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March 25, 1970
Honorable Mike McCormack
State Senator, 16th District
Richland, Washington 99352
Cite as: AGLO 1970 No. 44
We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated March 18, 1970, requesting information with respect to the eligibility of members of the police and fire departments at Washington State University for coverage under the new Washington law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system.
Basically speaking, these individuals are not eligible for membership in the new system because they are not "fire fighters" or "law enforcement officers" as those terms are defined in RCW 41.26.030 (3) and (4).1/ The reason that these individuals do not qualify as law enforcement officers or fire fighters as these terms are defined, is that they are not in the service of an "employer" as defined in subsection (2) of this definitions statute. Under subsection (2) the term "employer" means:
". . . the legislative authority of any city, town, county or district or the elected officials of any municipal corporation that employs any law enforcement officer and/or fire fighter . . ."
In other words, the only law enforcement or fire fighting personnel who are covered by the new pension system are personnel employed by the various counties, cities, fire protection districts and other political subdivisions of the state. A state agency, such as Washington State University, is not an "employer" as above defined ‑ and, accordingly, its law enforcement and fire fighting personnel do not qualify for membership in the new retirement system.
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
On the other hand, of course, Washington State University is an "employer" for the purposes of the Washington public employees' retirement system ‑ as covered by chapter 41.40 RCW. See, RCW 41.40.010 (4). Accordingly, although the law enforcement and fire fighting personnel do not qualify for membership in the new Washington law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system, they are covered by the Washington public employees' retirement system in the same manner as most other state employees, generally.
It is hoped that the foregoing explanation of the matter will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Assistant Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/Codifying § 1, chapter 6, Laws of 1970 (House Bill 74).