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09 Feb
0

TRS Board of Trustees to Meet February 14-16, Primary Election Update

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees will meet next week in Edinburg, Texas for its annual retreat. The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) reported on the significance of this meeting in December 2017 when the board discussed the agency’s actuarial valuation.

At the time, TRS reported that the pension fund exceeded expectations for the year and was following a path toward actuarial soundness. It was also reported that a decision regarding changing the assumptions used to value the pension fund and determine its long-term financial viability would be forthcoming.

The TRS Board of Trustees is considering a proposal to lower the fund’s investment return assumption from the current 8 percent rate to a lower rate. The justification for this change stems from the experience study of the fund over the past five years, and projections about the economy and investment returns over the next five years. This study, which considers how assumptions compare to actual fund performance, is mandated by law.

The majority of state pension systems across the nation that have performed experience studies have lowered their assumptions. If TRS lowers the rate of return assumption, a significant increase in the pension fund’s unfunded liabilities will occur. The Texas Legislature will then be asked to increase their contribution rate to help the fund return to a funding period of 31 years or less to meet the statutory definition of actuarial soundness. TRTA will report on the effects of this decision following next week’s TRS board meeting.

TRTA’s state officers and Executive Director, Tim Lee, will be present at the meeting and will address the board regarding the implications and possible policy and funding issues associated with this change. TRTA will keep its members updated on any changes that are approved by the TRS Board of Trustees.

Primary Election Update

Recently, some anti-public education groups in Texas have been discouraging educators from voting in the Primary Election. On the social media outlet Twitter, educators and their supporters are fighting back against this movement with class by #blowingthewhistle and sharing all the positive things teachers do to care for students every day. Click here to check it out.

Do you have a plan on when, where and which party primary you will choose to vote in when early voting begins on February 20? TRTA encourages you to make your plan now and add it to your calendar! Consider sharing your plan with other retirees, and encourage them to research candidates and to cast their ballot strategically by voting in the primary that will make the most difference for them and for TRTA’s legislative priorities.

Voter turnout in the Texas Primary Elections historically is very low. Considering the large number of active and retired educators in Texas, now is the time to have the most impact in the Texas election cycle!

Many TRTA members ask how to find the candidates who will support retiree and public education issues. Below are some great resources to help you determine where candidates stand. After doing your research, please share what you have learned with other retirees and use social media to remind fellow retirees and active educators in your district to vote!

TRTA does not endorse candidates for political office, but we encourage our members to be politically active and spread the word to active educators that the best time to impact education issues in the next legislative session is NOW. Do not miss the opportunity to vote in the Primary Election!

Resources to help you determine which candidates to support when you vote in the primary election:

  • https://apps.texastribune.org/2018-texas-primary-candidates/ The Texas Tribune is a non-profit news publication. This list contains all primary candidates for both parties.
  • http://www.vote411.org/ The Texas League of Women Voters site allows you to find your polling place, build a ballot based on where you live and vote, and includes a non-partisan voter guide on every candidate.
  • https://www.teachthevote.org/ The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) site is non-partisan, specific to education issues, and allows you to view candidates by legislative district as well as statewide candidates. The site includes voting records and candidate surveys on education issues.
  • https://www.texansforpubliceducation.com/ The Texans for Public Education website, and associated Facebook page, ranks candidates as friendly, unfriendly, or neutral regarding education and retirement issues.
  • http://www.txparentpac.com/ Texas Parent Pac’s website will feature endorsements as they are released in the coming weeks.

Candidates Themselves Are the BEST Resource!

If you’re not sure where a candidate stands, you should always feel like you can call and ask them! Reach out to candidates through their websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, email, and by phone. Always be courteous, and ask them to tell you where they stand on issues affecting Texas public education retirees and education issues in general. Maintain this communication with candidates throughout the election cycle and follow up with them. Start building that relationship now, so that when the legislative session begins again in 2019, you have established a connection with your legislator that will lead to productive conversations and solutions!

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30 Jan
0

TRS News and Primary Election Update

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) has heard from many members lately regarding changes to the TRS-Care retiree health insurance plan, as well as changes in monthly annuity amounts and IRS implications for tax returns. Below are some answers to the most frequently asked questions TRTA has received.

Annuity Letters

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) announced last week that all TRS members whose annuity amount will change this year due to new health care deductions will receive a letter by the end of January 2018 stating the new annuity amount and the amount deducted for health insurance.

Another letter will arrive in February reflecting changes in withholding amounts for federal taxes recently disseminated by the federal government. TRS has a dedicated phone line for questions specifically about these letters: 877.570.4192. Additional information about the two letters can be found online by clicking this link.

TRS-Care Grace Period

TRS is offering a grace period for TRS-Care participants who terminated health plan coverage but want to return to TRS-Care. Although the rule has been and remains that the decision to leave TRS-Care may only be reversed in certain limited, special enrollment events like marriage or birth, TRS has offered to allow members who were enrolled in 2017 and decided to leave the program a one-time chance to return.

In order to utilize this grace period, you must fill out an application and send it to TRS before February 28, 2018. Details are listed on the TRS website at this link.

Leaving TRS-Care

Medicare-eligible retirees are still under a special enrollment period with regard to guaranteed issue status and Medicare supplement (Medigap) policies. If you are a Medicare recipient and you were not enrolled in the 2017 Humana Medicare-Advantage tier two option (identical coverage as the current plan), you still have the option to enroll in a plan outside of TRS-Care under guaranteed issue status.

Guaranteed Issue Status means that you cannot be denied coverage in certain Medigap plans because of health problems because you lost your health care coverage through no fault of your own. This special enrollment period (SEP) applies only to 2017 TRS-Care Medicare-eligible enrollees who were not enrolled in the Humana plan mentioned above, and is available until March 4, 2018. Click here to view the TRS webpage with additional information.

Primary Election Update

We are less than a month away from the beginning of early voting in the Primary Election! Early voting begins on February 20, 2018 and continues through March 2. You must be registered to vote by February 5 in order to cast your ballot for this election. Please encourage all retired and active educators you know to verify their registration and be ready to cast their vote during early voting!

In Texas, the Primary Election is significant because more than 90 percent of the candidates who win their primary go on to win in the November General Election. Texas also is an open primary state. A registered voter does not have to choose a political party primary when registering. Voters are free to vote in either primary, and many people vote based on where their vote will count the most.

This option is a great freedom for Texans! Unfortunately, not many Texans take advantage of voting in any Primary Election, and by waiting until November, voters may give up the opportunity to affect the final outcome. This occurs because of the partisan make-up of the state and the way legislative districts are configured.

An excerpt from a Texas Educators Vote illustrates the point:

In the 2014 March Gubernatorial elections, 9.98 percent of registered voters voted in the Republican primary and 4.12 percent of registered voters voted in the Democratic primary. Those percentages aren’t even of eligible voters, but rather registered voters! The turnout among eligible voters is even lower! When it came time for the primary run-off elections in May, a mere 5.53 percent of registered voters participated in the Republican primary, and 1.48 percent of registered voters participated in the Democratic primary.”

With over 1 million active and retired educators in Texas, we have a fantastic opportunity to make our voice heard and push that low voter turnout percentage in a positive direction! Please make a plan to vote in the Primary Election and do your best to convince your active and retired colleagues to do the same. Let’s make a positive difference for Texas public educators!

Stay tuned for the first quarter issue of The VOICE, which will arrive in your mailbox in mid-February. This issue contains detailed information about the importance of voting and how to choose candidates who will support our priorities.

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22 Jan
0

Texas Retired Teachers Association Launches New Website

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) has launched its new website. One of the biggest features of the new website is its mobile compatibility, meaning that users will be more easily able to navigate the site using phones and tablets.

The site brings a fresh, exciting design to TRTA, and encourages member growth and engagement for both the state and local units. Another new feature on the site is an expansive calendar that includes local unit and district meetings. The meetings are currently listed up through May. If you do not see your local meetings posted, you can use this Google Form to submit meetings.

Another big change is the location of the TRTA member benefits. It is still possible to view what the benefits are under “Membership” and “Member Benefits,” but to access the discount codes and other benefit details, members must use the “Member Login” feature.

TRTA members who joined offline have a username that is their member ID number. The default TRTA member password is trta123. If you do not remember your username or password, you can use the “I don’t know my username or password” feature located under the member login. If you are still unable to find your username or password, you can email the TRTA membership department at membership@trta.org.

For local unit officers, the TRTA forms have been moved under the “Membership tab” and are titled “Member Resources.” Similarly, the TRTA State Standing Committees are now located under the “About Us.”

We’d love to hear your feedback about the new site! Please share your thoughts with TRTA by sending an email to info@trta.org.

Thank You

The Inside Line is a free service of TRTA, provided to you to keep you informed on current issues and events that impact your life. If you value this service, please consider becoming a member of TRTA by clicking here. If you are already a member, thank you!

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