A change to Disability Boards?

The legislature has been in session for about a month and we now have a bill dealing with LEOFF 1 issues.  It is HB 2051 and the companion Senate version SB 5920.  The bill has bi-partisan support and is drafted to address some concerns that were expressed in the Select Committee meeting.

You can view a copy of the bill here.
More information can be found here.

SB 5920, Board Amendments, and SB 5894, Prior Act Funding, will have a Hearing on Monday February 18, 2019 at 3:30 pm in the Senate Ways and Means Committee meeting.

See SB 5894 here.

What is the problem?

For several years we have been discussion the potential problems that could occur as the number of LEOFF 1 members decline.  The most significant problem is the inability of local disability boards to find members available to serve.  Already Mill Creek is facing this situation.  We have been advised that other boards are in or near a similar situation.

About three years ago we had a meeting in Yakima that included the following people:

  • Dan Downs of the LEOFF Education Association,
  • Joe Fischnaller (now deceased but the premier LEOFF attorney for many years),
  • Steve Brown the Secretary of the Seattle Fire Pension Board,
  • Dick Warbrouck of the RFFOW,
  • Ken Crowder from the Retired Police Officers of Washington and a member of the Snohomish County Disability Board, and
  • Jerry Taylor a member of the Seattle Police Pension Board and the Retired Seattle Police Officers’ Association.

Our concern was the changing demographic among LEOFF 1 members, and the declining numbers of individuals being managed by individual Disability Boards.  Our goal was to find the least disruptive solution while protecting the rights of the members to have their boards governed by local people familiar with their needs.

While the possibility of combining small boards with larger ones or creating regional boards were discussed we could find no way to accomplish this without violating the rights of the individual member and/or employers.  It became apparent that the only reasonable solution would be to expand the pool of available board member.  This had already been done by allowing LEOFF 2 members to serve on Disability Boards.

The solution we identified was to allow members retired from other jurisdictions but still under LEOFF and living within the jurisdiction of the concerned board to run for election.  While not perfect it would protect both the members and the employers as the candidate would understand the LEOFF statute and be a citizen and taxpayer from the impacted jurisdiction.  As it is now, only people under the jurisdiction of the board would be able to vote for the elected members.

Why is this needed?

Right now, the situation is not serious, but actions have been taken by impacted jurisdictions that could adversely impact LEOFF members.  For example, in the last session of the legislature there was an effort to change the local population level that requires a board from 20,000 to 30,000.  That would eliminate several local boards and force those under its jurisdiction into the County board.  That could mean a changing of benefits under 41.26.150 and a possible loss to members.  The only solution would be a lawsuit at a considerable expense to the member or those willing to fund such an effort.  Fortunately, we were able to kill that proposal but it served as a notice that others were taking note of the growing problem.

We felt we would be best served by taking the smallest step possible to expand the pool of available board members.  We were concerned that if we did not prepare for this somebody would do it for (to) us and we would end up in court resisting some regional or state-wide board.

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