RPEC Priority Bills Near Finish Line
This was a big week for RPEC’s legislative priorities with respect to key healthcare-related bills and the recurring cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees. All of RPEC’s legislative priorities are still in play, including SB 5350, which is headed to a conference committee due to bill language discrepancies between the Senate and House versions of the bill. Moreover, two key healthcare bills have already been signed by Governor Inslee. Both benefit retirees who receive their healthcare benefits from the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB).
As currently written, SB 5350 will provide a one-time COLA for PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees. Moreover, the bill requires the Select Committee on Pension Policy to study and recommend to the Legislature a path to a recurring COLA. Through the legislative process, a few concerning amendments have been added to the current version of the bill. RPEC favors the original bill language, as does the Senate. The Conference Committee will meet soon to craft a compromise bill. The Conference Committee includes leaders from the House and Senate of both caucuses. Once a final bill is agreed upon, the Committee will vote. The outcome of that vote will determine the future of the bill.
Fiscal leaders are currently neck-deep in behind-the-scenes negotiations on a compromise budget bill. The final budget act will be made public by April 21st. We trust that all of RPEC’s advocacy efforts to date with the chief budget negotiators will pay off in the final budget act. Together, we have lobbied for full funding in the biennium operating budget for a one-time 3% COLA for PERS 1 and TRS 1, tied to the implementation of the original version of SB 5350. And, we have pursued funding of a $500,000 proviso for the Health Care Authority (HCA) to produce a report to the Legislature on the outcomes of retiree stakeholder engagements along with information about healthcare plan options that have benefits equal to or greater than the state’s most popular healthcare plan for retirees, Uniform Medical Plan Classic Medicare, but are more affordable.
Two of RPEC’s key healthcare-related bills, which pertain to RPEC members who receive healthcare benefits from PEBB, have been signed by Governor Inslee. SB 5490 will enable retirees who failed to notify HCA of their intent to defer healthcare coverage in retirement and appealed the denial of benefits by December 31, 2022 to enroll in retiree healthcare coverage. SB 5421 protects the private information that RPEC members provide to HCA during the annual healthcare plan open enrollment period. The bill now protects a wide range of information, such as addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, email addresses, demographic information and much more, from public disclosure requirements. Click here to learn more about RPEC’s priority bills.
Today, SHB 1355 was delivered to Governor Inslee for signature. This bill expands eligibility for existing property tax exemptions for seniors and disabled veterans who meet eligibility criteria. Click here to read more about the bill to determine if you qualify for the new property tax exceptions.
The end of session, Sine Die, is Sunday, April 23rd. Stay tuned to next week’s Newsflash for an update on the status of the state’s final budget act and RPEC’s priority bills.