Ways & Means Hearing

On February 18th the Senate Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on two bills:

·  SB 5894 – Clarifying that the firefighters’ pension levy may continue to be levied to fund benefits under the law enforcement officers’ and firefighters’ retirement system.

·  SB 5920 – Concerning firefighters and law enforcement officers pension and disability boards.

The hearing was broadcast on TVW and the section of the hearing can be viewed here:

SB 5894 is legislation designed to correct an omission in the prior firefighter act dealing with the levies that are used to fund medical benefits and permits the continued use of those levies for LEOFF 1 firefighter medical costs.  No opposition or other proposals were brought forth.

SB 5920 expands the pool of people available to serve on a local disability board to include any LEOFF member that lives within the jurisdiction the board. This is a proactive move to insure an adequate pool of candidates for the boards as the member numbers drop.  We are already experiencing some problems in this area and can only expect that the problem will grow as the number of LEOFF 1 retirees drop.  Again, there was no opposition to this bill.

Unfortunately, two of those testifying used this opportunity to propose amending the bill to include other non-related items.  Joyce Willms testifying for the Coalition asked that a clause be added to classify adopted children as having the same beneficiary status as naturally born children.  Prior to a recent lawsuit a child adopted after retirement was not entitled to beneficiary status.  This proposal is totally out of sync and comes outside of the normal legislative process.  More appropriately, the Coalition, if they want such a change to 41.26 should submit a bill through the normal legislative process.  Such a change would have a Fiscal Note and needs to be considered on its own merit.

The second proposed change came from Mr. Cliff Webb on behalf of Spokane International Airport.  He suggested that the at-large Disability Board position be changed to a County Council appointed representative of a municipal corporation or a port district that operates a fire and law enforcement operation such as the Spokane airport or other or other airports in other counties. Such a change could seriously and negatively impact LEOFF 1 members by changing the balance on the board. It appears that Mr. Webb as a representative of the Spokane International Airport is currently in a dispute with the Spokane County Disability Board or their consideration of extending dental benefits under 41.26.150.

At this point we do not expect either of these proposed changes to go forward as they came without sponsors and outside of the normal legislative process.  They do, however, bear watching.

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