Getting Up to Date
The infamous TRS 1/LEOFF 1 merger study was completed by the SCPP in December and submitted to the legislature on January 9th. There has not been much in the way of public discussion of the issue since that time.
Note: you can see the final study at the following location: http://leg.wa.gov/SCPP/Publications/Pages/FinalSCPP2016MergerStudy.aspx
David Pringle of the Office of Program Research made a presentation at the House Appropriations Committee on the 16th (see https://app.leg.wa.gov/CMD/Handler.ashx?MethodName=getdocumentcontent&documentId=cQ9gRzpK-9U&att=false). It is a bit hard to follow as it just has slides and no narrative.
Following that an article appeared on the Lens website. (see http://thelens.news/2017/01/18/state-pension-fund-merger-gains-eyed/) The lens is a Washington political reporting site and generally does a pretty good job of reporting on issue. This is a good article but the reporter failed to follow up with the stakeholders who hold significantly different understandings of the meaning and impact of the study. Still, we recommend you read the article and add you own comments as well.
Since that article was published on January 18th there has been no further action on the merger proposal. We have had our collective noses under as many tents as we can find and, so far, nothing. It appears that the legislature is a bit disorganized due to the shifting majority status as some members move to Washington DC to work for Trump and it becomes necessary for replacement appointments to back fill the positions.
Additionally there are just a lot of issues challenging this legislature and regardless of how much import we place on the merger proposal it is not that big an issue in the greater scheme of things. Of course that is just another reason for vigilance as we do not want to see the merger tagged on to some other legislation.
One of the biggest disappointments of the final merger study is the cavalier attitude it takes towards the legal issues raised by the proposal. You see statements like, “There is no apparent legal barrier to merging the Law Enforcement Officers’ and Fire Fighters’ Retirement System (LEOFF) Plan 1 and the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) Plan 1, however any legislation comes with the risk that a court may strike it down” and “If a bill was introduced that had the same provisions as SB 6668, the merger provided under that bill probably would not be prohibited under state or federal law.”
At least they recognize the risk of a legal challenge and say the bill “probably” would not be prohibited.
It is disappointing that, in the face of strongly written legal opinions from a former acting AG and a former Supreme Court Justice that clearly state the proposal is illegal, the report does nothing more that say “probably”.
Hopefully the merger proposal will die without even coming forward as a bill. However we do have at least one indication that a Republican Senator intends to submit the bill at some point. We have found little other support for the bill but we will not be able to determine the risk level until the party caucuses meet and determine a position on the bill.
Obviously the budget pressure will have an impact. If the legislature is pressed for money they may look to the merger as the “low hanging fruit” that can be plucked.
So, we just watch and look for indications while continuitng to make our position clear.