HB 3976, the TRS-Care reform bill authored by Chairman Trent Ashby(R-Lufkin) and sponsored by Chairman Joan Huffman (R-Houston), passed the Senate on Sunday, May 21 with a vote of 31-0. As members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) know, the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program is facing a shortfall of more than $1 billion this coming biennium. If no legislation is passed to address the shortfall, TRS-Care will enter a financial “death spiral,” leaving public education retirees in Texas without access to a TRS health benefit.
HB 3976, in combination with SB 1 (the state budget), will help keep TRS-Care from certain death. Over the weekend, the conference committee met to finalize the details of SB 1. The final amount of funding approved by conferees for TRS-Care is approximately $480 million. The budget must still be voted on by the full bodies in both the Senate and the House of the Texas Legislature, and HB 3976 will now return to the Texas House for final approval.
During Sunday’s Senate floor debate about HB 3976, Senators Kirk Watson (D-Austin) and Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) posed several questions to Senate bill sponsor Joan Huffman, verifying details about how the bill will work and how retirees may be impacted as the program continues into the future. Their queries were very helpful, and TRTA appreciates their support.
Senator Huffman, who served on the interim committee to study solutions to TRS-Care’s perpetual funding problems, authored SB 788 earlier in the session. SB 788 was removed from the Senate intent calendar, while Ashby’s HB 3976 continued moving through the legislative process. HB 3976 also improved upon the bill by providing additional permanent funding for the program. Once HB 3976 made its way to the Senate State Affairs committee for a hearing, Huffman improved the bill by adding $20 million for prescription coverage for participants under the age of 65. You can read more about the amendment here.
TRTA Facebook Live Event: May 23 at 6 P.M.
Members, please join us tomorrow evening, Tuesday, May 23 at 6:00 p.m. for a TRTA Facebook Live event, when TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee and TRTA Legislative Coordinator Bill Barnes review the details of both HB 3976 and SB 1 and tell retirees what to expect next for TRS-Care in the legislative process. You will be able to watch the event on TRTA’s Facebook page.
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.
This is TRTA’s most challenging moment. The TRS-Care plan would be significantly worse without your advocacy! We can and will make a difference in affecting positive change for TRS-Care legislation.