12 Mar 2013

TRTA Action Alert: Day at the Capitol!

TRTA Action Alert: Day at the Capitol!

Invite Your Legislator to Participate in TRTA Day at the Capitol—Click Here!

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is looking forward to next Wednesday March 20, when nearly 1,000 retired public school personnel will meet at the Texas Capitol!  TRTA’s Day at the Capitol event is sure to be a fun-filled, informative and exciting day for all who attend.

We need your help to let legislators and their staff members know that we will be there on March 20!  Legislators and staff members may want the opportunity to meet with you, join you for ice cream on the east lawn, or have a photo taken with you!

Please use this email action alert to invite your legislators to TRTA Day at the Capitol. Click here to send an email to your legislators!

For those of you attending the event, here are the top 10 things you should know!

  1. Please dress comfortably, paying special attention to your footwear.  The Capitol is a very large building and you will do a lot of walking on March 20.
  2. TRTA MEMBERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO WEAR RED! This is the color we have used in previous sessions, and it makes us instantly recognizable.
  3. Buses coming to the event MUST unload passengers on the east side of the Texas Capitol on Brazos Street.  Buses may park along Trinity Street near the Capitol garages after dropping off TRTA members.
  4. 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).
  5. Quicker entry into the Capitol is available for persons who have a concealed handgun license. Please use the CHL line if you have your license with you on March 20.
  6. TRTA will provide Day at the Capitol participants with all necessary materials and a tote bag. Please bring as little as you need to get through the day.
  7. TRTA is not providing a lunch for the event. The Capitol Grill is the ONLY lunch facility on the Capitol grounds and it is often crowded. The grill offers a wide selection of modestly priced items, including pre-packaged sandwiches for quick meals on-the-go. The grill is located on floor E1.
  8. If your district or local attendees plan to arrive earlier and would like to schedule meetings with legislators before the recognitions occur in the chambers, please feel free to make these visits. It is important to know, however, that all TRTA members should try to enter the House or Senate galleries at least 30 minutes before the session begins (the House convenes at 10:00 a.m. and the Senate at 11:00 a.m.)
  9. TRTA is hosting an old-fashioned ice cream social on the Capitol’s east lawn. Please invite your legislators and their staff to attend. The ice cream social begins at 12:30 p.m.
  10. TRTA will have a staff photographer available in the Historic Old Supreme Court Room between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to take pictures of TRTA members and their legislators. Please tell your legislators what time you plan to be there and ask if they will stop by and have their picture taken with you. One BIG piece of advice is to give the legislator (or staffer) in advance a list of all persons who will be there!

Schedule of events

8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. Arrivals
8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. Legislator visits (for those who have scheduled them)
9:30 a.m. Arrive in the House Gallery for recognition (Third Floor West)
10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Photo ops with legislators in the Old Supreme Court Room (Third Floor North)
10:30 a.m. Arrive in the Senate Gallery for recognition (Third Floor East)
11:30 a.m. Continue legislator visits (for those who have scheduled them)
12:00 p.m. Rally on the East Lawn (TRTA tent)
12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. Ice cream social on the East Lawn
1:00 p.m.-? Additional legislator visits and departures


For those of you who are unable to attend, we will provide another email action alert that you can send the day before the event!

Thank you for your dedication and for being a member of TRTA!

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08 Mar 2013

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 2013

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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