TRS Board Elections Underway, Legislature Budget Conferees Named, and More!

While activity continues at the Texas Legislation to address the TRS-Care shortfall, this edition of the Inside Line will focus on some other key issues and actions that Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) members should know about.

I. TRS Board of Trustees Elections: Be Sure to Vote!

Elections are now underway to fill two seats on the Board of Trustees for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). The members elected to the Board of Trustees of TRS represent your interests! There are two open trustee positions: a Retiree seat and an At-Large seat.

As a retiree, you get to vote for one person for the retiree position and one person for the at-large position (active employees may only vote for the at-large seat).

PLEASE do not vote for more than one person per position on your ballot. Otherwise, it will be invalidated.

While TRTA will not tell you how to vote, we will tell you how vital it is that you vote! If you are you a retiree who wants your voice represented on the TRS Board of Trustees, your vote matters!

TRTA members, voting in this election is an easy way to send a message that you care about what happens with your pension. Many times, these elections do not have much voter participation. Can you imagine the “wow” factor if more than 100,000 retirees voted in this election? It would be amazing!

According to the TRS March Newsletter, “one position will be appointed by the Governor from a list of the three candidates who receive the most votes after nomination and election by TRS retirees who are receiving benefits. The other position, a new at-large seat on the board, will be appointed by the Governor from a list of the three candidates who receive the most votes after nomination and election by both TRS retirees and active members. The at-large seat on the board was formerly reserved for a candidate from higher education. Both appointments will be for terms expiring on August 31, 2023.”

The Candidates

To read more about all of the candidates, click here! TRTA is honored to have two members running for the retiree position on the TRS Board of Trustees. James D. Nance and Fran Plemmons are both dedicated association volunteers and leaders. Please take some time to read the short biographies listed on the TRS website for all candidates.

How to Cast Your Vote

All TRS members should have received a copy of the TRS March Newsletter in the mail. Within the newsletter is a paper ballot containing voting instructions. There should also be a postage-paid return envelope included with the ballot. Eligible annuitants and active employees will have the opportunity to vote via the Internet as well. Instructions for both voting methods are included with the ballots.

Both eligible retirees and active members may now cast their ballots in the at-large election. In addition, eligible retirees may cast their ballots in the retiree election. Retirees may vote for one candidate in both of these elections. (Please note that active members of TRS, also known as current employees, will receive a ballot containing only the names of the candidates seeking to be appointed to the at-large position on the board). Space on the ballots has also been provided for write-in candidates.

To be counted, ballots must be returned in envelopes received by TRS no later than May 5, 2017. Your ballot must be in the TRS office by May 5, not postmarked by that date. Be sure to send your ballot in the mail as soon as possible so that it is received in time!

If you prefer, you may cast your vote online following the instructions included with your ballot. Please note you may only use one voting method: mail or Internet. Internet votes must be cast by 5:00 p.m. (CDT) on May 5.

Names of the top three candidates, along with the number of votes they received in each election, will be submitted to the Governor. The Governor will then appoint one of the individuals in each election to fill a six-year term beginning as early as September 1, 2017.

Make your voice heard and cast your vote today!

II. Legislature Names Budget Conferees

As the 85th Legislative Session continues, progress on TRS-Care and the Texas budget is speeding up! As you may know, both the Senate and the House create their own versions of the state budget for the coming biennium. Those budgets often differ in how much funding is designated for programs and projects. As a result, a Conference Committee consisting of Senators and Representatives is appointed, and this group of legislators negotiates the details of the budget that ultimately gets passed by the end of the session.

The Senate and House named conferees to the committee this past week. Representing the Senate are Senators Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), Juan Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen), Joan Huffman (R-Houston), Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), and Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown). Representing the House are Representatives John Zerwas (R-Richmond), Oscar Longoria (D-Mission), Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), and Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock).

These Senators and Representatives will be responsible for determining how TRS-Care is funded for the next two years. TRTA will keep you informed about upcoming meetings of the committee, and how you can help as the Legislature continues to refine its proposals for the retiree health insurance program.

III. Josh McGee Confirmed by Senate to Lead Pension Review Board

Governor Greg Abbott appointed Josh McGee, the Vice-President of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, to be the Chairman of the Pension Review Board (PRB) in November 2015. When McGee was announced as Abbott’s choice to chair the PRB, TRTA expressed its opposition. The Texas Senate must confirm all Gubernatorial appointees, regardless of when they are appointed, during each legislative session in order to continue serving.

The Texas Senate Committee on Nominations reviews all nominations and recommends nominees to the full Senate. The committee, chaired by Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), met in March to review Mr. McGee’s nomination. During the meeting, McGee testified to the Senate Nominations Committee, and his confirmation was voted forward.

Senate confirmations require a two-thirds vote of Senators present at the time of the vote. This requires 21 votes when all 31 Senators are present, or 20 votes when only 30 Senators are present. Senate Democrats, who hold 11 seats, successfully have blocked McGee’s nomination since March.

However, yesterday (April 20) McGee’s nomination was confirmed 20-10 when one Senator was absent. The nomination was confirmed on a party line vote, with Republicans in the majority.

While McGee testified in March that he does not hold any preferences on pension plan design and “any type of plan can be designed well or designed poorly,” McGee has written many op-eds for the Manhattan Institute (a public policy think-tank). In his op-eds, McGee has shown a strong, consistent preference for defined contribution plans.

TRTA and our members must stay vigilant in protecting the TRS defined benefit plan. There is a well-funded national movement to replace all public employee defined benefit pension plans with defined contribution (401k-style) plans. Even this session, there has been an effort to replace the TRS defined benefit plan. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation is a national leader in this movement. 

Since its creation, TRS has never once missed a payment to its annuitants, and we need to keep it that way! TRTA will continue to attend all meetings of the PRB and keep you informed about any concerns that arise.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are fighting ardently for your benefits every day at the Capitol. If you are not yet a TRTA member, please join here. Be sure to read our comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions about TRS-Care here.

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