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21 Jul
0

Status of Special Session Bills Still Pending

As members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) may know, Texas public education retirees have been at the forefront of concern in both statewide and national news regarding the Legislature’s special session agenda.

Governor Greg Abbott added a supplemental payment for Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) retirees to the session agenda, which began on July 8. Special sessions may last up to 30 days but can end whenever the business items on the Governor’s agenda have been met.

As our members may recall, two bills, one in the Senate (SB 7) and one in the House (HB 85), were filed to provide such a payment. The bills were filed by Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston) and Representative Glenn Rogers (R – Mineral Wells), respectively.

On Tuesday, July 13, the Texas Senate unanimously passed SB 7. The bill would provide for a one-time supplemental payment for Texas public education retirees who retired on or before December 31, 2020, not to exceed $2,400. The funds would be provided by general revenue, not the TRS pension fund. HB 85 was voted favorably out of the Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services (PIFS) Committee in the House on July 9.

SB 7 has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration, where it remains pending as the House does not have a quorum present to conduct business.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee was invited to appear on CNN to discuss the matter. You can view the video of Tim’s interview by clicking here.

Other news articles have been circulating that our members may be interested in reading:

Our members should know that the TRTA Capitol advocacy team continues to push for a benefit enhancement for TRS retirees and is still focused on our long-term goal of achieving a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA). The special session is expected to proceed through early August. TRTA will update members as we learn more about the progress of bills.

Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) Update

Many of our members contact us regularly about the important work TRTA is leading on the GPO and WEP. The WEP and GPO are TRTA’s highest federal legislative priorities. TRTA is working on the issue with an increased sense of urgency knowing that our good friend and long-time champion, Congressman Kevin Brady (R – The Woodlands), is retiring at the end of his current term in office.

Our work in Washington, D.C. and with our national partners is moving quickly. We expect more updates later this summer.

Thank You

Please stay tuned to the Inside Line for news, as well as information about bills that are filed and urgent Action Alerts that will be needed on our vital issues!

If you haven’t joined us yet, please do so today! If you’re already a member, be sure to renew your dues.

 

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14 Jul
0

Texas Senate Passes Thirteenth Check Bill

On Tuesday, July 13, the Texas Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 7, filed by Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston). The bill would provide for a one-time supplemental payment for Texas public education retirees who retired on or before December 31, 2020, not to exceed $2,400.

Members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) may view the Senate floor debate by clicking this link. Footage pertaining to SB 7 begins at about 12 minutes into the video and continues for half an hour.

Senator Huffman laid out SB 7, stating that her bill benefits hundreds of thousands of Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) retirees. “We are not just talking about teachers,” Huffman reminded Senators, as TRS also supports “librarians, school nurses, counselors, custodial and support staff and bus drivers.”

“After the pandemic, retirees deserve another thirteenth this year more than ever and it is needed,” she added. The last supplemental payment for TRS retirees passed in 2019 during the 86th Legislative Session.

“I know we all want to continue to support our retired teachers for their years of dedication and public service,” said Huffman.

As mentioned in an Inside Line last week, the thirteenth check from SB 7 will be funded from general revenue, not financed from the TRS pension fund, at a cost of approximately $700 million.

Senator Eddie Lucio (D – Brownsville) commented during the debate, saying the Legislature is “doing the right thing for a group that’s very deserving,” adding that he hopes “we can continue in the future to improve the quality of life for those men and women in the education field.”

Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R – Brenham) thanked Governor Greg Abbott for adding the thirteenth check to the special session call and referenced the updated revenue estimate from Comptroller Glenn Hegar that made funding SB 7 possible. Kolkhorst asked about providing a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), noting that “30 percent of TRS retirees receive $1,000 per month.”

Huffman responded, “We are in the forever business… We have to look at the long-term investments that we make.” She said that the funding for the check will not be taken out of the pension fund “because it costs a lot more…it has to be financed.” Using state revenue to pay for the thirteenth check upfront “saves taxpayers billions of dollars in the long run.”

“We have to be really careful about COLAs . . . We’ll keep working on that, but we have a responsibility to keep this fund sound,” Huffman said.

Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D – McAllen) said, “One of the concerns . . . is they (TRS retirees) are actually on fixed incomes, yet at the same time, the cost of living continues to increase.” Hinojosa said the thirteenth check will be a big help to his constituents who are retired school employees.

Senator Judith Zaffirini (D – Laredo), a former teacher, added, “This is the best way to show that appreciation (of retired teachers) . . . actions speak louder than words.”

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said after the bill passed that it would be great to pass a thirteenth check every session for TRS retirees.

What’s Next for SB 7

Now that SB 7 has passed the Senate, it will be sent to the Texas House for consideration. We have heard from many TRTA members who are concerned about the fate of SB 7 (or HB 85, the companion bill that passed in the House Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services Committee last week).

Actions in the Texas House are on hold until a quorum of Representatives can be reached. While this is outside the control of TRTA, we remain focused on the task at hand. There is still time left on the special session clock, which may last up to thirty days.

The will to pass some financial relief for our deserving retired educators is strong and has tremendous support from both sides of the aisle. TRTA will continue to keep members informed as progress is made on SB 7 and any other bills that benefit TRS retirees.

Thank You

Please stay tuned to the Inside Line for news, as well as information about bills that are filed and urgent Action Alerts that will be needed on our vital issues!

If you haven’t joined us yet, please do so today! If you’re already a member, be sure to renew your dues.

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09 Jul
0

PIFS and Senate Finance Committees Meet, Pass Thirteenth Check Bills

Executive Summary:

The first special session of the 87th Texas Legislature began on Thursday, July 8. Today, Friday, July 9, committees already are meeting to discuss bills that impact our dedicated public education retirees.

At 9:30 a.m., the House Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services Committee (PIFS) met in a formal meeting to discuss House Bill 85, filed by Representative Glenn Rogers (R – Graford). At 1:00 p.m., the Senate Finance Committee met to discuss Senate Bill 7, filed by Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston). Both bills would provide for a one-time supplemental payment for Texas public education retirees who retired on or before December 31, 2020, not to exceed $2,400, if passed.

HB 85 was reported favorably out of the PIFS Committee.

Earlier this year during the regular legislative session, Rep. Rogers presented the same bill (HB 3507) in a PIFS Committee hearing. “My mother was a history teacher in Graham for over almost 20 years . . . I’ve seen first-hand how important educators are to, not just rural communities, but every community across the State of Texas. We need to do more to support retired teachers,” Rogers said.

Senate Finance Committee Meeting

During the Senate Finance Committee hearing, Senator Joan Huffman laid out SB 7, stating that TRS currently has more than 445,000 retirees and serves 1.7 million members. She added that “TRS is on a path to actuarial soundness,” which is necessary in order for the Legislature to approve benefit enhancements of any kind by state law.

Huffman noted that the cost to the state is approximately $701 million to issue the one-time check to TRS retirees who retired on or before December 31, 2020. The supplemental payments will be funded through general revenue, as opposed to the TRS pension fund, enabling the fund to remain on the path to improved actuarial soundness.

Sen. Huffman authored SB 12 during the 86th Legislative Session in 2019, which established a stairstep approach to increasing the state and active educator contributions to the TRS pension fund.

She also stressed to the retirees how grateful the Legislature is to educators and all they do for the state of Texas. Sen. Nelson agreed, saying “we do value our retired teachers.” Nelson added that she is “very pleased this will be the first bill to make it out of the finance committee during this special session.”

Senator Lois Kolkhorst expressed her gratitude to retired teachers and to Governor Abbott for adding the thirteenth check to the call for the special session.

Senator Eddie Lucio commented that retired educators “deserve this more than any other group . . . they have educated generations of Texans.” He added that many TRS retirees “live in a month-to-month situation.” He then asked what it would take to provide a permanent COLA, adding “that’s where I think we need to go in order to give retired educators in our state peace of mind.”

“If we have the ability to help them (TRS retirees), then we should help them every two years when we come to Austin,” added Lucio.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified in favor of the bill, thanking Governor Abbott for adding retirees to the special session call and Chair Nelson for prioritizing retirees as soon as the session began. He also thanked Sen. Huffman for filing the bill, which includes more retirees in the supplemental payment pool than bills previously filed during the regular session.

Lee added how important it is to keep the door open to discuss a COLA. “We are proud of the work the Legislature has done,” he said. He pointed out that Texas, unlike other states, has never underfunded the pension system, enabling it to be one of the largest and strongest systems in the nation.

SB 7 was voted favorably out of committee.

Other Benefit Enhancement Bills Filed

Many other bills that would provide a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) or other benefit enhancement have also been filed but are not yet scheduled for a committee hearing:

  • House Bill 120, filed by Representative Drew Darby (R – San Angelo) would provide a 6% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to TRS retirees, capped at $100 per month. If passed, the bills would apply to every TRS annuitant who retired before August 31, 2019.
  • House Bill 159, filed by Representative Giovanni Capriglione (R – Southlake), would provide a 6% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to TRS retirees, capped at $100 per month. If passed, the bills would apply to every TRS annuitant who retired before August 31, 2019.
  • House Bill 160, filed by Representative J.M. Lozano (R – Portland), would provide a supplemental payment of up to $2,400 for TRS retirees, in which the funding for the supplemental payment must come from the earnings the retirement system makes on its investments.
  • House Bill 180, filed by Sergio Munoz, Jr. (D – Mission), would provide a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to TRS retirees who retired between August 31, 2004, and August 31, 2015, of 3% (not to exceed $100 per month), and includes a related study.
  • House Bill 77, filed by Representative John Bucy (D – Cedar Park), would establish a joint select committee to study the feasibility and sustainability of providing a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to TRS retirees if passed.

Thank You

Please stay tuned to the Inside Line for news, as well as information about bills that are filed and urgent Action Alerts that will be needed on our vital issues!

If you haven’t joined us yet, please do so today! If you’re already a member, be sure to renew your dues.

Read More