14 Apr

Tim Lee Interviews Rep. Ken King

The Texas Retired Teachers Association’s Executive (TRTA) Director, Tim Lee, interviewed Rep. Ken King (R – Canadian). The interview was conducted on Facebook Live and YouTube. King answered questions regarding HB 430, which he filed before the legislative session, and a potential cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for retired educators.

TRTA thanks Rep. King for joining us today and opening discourse on how to improve health insurance for retired educators.

In a Nov. letter to school personnel (both active and retired), Rep. King wrote that the current TRS-Care model is subject to “the mood of the Legislature every two years” and leads to “huge increases in premiums.”

TRTA believes that any solution for TRS-Care:
1) Provides public education retirees with quality healthcare benefits.
2) Is widely accepted by Texas medical providers.
3) Is cost efficient for all program payors.
4) Is accessible for retirees with manageable premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

We also believe that long-term funding solutions should be tied to the actual cost of healthcare and not arbitrarily tied to active teacher payroll.

Thank You!

Thank you for being a member of TRTA and supporting issues that affect retired Texas public school personnel. If you’re not a member already, join us today.

You can also download the TRTA app to receive all of the latest updates and communicate with your fellow retirees.

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13 Apr

Texas House Passes TRS Sunset Bill

  • Executive Summary:
  • Texas House Passed the TRS Sunset bill
  • A bill to create a COLA study received testimony in the Administration Committee
  • Tim Lee to interview Ken King live on Facebook and YouTube on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

The Texas House passed the House version of the Sunset bill today related to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) to third reading. HB 1585 by Stan Lambert (R – Abilene), passed on second reading on a vote of 147-0. There were no amendments. The Sunset bill will be heard on third reading tomorrow in the House and finally passed over to the Senate.

The Sunset bill’s Senate version, SB 706 by Eddie Lucio (D – Brownsville), passed the Senate Finance Committee yesterday. It will most likely make it to the Senate floor next week. The two bills are almost identical, although their may be some amendments in the Senate.

The Sunset bill makes major changes to TRS agency processes and procedures aimed at helping the agency be more responsive to its members. The bill implements an ombudsman for member issues and complaints, requires member outreach plans including regarding health care claims appeals, and reforms the penalty structure for return-to-work retirees among many other issues.

House Committee on Administration Meets, Discusses HB 1732

The Texas House Committee on Administration met today and discussed HB 1732. HB 1732 would create “a joint select committee to study the feasibility and sustainability of providing a cost-of-living adjustment” to Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) annuitants.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) supports HB 1732. TRTA believes there’s a need for regularly scheduled cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for retired educators. From 1995-2001, the Texas Legislature provided a stair-step approach to increasing retired educators’ pension checks, called the consumer price index (CPI) catch-up. Since that time, there’s only been one COLA for retired educators. TRS annuitants who have retired since Sept. 1, 2004 have never received a COLA.

Rep. John Bucy III (D – Austin) presented the HB 1732 to the committee. He urged the committee to put themselves in retired educators’ shoes. He said that the bill would create a study with the goal to make COLAs sustainable. “Let’s take care of our retired teachers,” Bucy said.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified in favor of HB 1732. “Most studies scare our retired educators,” Lee said. He said that the studies scare retirees because they often deal with changing the design structure of the pension plan or health care system. Also, the studies are paid for out of the pension plan. However, this study is welcome by retired educators.

“We’re studying something that could help retired educators,” Lee said. “This is a big deal.”

Lee said the bill would help ensure future COLAs for retired educators.

TRTA’s District 13 Legislative Chair Larry Yawn also testified in favor of the bill. Yawn emphasized the personal stories that retired educators shared from the 2013 supplemental payment. “What you do makes a difference in their lives,” Yawn said.

The bill was left pending today.

Reminder: Tim Lee to Interview Rep. Ken King Tomorrow at 3:30 P.M.

Tim Lee will interview Rep. Ken King tomorrow, April 14, at 3:30 p.m. via Facebook and YouTube. Be sure to tune in as they discuss a potential COLA for retired educators!

Thank You

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! Be sure to download the TRTA app to receive all of the latest legislative updates.

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12 Apr

Senate Finance Discusses TRS Sunset Bill, Passes SB 706

On April 12, the Senate Finance Committee met and passed the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Sunset bill, SB 706. The bill was authored by Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D – Brownsville), who also served on the Texas Sunset Commission while TRS underwent review. Lucio is also the Vice-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. The bill will now move to the Senate for action.

Upon laying out SB 706, Senator Lucio discussed how TRS is one of the largest public pension systems in the world and the importance of “ensuring the system remains accessible and responsive to its members.”

Lucio added that SB 706 “incorporates several major provisions that will improve the experience of retirees” when they interact with the system.

He discussed the proposed ombudsman position, stating it is a “vital role in member advocacy” that will help members “navigate the complaint process” and that reports to the TRS Board of Trustees on member interactions and suggestions for improvement.

The bill also addresses and would fix several areas of the employment after retirement law, including replacing the required forfeiture of an entire month’s annuity with a fairer dollar-for-dollar reduction when a retiree exceeds their allotted monthly working hours.

Lucio laid out several committee amendments that will have to be discussed before the entire Senate before being added to the bill. These amendments included adding the text from SB 288 (by Sen. Kel Seliger) that passed out of the Senate last week and grandfathering in retirees who retire before January 1, 2021 so they can re-enter service to help students recover from learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified in favor of SB 706, saying its passage would “ensure greater transparency of the agency” and “solve issues with return-to -work.”

Lee added “we’re very supportive of the agency for what they have done to start implementing some of these changes and to the sunset staff for including the (TRS) members in the review process.” Some members of the Senate Finance Committee also served on the Sunset Commission, and Lee expressed his gratitude to them for a thorough and considerate review of TRS.

He reiterated the association’s support of the ombudsman position and expressed favorable support of the committee amendments that were offered during the meeting.

TRS COLA Study Bill (HB 1732) in Committee Tuesday, April 13

Many of our members may recall that in the 1990s, a Consumer Price Index (CPI) Catch-Up Plan was developed and implemented through four successive sessions of the Legislature (73rd through the 76th). The plan was designed to help retiree annuities “catch up” with rising costs due to inflation. After completion of the plan, the 77th Legislature took additional action to increase state funding to TRS in 2001.

Since 2001, only one permanent COLA was enacted for TRS retirees. In 2013, a 3 percent COLA (capped at $100 per month) was granted for retirees who had retired by August 31, 2004. Any TRS retiree who retired after that date has never received a raise! Two supplemental payments—also known as thirteenth checks—have been granted. One was paid in 2007 (capped at $2,400) and the other in 2019 (capped at $2000).

TRTA knows the CPI catch-up plan laid out a blueprint for what can be accomplished over a phased, planned effort. It is the intent of HB 1732 to institutionalize a process that can ensure periodic reviews of the effect of the economy on the TRS retirees’ pensions and to bring to the attention of the Legislature potential sources of funding.

TRTA supports HB 1732, and we look forward to testifying on it in the House Administration Committee on April 13 at 9:00 a.m. A live link to the meeting webcast will be available from this website once the meeting begins.

Thank You!

We have news coming up soon about the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Recently, Representative Richie Neal filed HR 2337. Tim Lee will update TRTA members about this important bill later this week. Stay tuned!

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! Be sure to download the TRTA app to receive all of the latest legislative updates.

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