Each year PSE pays all expenses, including release time, for PSE members who want to come to Olympia to experience the legislative process. This real life learning opportunity gives members an opportunity to see how important legislative decisions are to their work life and personal life. It’s a tremendous investment in our members personal growth that also has the potential to encourage their continued involvement in PSE political activities.
With the near completion of the 2019 legislative session, it’s a good time to recognize the many legislative interns who helped me out while they were in Olympia this year. Whether it was handing out materials, meeting with their legislators, testifying during hearings, attending hearings that went on forever, or participating in strategy meetings, they were a welcome addition to the PSE lobbying team!
Thank you interns for your interest and participation:
Heather Bartomeu – Wenatchee School District paraeducator
Heather Christianson – Western Washington University office of registrar employee
Jose Eduardo Mares Dominguez – Othello School District paraeducator
Tammy Oommen – Mount Vernon School District paraeducator
Cheryl Pirozok – Central Valley School District paraeducator
Rebekah Posey – Othello School District paraeducator
Jessica Rose – Cheney School District child nutrition employee
Jennifer Saladis – Auburn School District paraeducator
Last Friday, the SEBB coalition delivered this letter to legislators. It is great to see so many partners saying that part time classified employees and employees who need insurance for their dependents deserve affordable, quality insurance.
Despite the uncomfortable topic of allowing marijuana use in public schools, it has become obvious to nearly all legislators (HB 1095 passed easily in the House and Senate) that marijuana infused products are effective in treating medical conditions some students suffer while in school. The only issue is the conditions the product can be used in the school setting. These are the two most important conditions regarding such use:
…Requires school districts to permit a student who meets state law requirements to consume marijuana-infused products for medical purposes on school grounds, aboard a school bus, or while attending a school sponsored event.
…Directs school districts to adopt a policy to authorize parents or guardians to administer marijuana-infused products to a student upon request by a parent or guardian of a student who is a qualifying patient.
Coming off his incendiary amendment to the levy bill that would reduce teachers ability to negotiate salary increases, Senator Mullett (Issaquah) now takes aim at K 12 insurance benefits and more alarmingly, classified employees by reducing their insurance benefits. Mullett’s bill, SB 6011, was just introduced and would put all K 12 employees into PEBB (Public Employees Benefits Board), not SEBB (a nearly impossible task coming only five months before SEBB goes live).
Further it would change eligibility for full insurance funding to employees who work more than 1040 hours, currently employees need to work 630 hours. Employees who work between 630-1,040 hours would receive pro-rated insurance benefits (going back to the system currently in place).
There’s more, including a possible $2,600 contribution to an HSA (Health Savings Account), but that is thrown in to paper over the dramatic decrease in insurance benefits for employees who work between 630-1,440 hours.
It was a struggle, including forcing the Senate clerk to read every word of the 26 page bill, to get HB 1575 through the Senate on a partisan 25-21 vote of approval. As a reminder, the bill, among other things, makes the unions the “custodian of the records” (employers have to rely upon the unions monthly list of who to take dues from), allows electronic and voice authorization of union membership, describes how employees can revoke their union membership, and makes it easier to organize new groups of employees (known as “card check”.)
The bill now goes back to the House for their approval of Senate amendments and then to Governor Inslee for his signature.
The last twelve years PSE representatives made an annual, sometimes semi-annual trip to Washington DC to lobby for national recognition for classified school employees. We have worked with national unions (NEA – National Education Association, and AFT (American Federation of Teachers) and national coalitions like the UCSE (United Classified School Employees) to try to pass a law requiring the United State Department of Education to set up a recognition program for a national classified school employee of the year. A somewhat miracle has happened over the last several months leading up to President Trump’s signature TODAY! of HR 276. The House of Representatives voted 387-19 on February 25, 2019, and the US Senate voted unanimously on March 28, 2019.
Our federal lobbyist, Bob Canavan, worked with PSE (as the lead representative for UCSE) over the last several months to take advantage of the planets lining up to get this over the finish line. Pretty amazing!
A small technical amendments bill, HB 1658, that describes how paraeducator training will be conducted, e.g., in person training for at least one day., passed unanimously after an amendment by Senator Keiser (Burien). Keiser’s amendment made it easier for paraeducators who want to become teachers to qualify for a conditional scholarship.
Next up is negotiations between House and Senate on differences between the bills they passed. I expect they will reach agreement without much problem.
With the passage of Wednesday’s deadline to get bills out of fiscal committees, we were really happy to see PSE intern, Jessica Rose, Cheney School District child nutrition employee, testify on HB 1272. Not only was she here to provide her testimony, but she was also here to see it pass the Senate Ways and Means Committee. She did such a good job, TVW highlighted her testimony on their daily “Legislative Review” program. Please see my previous blog on her performance!
Another highlight of the week was yesterday’s defeat of amendments to HB 1575, the bill that changes state laws because of the June 2018 Supreme Court Janus decision.
With few exceptions, the list of Higher Ed and K 12 bills important to us is relatively unchanged. I will be blogging on the remaining bills of importance to PSE as legislators amend them in attempts to get agreement prior to the April 28th end of session.
Also, because the legislature has agreed to funding our higher education contracts at CWU (Central Washington University) and WWU (Western Washington University) and the PEBB (Public Employees Benefits Board) insurance coalition agreement, we continue to urge full funding of SEBB (School Employees Benefits Board) and four days of paraeducator training. Please take some time to contact your legislators and ask them to fully fund SEBB and four days of paraeducator training. Here is contact information for members of the House and Senators.
When new members go through the employer orientation, they sometimes can’t decide which pension plan to go into: Plan 2 or Plan 3. When they don’t make that decision they are defaulted into Plan 3. Two bills, 1308 & 5360, would change the default to Plan 2 (a defined benefit plan that doesn’t require employee decision-making). It’s pretty obvious that if they can’t decide which plan is best, they shouldn’t be deciding how much to contribute and where to invest their investment contributions. Happy to report that the bills are one step away from legislative passage. Other than some minor resistance, I expect one or the other bill will pass soon.
Soon after starting her one week internship, Jessica Rose learned that HB 1272, a bill that recognizes that students need more time to eat their meals at school, was going to be given a hearing the next day in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. When presented with the opportunity to testify on the bill, at first she was reluctant but the idea grew on her as the day went by. By the end of the day, she decided to testify on how important it was to pass the bill.
Here’s her testimony:
It was so good that TVW decided to feature her presentation in this opening to their April 9 edition of Legislative Review:
And then Jessica is the lead on the full story…