Please note that only a summary of each bill is provided.
Board Endorsed Bills
Enforcement Officers with the State Department of Fish & Wildlife became members of LEOFF Plan 2 in 2003. Enforcement Officers were previously members of the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS).
Enforcement Officers were not provided with an option in 2003 to transfer any past PERS service to LEOFF Plan 2. All other groups of employees whose membership was changed from PERS to LEOFF Plan 2 in the past, such as port police and fire fighters, higher education police and fire fighters, and emergency medical technicians were provided with an option to transfer their past LEOFF Plan 2 eligible service from PERS to LEOFF Plan 2.
This bill would provide Enforcement Officers at the State Department of Fish & Wildlife with the opportunity to transfer their past service as Enforcement Officers from PERS Plan 2 to LEOFF Plan 2. Transferring members would pay the difference between the contribution rate they paid in PERS Plan 2 and the contribution rate they would have paid in LEOFF Plan 2, plus interest.
STATUS: HB 1687 and SB 5588 did not pass.
Forty-six percent of LEOFF Plan 2 members lose access to health insurance from their local government employers when they retire. The state of Washington, through the Public Employee Benefits Board (PEBB) program, provides state-wide coverage through private insurance plans to eligible groups and individuals. This bill would provide all LEOFF Plan 2 retirees with the option to purchase health insurance coverage through the State PEBB program. LEOFF Plan 2 retirees would pay the full cost of the insurance premiums.
Enrolling LEOFF Plan 2 retirees who have a higher average entry age than the rest of the PEBB Active/non-Medicare risk pool, increases costs for the entire risk-pool. The Health Care Authority estimated that a similar proposal in 2005 would raise the premiums for all participants in the PEBB Active/non-Medicare risk pool by $0.33 per month or approximately $574,000 per year.
The Federal 2006 Pension Protection Act allows public safety retirees, including law enforcement and fire fighters, to exclude up to $3,000 of taxable pension distributions from income annually, if used to pay for qualified health insurance premiums. Public safety retirees in Washington State cannot currently take advantage of this new federal tax provision because their health insurance premiums are not paid via a deduction from pension distributions. PEBB insurance premiums can be paid via a deduction from a LEOFF Plan 2 pension distribution.
STATUS: HB 1678 and SSB 5589 did not pass.
Service Credit Transfer Waiting Period HB 1680 - Passed
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) who have become members of LEOFF Plan 2 due to legislation in 2003 & 2005 were provided with the option to transfer their past PERS service credit to LEOFF Plan 2. However, the legislation provided that the transfer of service was delayed until five years after the member elects to transfer their service credit. This five-year waiting period requirement has created unintended consequences for members who die or become disabled before their service has transferred.
This bill would create an exception to the five-year waiting period for members who die or retire due to disability. The member's past PERS service would be transferred to LEOFF Plan 2 and used to calculate their LEOFF Plan 2 pension.
STATUS: HB 1680 passed and was signed into law by the Governor on May 2, effective July 22, 2007. Chapter 304, Laws of 2007.
Initiative 790, that created the LEOFF Plan 2 Retirement Board, provided that all three employer representatives would serve four-year terms beginning in July 2003; that the two legislators would serve four-year terms beginning in July; and that beginning in July 2007 one of the law enforcement representatives would be a retired member and one of the fire fighter representatives would be a retired member. Employer representative positions were not staggered and all three would expire simultaneously, creating the potential for loss of employer representative continuity. There is also potential for a gap in legislative representation, since legislative terms generally run from January through December. Additionally, retirees comprise about 3.5% of the total LEOFF Plan 2 population, but would represent 33% of the Board membership beginning in July 2007.
This bill would amend when employer, legislative and retiree representatives join the Board. Employer terms would be staggered so no more than one position would expire in the same year. Legislative terms would be two years and run from January through December. The one fire fighter and one law enforcement positions scheduled to be filled by retirees beginning in July 2007, could be filled by either active or retired members.
Note: SHB 1679 was passed by the Legislature with an amendment which requires the Board to have one retired member on the Board beginning January 2008.
STATUS: SHB 1679 passed and was signed into law by the Governor on May 2, effective July 22, 2007. Chapter 303, Laws of 2007.
Select Committee on Pension Policy Bills:
These four bills affect LEOFF Plan 2 and were reviewed and endorsed by the LEOFF Plan 2 Retirement Board.
Members who are temporarily disabled in the line-of-duty may only purchase up to six months of service credit, and only if their employer provides a disability leave supplement.
This bill developed by the Select Committee on Pension Policy provides consistency across all the state-administered pension plans and allows LEOFF Plan 2 members to purchase up to twenty-four consecutive months of service credit for each temporary duty disability.
The Office of the State Actuary has estimated the cost will be insufficient to affect contribution rates.
STATUS: SHB 1261 passed and was signed into law by the Governor on April 17, effective July 22, 2007. Chapter 49, Laws of 2007.
Dual Membership SHB 1264 - PASSED
Members who belong to more than one state-administered pension plan during their public service career can combine their service credit in multiple plans, and use salary earned while a member of one plan, for calculating their benefit from another plan. However, certain inconsistencies exist in applying these laws.
This bill has been developed by the Select Committee on Pension Policy and addresses the inconsistencies by changing the definition of base salary to include payments that are reportable in both systems and were previously excluded, such as overtime.
This bill also removes the maximum benefit rule (a rule designed to protect Plan 1 benefit caps) for members with less than fifteen years of service in a capped plan and service in an uncapped plan. In addition, the bill adds LEOFF Plan 2 to the list of retirement plans whose members can combine service credit for improved benefits tied to length of service. The Office of the State Actuary has estimated the cost will be insufficient to affect contribution rates.
STATUS: SHB 1264 passed and was signed into law by the Governor on April 27, effective July 22, 2007. Chapter 207, Laws of 2007.
$150,000 Death Benefit Inflation Adjustment SHB 1266 - PASSED
This bill developed by the Select Committee on Pension Policy expands the eligibility for the $150,000 death benefit to include death from duty-related illness in all plans where it is not already provided, and indexes the amount of the death benefit to cumulative changes in the Consumer Price Index for Wage Earners and Clerical Workers for Seattle-Tacoma-Bremerton, with a maximum increase of 3% per year. The Office of the State Actuary has estimated the cost will be insufficient contribution rates. The bill also included other benefit provisions for PERS.
STATUS: SHB 1266 was passed by the Legislature with amendments removing the annual 3% inflation adjustment and signed into law by the Governor on May 15.
Contribution Rate Process SB 5014 - PASSED
This bill developed by the Office of the State Actuary and coordinated with the Pension Funding Council (PFC) amends the contribution rate adoption process described in the actuarial funding chapter. Most significantly, it provides that contribution rate-setting will occur two months earlier than it does now.
STATUS: SB 5014 passed and was signed into law by the Governor on May 2 and is effective July 22, 2007. Chapter 280, Laws of 2007.
Extending Retirement Benefits to Domestic Partners SB 5724
The state administers a number of pension systems that provide retirement benefits for state and local government employees, including LEOFF Plan 2. Generally, the bill allows domestic partners to be treated as spouses for pension purposes. Spouses may currently receive survivor benefits upon the death of a member. They may also collect refunds of accumulated contributions of deceased members.
Domestic partner is defined in the bill. It is not gender specific. Domestic partners must be eighteen or older, mentally competent to consent to contract when the domestic partnership began, not related by blood closer than would bar marriage in the state of Washington, and not married to anyone. Further, a domestic partnership involves two persons in a "close personal" relationship who "are each other's sole domestic partner and are responsible for each other's common welfare." Domestic partners must share the same "regular and permanent residence," and be "jointly responsible for basic living expenses" as defined in the act.
STATUS: SB 5724 did not pass.
Survivor L&I Benefits HB 1545
Surviving spouses of LEOFF Plan 2 members who are killed in the line of duty are entitled to receive a monthly benefit of at least 60% of member's wages. This benefit is paid for the lifetime of the survivor, or until remarriage. This bill removes the remarriage restriction for survivors of LEOFF Plan 2 members. For remarriages that occur after the effective date of the bill, the survivor benefits will continue for life.
STATUS: HB 1545 did not pass. ESHB 1833
FF Occupational Disease Presumption - PASSED
The presumption that, for fire fighters, certain diseases are occupationally related is extended to include any heart problems experienced within 72 hours of exposure to smoke, fumes, or toxic substances, or experienced within 24 hours of strenuous physical exertion due to "firefighting activities"; and prostate cancer if diagnosed prior to the age of 50, colorectal cancer, multiple myeloma, and testicular cancer if the worker has served as a fire fighter for ten or more years and showed no evidence of cancer upon becoming a fire fighter.
When a determination that a fire fighter's disease is occupationally related is appealed to the Board of Industrial Appeals or a court, and the decision allows the claim for benefits, the opposing party must pay reasonable costs of the appeal to the fire fighter. If an order allowing benefits is appealed and the fire fighter has been diagnosed as terminally ill, the benefits granted to the fire fighter by the order must continue while the reconsideration is pending.
STATUS: ESHB 1833 was passed and signed into law by the Governor on May 15 with the legislative intent in Section 1 of the bill was partially vetoed.
Port Fire Fighter Membership in LEOFF HB 2134
This bill provides LEOFF membership to any person who is a full-time employee of a port district, whose duties include the suppression of fires, who is trained in rescue and fire fighting duties prior to assuming fire suppression responsibilities, and who is required to receive annually recurring instruction in rescue and fire fighting skills that includes live-fire drills; and Supervisory fire fighter personnel of a port district who are trained in rescue and fire fighting duties, but are not required to receive annually recurrent instruction in rescue and fire fighting skills.
STATUS: HB 2134 did not pass.
Using the Voluntary Compliance Revenue Generated Under the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement HB 2381
This bill funds local law enforcement and firefighting activities and the law enforcement officers' and firefighters' retirement system through streamlined sales and use tax voluntary compliance revenue. The bill directs the State Treasurer, Beginning January 1, 2009 and every calendar quarter thereafter, to transfer state voluntary compliance revenue, in excess of amounts needed for local government mitigation, to the law enforcement officers' and firefighters' retirement system plan 2 fund, and to local jurisdictions for public safety purposes.
The transfer would be divided equally between these two purposes. Money for public safety purposes is apportioned amongst local jurisdictions based on the number of law enforcement officers and firefighters employed within the local jurisdiction as a percentage of the total number of officers and firefighters employed in all local jurisdictions. No more than $12.5 million for both purposes would be transferred during a calendar quarter.
STATUS: HB 2381 did not pass.