08 Jul 2021

Special Session Bills Proposing Benefit Enhancements Filed, SB 7 to Be Heard in Committee Tomorrow!

As members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) may have read in an Inside Line posted recently, the special session of the 87th Legislature began today. Included in Governor Greg Abbott’s proclamation of agenda items is a benefit enhancement for Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) retirees, in the form of a supplemental payment, or “thirteenth check.”

Several bills already have been filed to address TRS issues. Senate Bill 7, filed by longtime supporter Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston), 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. Its companion bill in the House, HB 85, filed by Representative Glenn Rogers (R – Mineral Wells), does the same.

NOTE: SB 7 is scheduled for a committee hearing in Senate Finance tomorrow, July 9 at 1:00 p.m. TRTA members will be able to view the meeting online from this website.

In a press release, Senator Huffman stated that “approximately 96% of public education employees not covered by Social Security,” adding that TRS is their “sole source of their retirement income.”
“It is vital that the State of Texas continue to provide sufficient retirement benefits to these dedicated public servants,” Huffman said. “We can never truly repay our retired public education employees, but I am hopeful that this supplemental payment will help.”

House Bill 120, filed by Representative Drew Darby (R – San Angelo), and House Bill 159, filed by 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 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.

TRTA is focusing the Legislature on your needs and concerns. TRTA leaders and staff will be at the Capitol working for you every day during the special session.

The window to pass any benefit enhancement for retirees is small, as special sessions are limited to a maximum of 30 days, though no minimum number of days is imposed. Once the Governor’s priority bills are considered, the special session could end at any time.

TRTA is forging ahead to get the best benefit enhancement possible for retired educators. Our public education retirees have the support of many Texas legislators!

TRTA will always advocate for maintaining and improving the TRS defined benefit pension plan, ensuring it is there for you and for all current active educators. TRS continues to benefit from the increased contributions from the state. We must do all we can to protect and improve the TRS pension fund for decades to come.

For the next 30 days (or less), we will fight to ensure this opportunity to give retirees some relief does not pass us by. Additional information about special sessions can be found here.

TRS Sells Indeed Tower Space, Is Let Out of Lease Obligations

TRTA members were very concerned about the high profile Indeed Tower investment that has been in the news since late 2019. Now, TRS has released a statement saying they have sold the building. Please see the news release online here.

TRTA expects to hear an update about this situation and the potential gains that TRS may have received from this investment at the next TRS Board of Trustees meeting, which occurs July 15 and 16.

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

We know that many members also want an update on the important work TRTA is leading on the GPO and WEP. As you may know, TRTA is working on the issue with an increased sense of urgency knowing that our good friend and long-time champion, Congressman Kevin Brady, is retiring at the end of his current term in office.

The WEP and GPO are TRTA’s highest federal legislative priorities. Our work in Washington, D.C. and with our national partners is moving quickly. We expect more updates as the summer progresses.

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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07 Jul 2021

TRTA Breaking News: Abbott Adds Thirteenth Check for TRS Annuitants to Special Session Agenda

Today, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation to call a special session of the 87th Legislature. The session will convene on Thursday, July 8 at 10:00 a.m.

Here is the link to Gov. Abbott’s proclamation. The proclamation includes a list of agenda items that will be addressed.

Members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) will be happy to know that, per the proclamation, “legislation similar to House Bill 3507 . . . relating to a ‘thirteenth check’ or supplemental payment of benefits under the Teacher Retirement System of Texas” has been added to the list of special session priorities.

As our members may recall, TRTA asked Gov. Abbott to add a benefit enhancement for retirees to the call. Bills that were filed during the regular 87th Legislative Session to provide a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) or other benefit enhancement failed to pass.

A letter composed by TRTA President Leroy DeHaven in June stated that “members of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) who retired after September 1, 2004, have never seen an increase in their retirement checks. Seventeen years is too long for retired educators to go without a meaningful benefit enhancement! A raise is long overdue. Inflation is on the rise, and the only way retired educators will receive help is if the Legislature takes action.”

TRTA is very pleased to hear this news, and we are working to ensure TRS retirees receive the best possible benefit increase.

Please stay tuned to the Inside Line for information about bills that are filed and urgent Action Alerts that will be needed on this vital issue! 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 Jun 2021

TRTA to Provide Testimony on WEP Reform

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is advocating on behalf of retired educators to reform the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Tomorrow at 1 p.m. Central, there will be a meeting of the U.S. Ways and Means Committee, which manages Social Security issues. The meeting will be available to watch here.

TRTA’s legislative committee member for District 4, Mary Widmier, will be testifying to the Ways and Means Committee. She will be sharing her story about being negatively impacted by the WEP. She worked for 36 years as an educator in Texas and 21 years in the private sector.

The WEP is an unfair federal provision preventing retirees from receiving the Social Security benefits they are owed. The WEP, which took effect in 1983, provides a means of eliminating the “windfall” of Social Security benefits received by beneficiaries who also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security.

The WEP is particularly harmful to many retired Texas educators. Ninety-five percent of Texas public school employees do not pay into Social Security through their work with Texas schools. However, many have other jobs before, during, or after their employment in education in which they do pay into the federal program.

TRTA has partnered with the Mass Retirees to form the Public Retirees Alliance. The goal of the Public Retirees Alliance is the reform the WEP, and the help get retirees back the money that they earned during their careers.

TRTA is working closely with Rep. Kevin Brady (R – TX) on reforming the WEP. Brady serves as the co-chair for the Ways and Means committee, and his support is significant towards making progress on this issue.

Rep. Richard Neal (D – MA) serves as the chair of the Ways and Means committee. His bill, H.R. 2337, proposes to provide relief to current and future retirees.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow at 1 p.m. Central to watch Widmier’s testimony to the Ways and Means Committee.

Thank You

The TRTA membership drive is underway for the coming 2021-22 membership year. No other group focuses solely on your TRS retirement security! Please join us today!

Thank you for being a member of TRTA and supporting issues that affect retired Texas public school personnel. Be sure to download the TRTA app to receive all of the latest updates and communicate with your fellow retirees.

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