by Roy Orlando, WSCFF Retirees Association Vice Chair
When the Washington State Legislature started the 2022 session, multiple LEOFF pension benefit improvement bills had been introduced. HB 1701 and SB 5652 were bipartisan sponsored companion bills to provide pension formula improvements for current and future LEOFF Plan 2 members, along with a lump-sum benefit for all retired members of that plan. These bills went through eight months of LEOFF Plan 2 Retirement Board study and scrutiny prior to being unanimously supported by member, employer, and legislator board members and introduced to the legislature. SB 5791 was introduced with all the LEOFF 2 components, plus the same lump-sum retiree benefit for LEOFF 1 members and survivors. SB 5791 faced several significant roadblocks from the beginning, including: complexity across two pension systems, lack of stakeholder work, single party sponsors, and no pension policy committee interim work.
The WSCFF Legislative Team was asked by Senators Steve Conway and Mark Schoesler to convene stakeholders from all the “historical” LEOFF Plan 1 groups to develop a substitute bill (SSB 5791) that would be a less complicated version of the original. SSB 5791 contained more precise language not included in the original bill and was confined to a LEOFF Plan 1 benefit. The WSCFF Retirees Association Board members were actively engaged throughout this process and kept informed as the legislative process unfolded. The WSCFF was successful in the effort to unify all the stakeholder groups and resolve differing positions. This bill will provide a lump sum cash payout to LEOFF Plan 1 members. Without the willingness of the WSCFF to be actively involved in this stakeholders meeting, there may have been a far different and less desirable outcome.
The WSCFF was instrumental in getting both pieces of Legislation (HB 1701 & SB 5791) passed. The successful efforts of the WSCFF are due to the many years of developing relationships, respect, and trust in the State Capitol. Governor Inslee has now signed the LEOFF 1 & LEOFF 2 bills that provide substantial benefit enhancements to retired, active and future LEOFF members. If you are retired or near retirement and not a member of the WSCFF Retirees Association, I strongly urge you to consider joining. You can join the Retirees Association by emailing Laura Holder calling the WSCFF Office (360) 943-3030. Your membership will allow us to continue our fire fighter connection to one another and give us a united voice with representation now and in the future. As a united group, we remain strong.