional information on the standing of our legislation.
March 17, 2023 (Week 10)
Week 10 at the Washington State Legislature was marked by the WSSRA State Legislative Committee visiting Capital Hill. Retirees met with dozens of legislators and pressed the case for a Plan 1 COLA, Plan 1 full funding, and Plan 2/3 enhancements.
Legislators have expressed concern about the latest tax revenue forecast. Recent economic developments are likely to have negative effects on tax collections. This will limit the amount of spending legislators can do. It will certainly scale back any overly ambitious program plans.
The Senate and House budget proposals are expected following the revenue forecast. The Senate is expected to release a budget in Legislative Week 11, possibly March 23. The House of Representatives will present a budget blueprint in Legislative Week 12, possibly March 27. The remaining month will be spent negotiating the differences. This should be watched closely because retirees’ health benefits are tied up in the budget.
WSSRA issues are moving forward. Retirees are still on track for a Plan 1 COLA this summer. We need to get SB 5350 or HB 1057 over the finish line. Retirees are seeking an amendment to add another COLA in 2024. Bills to enhance TRS / SERS Plans 2 and 3 are progressing. There is concern the negative revenue forecast may affect the Plan 2/3 bills. They both cost a few million dollars.
There is now just over one month remaining in the 2023 Regular Legislative Session. Stay tuned. A lot of big decisions are going to be made in a short period of time.
March 10, 2023 (Week 9)
Another legislative deadline has passed -- bills must have passed out of their house of origin. House member are now reviewing Senate proposals and senators are scrutinizing House bills. We're getting closer to the end -- session is supposed to adjourn April 23.
As is typical, the legislature is poised to provide some, but not all of what retirees have advocated for. Plan 1 retirees are well positioned for a COLA this summer, but legislators are insistent on capping it at 3%. Two technical bills to improve Plans 2 and 3 look like they’ll pass. Other legislation to improve hearing aid coverage, prescription drug coverage, and dental benefits is currently up in the air.
All signs point to the legislature passing a 3% Plan 1 COLA capped at $110 per month. WSSRA is advocating for extending this to provide a multi-year COLA to provide more certainty for retirees.
The House of Representatives passed House Bills 1008 and 1056. House Bill 1008 improves TRS/PERS/SERS 2 retiree health insurance options to match what is available for TRS/PERS/SERS 3 members. House Bill 1056 changes retirement rules so all retirees may work a minimum of 867 hours per year in retirement without losing pension benefits. WSSRA is now advocating for Senate passage of both bills.
WSSRA is also supporting retiree dental legislation this year. Some of our members are experiencing sticker shock at out-of-network billing for hygienist services provided in long-term-care and memory care facilities. WSSRA is supporting efforts to expand dental services to accommodate our members living in facilities. It remains to be seen if this legislation will pass.
This is a great time to contract your legislators. Final decisions have not been made, so there is still time to have your voice heard.
March 3, 2023 (Week 8)
Day 54 of the 2023 Legislative Session and over the half-way mark. Legislators are now on the Floor of the House and Senate voting on measures. Each bill will move to the opposite chamber and be reviewed by legislators across the rotunda.
Two Plan 1 COLA bills have passed their chamber of origin, and two have been killed off. House Bills 1294 and 1459 to provide automatic COLAs did not survive cutoff deadlines. The House passed House Bill 1057 unanimously and the Senate passed Senate Bill 5350 unanimously. We are lobbying to amend these bills to provide COLA’s in 2023 AND 2024.
Two bills to improve Plans 2 and 3 have passed the House of Representatives. House Bill 1008 improves Plan 2 retiree health benefits. House Bill 1056 would allow all state and school retirees may work at least 867 hours in retirement without losing benefits.
Legislators will be back in committees starting Thursday, March 9. We’re expecting additional movement on these bills after the 9th.
February 24, 2023 (Week 7)
Another week, another deadline. Bills not out of their policy and fiscal committees by Friday, February 24 at 5:00 p.m. were considered dormant.
Plan 1 COLA. We’ve gone from four Plan 1 COLA bills to two. The two bills to restore a type of automatic COLA did not survive the cutoff calendar. Instead, legislators moved House Bill 1057 and Senate Bill 5350 out of their respective committees. Both HB 1057 and SB 5350 provide a 3% increase up to $110 per month starting in July 2023. WSSRA is working to amend those bills so they provide multi-year cost-of-living adjustments.
Pension Funding. The House and Senate have both passed bills out of committee to reduce pension funding for TRS 1 and PERS 1. New actuarial and accounting data predicts that Plans 1 may become overfunded at current funding levels. The Senate version, SB 5294, is more reasonable and is the bill WSSRA prefers.
Plan 2/3 Pension Enhancements. Two bills to enhance benefits for members of Plans 2 and 3 have passed the House and been referred to the State Senate. House Bill 1008 would improve Plan 2 retiree health benefits to match benefits available in Plan 3. House Bill 1056 allows all retirees to work at least 867 hours per year in a state or school position after retirement without losing pension benefits. Both bills passed the House 93-0.
Legislators now move to the House and Senate floor full-time for two weeks to pass bills to the other chamber. Bills not passed before the next deadline will be considered dormant for the remainder of the year.
February 15, 2023 (Week 6)
It is cutoff week. Starting on Saturday, February 18, bills filed in this 2023 Legislative Session that have not received attention will be considered dormant. Bills must pass out of non-fiscal policy committees by that date to be considered active. February 25 serves as another cutoff for fiscal and budget committees. It should be noted that bills tied to the state budget or that are top leadership priorities are immune from these deadlines.
WSSRA’s bills have already passed that first hurdle so there is no immediate danger to retiree legislation. However, there are still important bills in the fiscal committees. The main concern being the Plan 1 COLA bills.
There are four COLA bills. Two are one-time increases recommended by the Select Committee on Pension Policy – HB 1057 and SB 5350. They have both received public hearings. HB 1294 is a permanent, annual Plan 1 COLA that was drafted as a favor to retirees. It is not expected to move out of committee. HB 1459 is a joint attempt by House Republicans and Democrats to permanently solve the Plan 1 COLA and pension underfunding issue. Please contact your legislators in support of HB 1459 and a permanent Plan 1 COLA.
Two bills to improve pension Plans 2 & 3 have passed the House of Representatives. HB 1008 improves Plan 2 benefits so retirees can delay taking their PEBB insurance after leaving public service. Plan 3 members already have this benefit. HB 1056 changes the return-to-work rules so all retirees can work at least 867 hours in retirement. Both bills passed the House of Representatives unanimously. They now await action in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
February 3, 2023 (Week 4)
Today marks the one quarter mark for the 2023 Legislative Session. Everything is in flux, but WSSRA’s bills are where they need to be for this point in the legislative session. This first committee deadline takes effect in two weeks.
Plan 1 COLA Update. There are currently four Plan 1 COLA bills. HB 1057 and Senate Bill 5350 are the Select Committee on Pension Policy recommended bills. They are both ready for committee votes. HB 1294 is a permanent Plan 1 COLA replacement by Representative Steele (Wenatchee). This bill is expected to die. The final proposal, HB 1459, is by the Democratic and Republican budget leaders in the House of Representatives. This bill is also ready for a committee vote; however, I would expect amendments.
House Bill 1201 and Senate Bill 5294 are Governor request bills to reduce funding to TRS 1 and PERS 1. WSSRA is opposed. Those bills are currently on hold. Amendments are likely.
House Bill 1008 to equalize retiree health benefits for members of Plans 2 and 3 is on the calendar for a vote by the full House of Representatives. Likewise, HB 1056 to equalize return-to-work rules for early retirees, is queued up for a vote by the House.
WSSRA is supporting numerous other bills to enhance the lives of seniors. Bills to control prescription drug prices, expand the senior property tax exemption, and improve seniors’ access to dental care and hearing aids are on the list.
January 27, 2023 (Week 3)
The State Legislature has wrapped up Week 3 of the 2023 Legislative Session. Apologies for missing Week 2. It was a busy two weeks – possibly the busiest our advocacy volunteers have had. Two pension bills had committee votes, three Plan 1 COLA proposals had public hearings, a bill to reduce pension funding was given a hearing, and the WSSRA legislative team testified on four other pension improvement and equalization bills.
Three Plan 1 COLA bills are under consideration. Senate Bill 5350 and House Bill 1057 are recommended by the Select Committee on Pension Policy and would provide a 3% pension increase, up to $110 per month. Both bills received public hearings this week. House Bill 1459 would provide an automatic, annual COLA of 3% up to $110 per month. HB 1459 is the superior bill, but it is tied to a pension funding bill – House Bill 1201.
House 1201 would reduce pension contributions to Plan 1 and eliminate the $800 million pension payment to TRS 1. Retirees are open to a funding methodology that fully funds pensions and provides sufficient revenue to implement an automatic Plan 1 COLA. HB 1201 is not that plan.
A handful of bills, HB 1008, HB 1056, SB 5349, SB 5420 would equalize and simply pension rules. They improve post-employment opportunities for Plan 2 retirees so they have the same benefits as Plan 3 retirees. They also would allow all retirees to work at least 867 hours per year in retirement. All four bills are moving ahead of important legislative cutoffs and deadlines.
WSSRA is supporting other bills to improve dental care, reduce scam calls, and lower prescription drug prices. This list of bills will be updated as proposals come up for important hearings and votes.
January 13, 2023 (Week 1)
The first week of the 2023 Washington State Legislative Session is behind us. As you might expect, over five hundred bills and amendments have already been sponsored.
School retiree issues are currently in good shape. WSSRA request bills have been drafted, sponsored, filed, assigned bill numbers, and referred to committees. Some have already been scheduled for committee hearings. Here’s the rundown:
• Plan 1 COLA. Three Plan 1 COLA bills have been sponsored. Two were approved and requested by the Select Committee on Pension Policy. House Bill 1057 and Senate Bill 5350 are identical and would provide a 3% Plan 1 increase of up to $110 per month. Both bills also call for a study on funding a permanent Plan 1 COLA. House Bill 1294 sets up an annual permanent 3% COLA. House Bill 1294 is the superior bill for retirees, but it was not supported by the Select Committee on Pension Policy.
• Medicare Eligible Healthcare Benefit. The $183 monthly medical benefit is approved in the budget process. Governor Inslee recommended the program be continued. WSSRA is lobbying the House and Senate budget committees to ensure it is funded again.
• Plan 2/3 Medical Insurance Deferrals. A technical issue. It’s easier for Plan 3 members to separate from service and retain their retiree health insurance. House Bill 1008 equalizes health benefits for Plan 2 and Plan 3 members by making it easier for Plan 2 members to separate from service and retain rights to PEBB retiree insurance. HB 1008 is scheduled for a public hearing on Monday, January 16.
• Pension Funding. The legislature is currently on track to have unfunded pension liabilities paid off by the year 2025.
• Equalizing Post Retirement Employment. The Select Committee on Pension Policy endorsed legislation to allow all retirees at least 867 hours of post retirement employment. Currently, some classes of early retirees are not allowed to work one hour without losing their month’s pension payment. The rule is confusing, and the Department of Retirement Systems would like to simplify it and create a less burdensome system. This bill, HB 1056, is scheduled for a public hearing Monday, Jauary 16.
January 9, 2023 (Week 0)
This marks the first day of the 2023 Washington State Legislative Session. There is substantial turnover this year – about 20% of legislators are new to their positions. 2023 will be a long 105-Day budget writing session. Legislators are scheduled to adjourn Sunday, April 23.
The Washington State School Retirees’ Association is currently working on a number of proposed policies and laws to improve the lives of retirees in retirement plans 1, 2, an 3.
Plan 1 COLA. WSSRA is continuing work on ensuring an annual Plan 1 COLA for retirees. The Select Committee on Pension Policy has recommended a 3% COLA this year. WSSRA will be lobbying for an increase higher than 3%.
Medical Benefits. Medicare retirees participating in PEBB supplemental plans receive a discount on premiums of 50%, up to $183 per month. This is an expensive benefit for the state and it must be placed in the budget anew every budget cycle.
Pension Deficit Payoff. The state is on course to pay off all pension underfunding. WSSRA will continue its advocacy supporting that goal.
Plan 2/3 Healthcare Equalization. Under current law, Plan 3 retirees have more access to PEBB retiree health plans than Plan 2 retirees do. Working with Representative Bronoske (D-Lakewood), WSSRA has sponsored HB 1008 to improve Plan 2 and equalize the health insurance opportunities.
WSSRA is supporting numerous other proposals to make seniors’ lives easier. Adding transparency to robocalls and phone solicitations, easing the process to defer jury duty for seniors of age 70, and reducing the cost of prescription drugs are all on the to-do list.
This page will be updated every Friday during the legislative session, and as conditions warrant.
Please view the 2022 Bill Report for a final analysis of the 2022 Legislative Session.