During this session, PSE has worked with the HCA (Health Care Authority) and WEA (Washington Education Association) to push through a bill to implement SEBB (School Employee Benefit Board) by January 1, 2020. SB 6241 was approved late last night on a party line vote of 50-48. It is not uncommon for major pieces of legislation like last year’s SEBB bill, HB 2242, to be perfected in future years. Now we wait for Governor Inslee’s signature on the bill.
Examples of some of the changes approved last night:
Budget negotiators announced their final agreement last night, the day before the end of the session. Most of the major differences between the House and Senate budgets were ironed out previously so this final deal didn’t change any major issues. PSE had one additional measure we wanted the legislature to fund: $250,000 to develop paraeducator training modules. Good news is that the budget included that funding.
K 12 salary allocations will be fully funded in the 2018-19 school year at a cost of $776 million. The classified employee salary allocation will increase from $34,180 to $46,784.33 starting September 1, 2018. Normally, when there is an allocation increase, we get the same percentage increase to negotiate with our school districts. However, this 37% allocation increase does not mean we will get that full increase. In another bill, SB 6362, which hasn’t been voted on yet but must be voted upon before the end of the session, the legislature limits how much we can negotiate of the 37% increase. More on that after we see what the bill looks like.
Other details that didn’t change but are important to note:
On a party line vote of 50-48, SB 6241 passed the House. As reported in earlier entries, this bill is necessary for the Health Care Authority to implement SEBB effectively and in time for the January 1, 2020, launch date.
The bill now goes back to the Senate for their concurrence with an amendment added on the House floor. That amendment, approved by republicans and democrats, requires that insurance companies bidding on SEBB insurance plans must also offer a silver and gold insurance plan for the uninsured market in the counties they offer SEBB plans. This is the same issue that was brought up in HB 2408 which is breathing its last breath 🙂 (its dying because of the 5:00 pm deadline – 45 minutes away). PSE doesn’t like the amendment because we are concerned it may reduce insurance companies willing to offer SEBB insurance plans.
On a narrow 25-23 vote, the Senate approved its Supplemental Operating Budget yesterday. Though there were a couple of amendments approved, none of them changed issues of interest to PSE. They fully funded the increased salary allocation starting September 1, 2018, provided an additional $20 million to implement SEBB (School Employee Benefit Board), and funded $250,000 for development of paraeducator training modules.
Once the House has completed its budget, the House and Senate budget negotiators will iron out the differences in their budgets.
The House budget released yesterday met only one of our 3 goals for this session. What they got right was fully funding SEBB implementation by adding $20 million for the HCA (Health Care Authority). This is critical to getting the SEBB airplane off the runway in time for its January 1, 2020, start date. The good news is that the House, Senate, and Governor Inslee have all released budgets supporting full funding of SEBB implementation.
I fully expected the House to follow the Senate’s lead by meeting demands of the Washington State Supreme Court to move classified employee salary allocation increases forward one year (effective September 1, 2018). Instead, the House ignored the Court and left in place the salary allocation increases over the next two years rather than the one year required by the Supreme Court.
One additional PSE measure they missed out on was funding for development of special education and TBIP (Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program) training modules for paraeducators. Fortunately for us, the issue is not dead because the Senate included it in their budget.
A confusing aspect of their budget was their proposal to add a .5 FTE family involvement coordinator to every elementary school at a cost of $28 million (interesting to note that this is scheduled to increase to 1 FTE in the 2020-21 school year). This position is a classified employee position but the budget puts them in the certificated employee funding allocation. This distinction becomes more important when you take into account another bill, HB 1618, which requires that this funding must be used to hire family involvement coordinators (in other words it can’t be used for any other purpose).
Looking closer at the Senate budget proposal, I found a couple of small items worth noting. First, they proposed raising insurance funding starting September 1, 2018, by $5.18 per month from $840 to $845.18. As a result of this change the retiree carve out will increase ninety cents from $68.67 to $69. 57. Finally, the September 1, 2018, minimum salary increase will be 2.3% (as a reminder, the maximum increase is still under debate).
Senate Ways and Means chair, Senator Christine Rolfes, just introduced her supplemental operating budget, SB 6032. In it she funded the one year earlier salary increase for K 12 as required by the Washington State Supreme Court, development of paraeducator training modules, and, fully funds the continued implementation of SEBB (School Employee Benefit Board).
As explained in an earlier entry, the Senate funds a significant increase in salary allocation (average 36.5% increase) to each school district for classified employees starting September 1, 2018. As explained in that entry, we are also limited in how much of that salary allocation increase we have access to in our 2018 negotiations.
On another subject, we asked for $500,000 for development of special education and ELL (English language learners) training modules but we got $250,000. This is a good start but we may need to come back next year for an enhancement to finish the job.
Finally, the Senate added an additional $20 million to the $8 million previously provided to the Health Care Authority (HCA) to implement SEBB.
After receiving a strong bi-partisan vote of 41-7 in the Senate yesterday, SB 6241 heads to the House for its consideration. Senator Hobbs was able to fend off misleading efforts by SEBB opponents choosing instead to focus on the benefits of SEBB and the need to address necessary changes to the SEBB bill passed last year.
Improved data sharing, allowance of longer insurance benefit plans in the 2018-19 school year, clearly describing that family to single employee ratio should be 3:1, allowance of employers to provide optional benefits not covered by SEBB, allowance of employers to fund insurance benefits for employees who work less than 630 hours, and clearly describing that SEBB funding should be at least the same as state employees in PEBB, were some of the more important changes in 6241.
We are keeping an eye on HB 2408 written by Representative and Chair of the House Health Care Committee, Eileen Cody. This bill has moved to the rules committee although has not been picked for a floor vote yet. This bill proposes to combine the uninsured market in Washington with our yet to be implemented SEBB system. Representative Cody believes that combining these markets will help satisfy requirements of the ACA (Affordable Care Acdt) and help insure all Washingtonians. However, PSE, WEA and WSSDA (Washington State School Directors Association) all oppose this bill because it will most likely complicate SEBB and drive up costs for school employees. Combining these markets also has the potential to scare away potential healthcare plan bidders. This week I had the opportunity to speak to my representatives, Sherry Appleton, and Representative Drew Hansen’s legislative assistant about why we are opposed to this bill. It is interesting to me as a Democrat to lobby in opposition to this bill. This experience proved to me that being part of a union is not about labels…it’s about labor!
So far, PSE’s effort to preserve and strengthen SEBB has made progress. Yesterday, the Senate Ways and Means committee approved the “fix-it” bill, 6241. There were a variety of changes but the most important for us was to allow school districts to buy optional insurance plans not provided by SEBB (e.g., cancer insurance), and, allow school districts to have a lower eligibility threshold than 630 hours but they will have to pay for the cost as an enhancement to basic education funding.