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Three Fire Fighters die near Twisp

Let us take some time in the memory of Tom Zbyszewski, Andrew Zajac & Richard Wheeler.  Three fire fighters killed fighting a fire near Twisp on August 20, 2015.  Their dedication to public service cost the ultimate and their sacrifice should be honored by us all.
Unfortunately, SB5873 died in the last session of the legislature.   The bill passed the Senate 49-0 but at the end an amendment was put forward by Senator Kohl-Welles

That amendment allowed widows to, under certain circumstances, gain pension benefits where they had previously been excluded.  It was a good amendment, but it added a fiscal note and effectively killed the bill.  The bill ended up in the House Appropriations Committee and never got a hearing.  At the end of the session it was sent back to the Senate Rules committee without action. In it's original form there was no fiscal note.  While the note was only $41,000 and did not impact the budget it was enough to kill it.

"The floor amendment to the bill added section (c) to RCW 41.26.164 (3). It provides the surviving spouse of a
LEOFF 1 retiree who died without selecting an actuarially reduced survivor benefit under RCW 41.26.164, a retirement allowance equal to two-thirds of the retiree's allowance, beginning August 1, 2015.

This section only applies to surviving spouses who have exhausted all administrative remedies prior to March
1, 2015.

The impact of the floor amendment will be minimal as DRS identified that only one account is affected by this
As a result, the cost of DRS’ fiscal note on ESB 5873 will be the same as the cost estimated to implement SB 5873."

The difficulties in passing the budget forced this bill to the background and it died.  Maybe next session...

SB 5873

The following is the text from an email sent to one of our members from his Representatives.   Basically it says that the Bill could still be passed NTIB in the final budget.  At this time we do not know how likely that is, but it would be a good time to contact your Senators and Representatives and urge inclusion of this bill in the final budget.

"Thank you for your email in support of SB5873, relating to permitting persons retired from the Law Enforcement Officers and Fire  Fighters (LEOFF 1) to select a survivor benefit option.
As you may know, SB5873 passed the Senate but did not progress in the House. However funding is provided in  the Senate budget for implementation of SB5873 should it pass.  As this bill would impact the budget, it may still be considered during the special session and our ongoing budget discussions.
Again, thank you for contacting me.  I  appreciate your feedback,
Representative Tina L. Orwall M.S W.
33rd. Legislative District"

Emails have been circulating information about HR 711, a federal bill that would eliminate the Windfall Tax on Social Security.  While it is great that there is strong support for this bill from public employees across the country, the bill itself is not new.  It is one of those that is put forward with every session of Congress and then simply sets in committee and never gets a hearing or vote.  Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have signed on to this legislation over the past number of years and are quick to point out how they have supported the legislation but when asked what they have done specifically to move it forward they never reply.  This is a common device used by legislators to enable them to show their support for legislation that they do not care enough about to try and get passed.  So, year after year nothing happens.

Maybe some letters to your Senators and Representative will help.  The full story provides more details and links to the actual legislation.
Washington, D.C., May 12, 2015 – Today, the Defending Public Safety Employees’ Retirement Act (H.R. 2146), introduced by U.S. Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) passed the House by a vote of 407 to 5. This bill would ensure fairness for federal public safety officials by allowing them to access retirement savings at the age of 50 after 20 years of service without the application of the 10% tax.

SB 5873 Dies

SB 5873 sat in the House Appropriations Committee and dies.  We were unsuccessful in getting a hearing for this bill in the House.  The only chance remaining is if it should get classified as Necessary To Pass Budget. In that case it could pass as a budget line item.  Thus far it does not appear this will happen.  A bit of a shame since this bill was easily passed in the Senate with bi-partisan support.  Many thanks to all of you who wrote emails and letters in support of this bill and to the RFFOW and Dick Warbrouck for binging this bill forward.

Joe Fischnaller comments on Illinois decision.

At first glance, it might seem that it would be extremely good for us, but that is not the case.  It is neither good nor bad for us.  In reality, it has no effect whatsoever on our law, here in Washington. 

The decisions of courts in other states have no effect on the decisions rendered in this state.  Only the decisions of some Federal Courts, such as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court, must be followed by our courts, and then only with regard to issues that are Federal in nature. 

In short, this is a States rights issue which is far more complex than I am making it sound.  Our state already has a similar decision in the
Bakenhus v. City of Seattle, 48 Wash.2d 695, which controls such issues in this State.

I hope that this has been helpful.


Illinois Supreme Court Rejects Lawmakers’ Pension Overhaul

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday rejected changes that legislators made to fix a deeply troubled public pension system, leaving the state where it had started — with a significant budget crisis, a vastly underfunded pension program and no plan in sight.

All seven members of the state’s highest court found that a pension overhaul lawmakers had agreed to almost a year and a half ago violated the Illinois Constitution. The changes would have curtailed future cost-of-living adjustments for workers, raised the age of retirement for some and put a cap on pensions for those with the highest salaries. But under the state Constitution, benefits promised as part of a pension system for public workers “shall not be diminished or impaired.” 

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