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08 Mar
0

Update on Legislative Actions March 8, 2013

TRS Support Grows in Both Chambers

TRTA Members are Making a Difference

The rush was on in the last few hours before the legislative bill-filing deadline today! We will continue to look through all of these filed bills to let you know if there are any attempts to eliminate your defined benefit plan through the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS).

The good news is that support for the TRS retirement system has grown stronger over the last year. We are so pleased to hear our long-time legislative leaders, as well as many of the newer legislative members, expressing their support for the TRS defined benefit plan. TRTA members and our friends in the active school community have formed a tremendous wall of defense around this vital system, and your steadfast support is making a major difference. The educational effort lead by TRTA has made a BIG impression on legislative members. We need to keep up this important work. You have done a great job! We are better off today than we would have been without you and your efforts. Thank you!

Speaking of being better off, the good news continues for increased funding to TRS! This time two years ago, the Texas Legislature was already developing a budget that reduced funding for both the TRS trust fund and our TRS-Care health insurance program. The hits on those programs were very painful, but there is better news developing this session.

The Texas Senate Finance Committee this week adopted their budget recommendations for the TRS pension fund and TRS-Care. All cuts made to TRS last session have been restored in this proposed budget scenario! In addition, the Senate adopted a budget strategy increasing funding for the TRS pension trust fund by more than $103.4 million! The Senate workgroup was lead by long-time TRS supporter Senator Robert Duncan. Other members include Senators John Whitmire and Judith Zaffarini.

The Senate contribution level is slightly lower and uses a different funding pattern than the version adopted in the Texas House earlier this week. The Senate version has a state contribution to TRS in FY 2014 at 6.4% and FY 2015 at 6.7%.

The House version raised TRS pension funding to 6.6% in both years of the coming biennium.

TRTA is very pleased to see that TRS is receiving a higher funding priority in the Texas budget.

These efforts, though, cannot stop! The higher level of funding is a good step in the right direction, but more is needed to make the pension trust fund actuarially sound! TRTA is pursuing a bold legislative agenda to get the pension fund actuarially sound as quickly as possible, with our real desire to see this happen in the coming biennium.

Update on HB 1383

Pushing that agenda is Representative Jim Keffer, who filed legislation (HB 1383) to raise the TRS contribution to 6.9% in FY 2014 and 7.4% in FY 2015. This legislation has picked up many additional co-sponsors thanks to the hard work of our TRTA members. Click here to see an updated list of bill sponsors.

TRTA is very engaged in this effort. We know that making the system sound is the best way to provide a much needed pension increase for all TRS retirees. It is also the best defense against market fluctuations or attacks by interest groups that want to turn TRS into a privatized 401(k)-style retirement system.

Many of these pension detractors fail to ever mention that our TRS members do not participate in Social Security. Not supporting a strong retirement system for our retired and active school employees is a disastrous policy position, and one that would have terrible repercussions for all Texans.

TRTA will continue to push HB 1383 and present a strong case to all elected officials that more must be done to help the TRS pension fund.

HB 103/SB 643

As you are aware, TRTA is trying to help retirees get a much needed benefit increase. We are pushing strategies to help get you a permanent pension increase. We also have many friends in the Texas Legislature that have filed other bills to help TRS retirees.

Two of those friends are Representative Larry Gonzales and Senator Robert Deuell. They have filed legislation to provide retirees with a supplemental payment if the fund meets certain conditions. This legislation could provide some financial relief to hundreds of thousands of TRS retirees, even if the fund is not actuarially sound. The legislation works to accomplish two goals: protect the fund’s actuarial condition by ensuring it meets its investment return assumptions and does not fall below an 80% funded status; and provide retirees with some immediate relief.

We know our members need a raise, and we work every day to help make that happen as quickly as possible. HB 103 and SB 643 are additional methods of helping retirees that are very practical, and can have an immediate positive impact if passed.

Please call your legislators and ask them to support HB 103 and SB 643. The TRTA Call Your Legislator Hotline number is 1.888.674.3788.

Next week, TRTA will provide several new email advocacy campaigns to alert our legislators about the issues most important to you. The goal next week is to generate as much awareness as possible about our upcoming and very important TRTA Day at the Capitol, set for March 20.

If you have not yet made plans to come to Austin, please consider doing so today. We have heard from all over the state that our members are energized and coming by the busloads! We expect this to be the biggest TRTA rally ever!

Much is being accomplished, but we must press on to achieve the goal of higher funding levels for the TRS pension fund and TRS-Care. Let’s continue to educate our legislators, defend our retirement system and let every legislator in Austin know that TRTA members are the most active, effective grassroots advocates in the state!

Thank you for being a member and standing strong with TRTA. If you are not a member and want to join, please contact our office at 1.800.880.1650. TRTA membership continues to grow well above 77,900! We still need you! Now is the time to get involved.

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05 Mar
0

TRTA Member Phone Calls Needed Now

Phone Calls Needed–1.888.674.3788 (TRTA Legislator Hotline)
TRTA Members, We Need Your Help!!

As you may have read recently in the Inside Line, Representative Jim Keffer in the Texas House of Representatives filed HB 1383. This bill would raise the state contribution to the TRS pension fund to 6.9% in FY2014 and 7.4% in FY2015.

 

We need your help to contact all Texas House members today, asking for their support on HB 1383!

HB 1383 needs co-sponsors.  Please call your legislator today and ask them to co-sponsor HB 1383! (Click here to see a list of bill co-sponsors. Be sure to call and thank your legislator if they are already on the list!)

We also need your help to move HB 103 and SB 643, bills filed by Representative Larry Gonzales and Senator Bob Deuell respectively.

HB 103 and SB 643 are supplemental payment bills that would authorize TRS to make an extra benefit payment to TRS annuitants under certain conditions. We want these bills to gain traction and momentum in the legislative process.
Please call your Senator and Representative today and ask them to support SB 643 (check co-sponsors) and HB 103 (check co-sponsors)! We need these bills to receive hearings!
Though we usually ask you to send emails through our action alerts, today we are asking you to reach out with a phone call and a friendly voice!
The easiest way to get in touch with your legislators is to call the legislative hotline:1.888.674.3788.

If you are not sure who your legislators are, you can use this helpful feature on the Texas Legislature website: click here to find my legislator.  When you enter your address and select “Submit,” this feature provides you with the names of your legislators and their contact information.
Please call your Texas State Senator and your Texas State Representative today! Remember, the message is simple:
Texas House Members

1.Please co-sponsor HB 1383.

2.Please co-sponsor HB 103.

3.These bills need a hearing. They have been referred to House Pensions Committee. Please ask your colleague and House Pensions Committee Chairman, Bill Callegari, to call these bills for a hearing as quickly as possible.

 

Texas Senate Members

1.Please co-sponsor SB 643

2.This bill needs a hearing. It has been referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee. Please ask your colleague and Senate State Affairs Committee Chairman, Robert Duncan, to call this bill for a hearing as quickly as possible.

We need as many co-sponsors as we can get for these bills.  Let’s do a big push this week and see how many more legislators will sign on to support public education retirees!

Please tell your legislators or their staff members that now is the time to make the TRS pension fund actuarially sound and provide financial help for retirees who have not received a permanent annuity increase in 12 long years!  CALL TODAY! 1.888.674.3788.
Thank you for your help and for being a member of TRTA. We still have a long way to go this session, but gaining support on these vital bills is the first and most significant step!
If you are not a member and want more information about joining our efforts to protect and improve TRS, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650.

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04 Mar
0

TRTA Day at the Capitol Announced: March 20, 2013!

1000+ Education Retirees to Descend on Austin!

TRTA Day at the Capitol is set for Wednesday, March 20, 2013. This statewide event will raise awareness on the issues most important to Texas public education retirees and encourage immediate legislative action to address them.

TRTA hopes to have a big crowd at the event! District and local leaders are making transportation plans to visit Austin, and the TRTA staff is happy answer any questions you may have.  Below are some important facts you need to know about TRTA Day at the Capitol. Please call 1.800.880.1650 or email info@trta.org with questions or comments.

Please note that a limited amount of rooms are blocked for the event at the Drury Inn North in Austin for the night of March 19 only.  You can call 800-325-0729 and reference group #2171809 or “TRTA Day at the Capitol.” You may also use the following link: http://www.drurynotels.com?Reservations.aspx?groupno=2171809

  1. What time will the event start? TRTA has a general start time of 9:00 a.m., though staff and volunteers will be there to greet you by 8:00 a.m. The Day at the Capitol has been scheduled on a Wednesday so that participants close to Austin or those spending the night may be able to attend some morning legislative committee hearings.  Those wanting to visit a legislative committee hearing will need to check with TRTA a few days before the event to see what committee meetings are scheduled for that date.
  2. When will the first TRTA event happen? TRTA members are asked to make their way to the House gallery (3rd floor) no later than 9:30 a.m. on March 20.  We hope to fill the House and Senate visitor galleries with members so that they will be recognized by legislative leaders.  TRTA will have a proclamation read into the record recognizing March 20 as TRTA Day at the Capitol. Upon the statement being read into the record, TRTA members are ENCOURAGED to APPLAUD WITH GREAT ENTHUSIASM! TRTA is also working with legislative leaders on making a presentation to the House and Senate regarding the number of volunteer hours, donated books, and steps walked by TRTA members over the past year.
  3. What about the Senate? TRTA will seek the same recognition from the Senate for our retirees and the aforementioned programs. Typically, the Senate starts their floor session about an hour after the House convenes.  Although these schedules are subject to change, TRTA recommends that members make their way to the Senate gallery by 10:30 a.m.
  4. When will we visit the legislators? The TRTA Day at the Capitol is ultimately about our members making their presence known to their elected officials.  Depending on your planned arrival time, early morning legislative appointments can be made between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. As mentioned earlier in this article, TRTA wants to have as many members as possible in the House gallery by 9:30 a.m. and the Senate gallery by 10:30 a.m. TRTA members should be able to make additional mid-morning and afternoon appointments between 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. (depending upon how long members are able to stay).

    Keep in mind that many legislators may be attending committee meetings that morning. If you know that your legislator(s) is scheduled to be in a specific committee, you may want to visit that committee hearing before it starts or as it is finishing so that you may see them before the start of the floor session. Also, it is perfectly acceptable to visit with your legislator’s key staff.  These hard-working, dedicated employees are responsible for letting their boss know what you have to say. If you cannot see your legislator, visiting with their staff is a very good way of delivering the TRTA message.

  5. Is there another way to find my legislator(s)? TRTA will have volunteers to take pictures with you (and your group) and your legislator(s). Starting at 10:00 a.m., TRTA volunteers will be in the Capitol building in the Historic Old Supreme Court Room on the third floor. If your legislator(s) is unable to meet you in their office, you may want to suggest that they work with you to set a time to meet in the Supreme Court Room and have a picture taken for publication in your local unit newsletter, website, and/or in your local newspapers.
  6. Will TRTA provide handouts?  Yes.  TRTA is developing a one-page handout that you can provide to your legislator or their staff.  The important part is that you, as their constituent, are the person delivering this information.  TRTA members coming to the Day at the Capitol will also receive a free commemorative TRTA advocacy tote bag!  Bags and information will be handed out at the various Capitol building entrances.
  7. How can I find other TRTA members in my area who plan to come to this event? TRTA District Presidents and local unit leaders may be chartering buses, planning carpools, or helping to connect members that may be coming on their own for this event.  If you do not know how to contact local TRTA leaders in your area, click on this link and it will take you to the TRTA Local Unit Web Page site.  If you are not sure what local unit serves your area, please contact the TRTA state office at 1.800.880.1650.
  8. I am coming on my own and am thinking about spending the night. Where is a good place to stay?  Some TRTA members may want to stay at the Drury Inn at I-H 35 North (St. John’s Avenue Exit).  Contact the Drury Inn for details. .  You can call 800-325-0729 and reference group #2171809 or “TRTA Day at the Capitol.” You may also use the following link: http://www.drurynotels.com?Reservations.aspx?groupno=2171809.
  9. What are some other important items I need to know? Perhaps the most important fact to know about visiting the Texas Capitol is that it is ALWAYS very busy. Plan your schedule at least 20 minutes in advance of where you need to be. If you set a meeting with your legislator in a certain part of the building, plan on a 20-minute timeframe to get from where you are to where you want to go. All Capitol entrance doors require visitors to pass through metal detectors and have their bags searched. TRTA members who have a Texas-issued concealed handgun license (CHL) may use a quicker security line that bypasses metal detectors and bag search.  Buses coming to the event must unload passengers on the east side of the Texas Capitol. Due to the LONG lines that may form at the Capitol’s east door, TRTA members that are willing and able should utilize alternate Capitol entrances (north, south, and west). (Please be aware that the only wheelchair accessible ramp is located at the Capitol’s north entrance).
  10. What should I wear?  TRTA members are encouraged to wear red shirts. This is the color we have used in previous sessions, and it makes our crowd instantly recognizable. We suggest wearing comfortable clothes and shoes. Making a good impression is ALWAYS important, but this will be a LONG day for many of our members from outlying TRTA districts and local units.
  11. Will there be a central staging or rally area? TRTA will not host an outdoor rally this year, but we will have a press conference at approximately 12:00 p.m. The location is still being determined, and another email will be sent soon with the final details. Also, between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m., TRTA will host an old-fashioned ice cream social under the tent on the east lawn. Please invite your legislators and their staff to attend. There is no program for the social, just free ice cream, water, and fun with your legislators and fellow TRTA members!
  12. I am not able to come, but I want to help. What can I do to make this event successful for TRTA? A special email campaign is being developed about the March 20 TRTA Day at the Capitol. Those who are not able to attend may make phone calls and send emails announcing and promoting the event to their legislators. TRTA is hoping for a tidal wave of grassroots communication about this event to legislative offices from now until the big day. We want every legislator in Texas to know that TRTA is coming to the Capitol on March 20. On the day of the event, TRTA will also have another special email and telephone campaign for those who were not able to come.

TRTA IS THE VOICE FOR EDUCATION RETIREES, and we want to be seen and heard that day.

We want to thank all of you who plan to attend or help us communicate with legislators about the big day.

The planning is well underway and we are looking forward to having as many members as possible here for this legislative event. Your phone calls, emails, and presence in Austin are all going to help advance the issues most important to you and your retirement. Again, thank you for all you do! TRTA will continue to update you on our plans for March 20. For now, we ask that you begin making phone calls and letting your legislators know we are looking forward to SEEING THEM ON MARCH 20!

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