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On January 12th, the legislature began its 64th session. This is a 105 day session, so we are all in danger for the next three months.

The LEOFF 1 good news is that it, as of the first week there are no proposals that amount to an attack on LEOFF 1.  Some of the LEOFF 2 related bills are being heard next week, HB 1194 and SB5346. This legislation allows the surviving spouse of a LEOFF Plan 2 member killed in the course of employment to remarry and continue receiving workers' compensation program.  This bill is seen as positive developments for LEOFF 2.
Quite often a legislator will ask me to stop by to answer a question or to give our opinion on a bill that does not directly affect us as the Retired Firefighters of Washington. Sometimes a newer legislator may have a question about the Prior Pension Act, how or why the LEOFF I Retirement Act was created and why the LEOFF II retirement program was developed. Sometimes they have a question on the COLA, the Surviving Spouse or medical benefits. Any question or inquiry gives us a platform to discuss pension funding, the Backenhus decision and why the LEOFF II Retirement System is inadequate. I can honestly say I have never had a legislator disagree with me when I have given my reasons as to why firefighters and law enforcement officers should not be under Labor & Industries Workers Compensation. The only reason or example one should have to give is the 911 disaster
The recent pension law changes for multiemployer plans continue to raise alarms.  Today another article appeared in the Seattle Times discussing this legislation.  While this does not impact LEOFF 1 it certainly is cause to pay very close attention to the actions of the legislators in the session that starts in just a few days.

Tucked into the federal spending bill President Obama signed last week was a provision that allows “multiemployer” pension plans to cut retirees’ pension checks to avoid running out of money. But some worry that may eventually lead to similar rules for other pension plans.

See the Seattle Times article.

Pension Cuts in the 2015 Federal Spending Bill

There has been a lot of concern from various folks about the 2015 Federal Spending Bill just passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.  The pension cuts portion of that bill does not deal with the LEOFF 1 pension plan or any other government plan but rather addresses pensions that are generated for multiple employers.  I.e., pipefitterss, welders, machinists, etc. where the pension plan covers workers from several areas.  The bad part of this plan is that it could cause some legislators to think they could apply the same principal to state pensions.  The principal problem is that this new legislation attempts to remove contractual nature from establish plans and thus empowers the possible reduction of pension benefits for plans that could possibly be in default sometime in the future.  Hopefully there will be lawsuits that will block this.

Please follow the link  to view a pretty good discussion of this bill that was shown on CSPAN. Karen Friedman of the Pension Rights Center talked about cuts contained in a 2015 federal spending bill to government-guaranteed pension plans that would affect benefit recipients.** This clip is part of C-SPAN Classroom’s FREE resources for teachers and students. Visit www.c-spanclassroom.org for more info.
Matt Smith, the Washington State Actuary issued the 2013 actuarial evaluation for the state retirement systems. LEOFF 1 is still one of the healthiest retirement systems in the country. The actuary reported that the LEOFF 1 retirement system is 125% funded and has a surplus of 1.107 billion dollars. Remember when in 1977 they told us that the fund had an unfunded liability and had to be closed? Now is appears the LEOFF 1system could have continued without the problems that were alleged. Unfortunately only a few LEOFF 2 members who are working today fully realize how hard we fought this only to be defeated by the legislature, city, county and media opponents.
The Office of the State Actuary has just issued the 2013 Actuarial Evaluation.  It is a complex study and we will be reviewing it to provide members with an understandable summary.  The bottom line is that LEOFF 1 remains one of the healthiest pension systems in the country with a funding ratio of 125.1% and a surplus of $1.107 billion. 
You may have heard or read in the paper that the Washington State Supreme Court issued opinions in two cases related to the state’s pension system on August 14, 2014. One case involves gain sharing provisions and early retirement benefits for the members of certain state retirement plans. The second case involves annual increases for retirees in two closed pension plans, often referred to as the Uniform COLA, cost of living adjustment.
On July 3, 2014 the Illinois State Supreme Court filed an opinion on a case titled Kanerva v. Weems, 2014 IL 115811. The facts of the case follow:

On July 1, 2012, State of Illinois’s Public Act 97695 took effect. It eliminated the statutory standards for the State of Illinois’ contributions to health insurance premiums for members of three of its retirement systems and established, instead, a new system under which the Director of the Department of Central Management Services would make an annual administrative determination as to the amounts to be charged to the State and to its retirees. This statute thus fundamentally altered the State of Illinois’s obligations to contribute toward the cost of group health insurance benefits for these retired state employees.
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