May 21st 2024

LEOFF I Coalition Newsletter: 3/10/06

The Legislative session was something else to watch on TVW . The bottom line was that the so-called “no cap” Substitute House Bill #2688 did pass. The House passed it with a large majority, with legislators on both sides of the isle believing the Council of Fire and Wash Council of Police and Sheriffs staff who said it was a good Bill. The Legislators believed that they were helping LEOFF 1 people to improve their pensions by earning a little more credits for service, which was true for a small number of people for the short sighted term. The cities wanted the re-start of the contributions removed from the Bill, not wanting to pay those 6% employer contributions again. Legislators were told that the Task Force was only a study group to try and help the poor employers find a way to fund their needs. The original deal for employers was to pay our benefits of medical and long term care. We were told of a surplus in the fund of 109% , but cautioned of the fund coming out of surplus by 2007, and later a longer time was possible, depending on the market and payouts. Our numbers guy, Bill Kantor, was showing us a larger surplus number of 129% as a probable surplus. We could easily see the m.o.n.e.y would be the tempting target for this task force to notice instead of some other options to offer the Governor in July as a choice to help employers in post retirement years. Our view was that this bad Bill was about the State not feeling like bailing out the employers another time, and giving the employers a possible way to get the employees to fund the employers’ costs.The Ways and Means Committee of the Senate amended out the contributions re-start and sent the Bill to the Senate Rules Committee where time expired by a deadline for action date. It was supposed to be dead. But, one evening of Senate session, Sen. Karen Fraser asked for passage, and was objected to by Sen. Honeyford of Sunnyside, on constitutional issues of the Rules Committee deadline.Sen. Tracey Eide of Seattle did another maneuver for the night to postpone the Bill talk. Except, the Council of Fire people were seen talking to Sen. Lisa Brown of Spokane area earlier in the day. Some clever manipulating was considered logical to occur later. That did happen in the evening. A Bill that went nowhere was used as a vehicle to cause the 2688 Bill to be allowed to come to the Senate floor. A procedural maneuver sent the Bill back to the House to be again passed and returned to the Senate. Several striking amendments by Sen. Brown, and Sen. Hewitt of Walla Walla area resulted in Senate passage back to the House in a hurried manner just before the ending minutes of the session. We learned from House Republican Gary Alexander that his side had very little time to read what happened and the House vote rushed them. A few errors in voting occurred due to not understanding the changes and why things happened. The final result would have still been passage, but irritated a few Republicans who wanted to do right by LEOFF 1 people, but time ran out to fully grasp the process.

A lot of LEOFF 1 people called their legislators. A few legislators received few if any contacts. We did speak up for ourselves, trying to educate our representatives and Senators. Some were reasonable and listened. But in the end, few voted with constituents.
Exceptions that helped us may be communicated to constituents in the near future following a LEOFF 1 Coalition meeting 3/16/06.

Thus, we see the following lessons learned;

  • Labor Unions have sided with employers and believe we need to help employers find a way out of the failure to budget for future liabilities. They do not represent the LEOFF 1 Coalition people.

  • The Bill Task Force, is who we must deal with now. The outcome of meetings could well be bad for us. Anyone interested in serving on the Task Force would please apply for serving on the committee and should to apply to the Governor.

  • We need to speak our position out loud at Joint Select Committee on Pension Policy, rather than with written positions turned in. Speaking is on television and less ignored.

  • We need a lawyer, and that will cost us.