Blog

04 May
0

TRTA Action Alert-Still Time to Call and Email

TRTA Members Still Have Time to Call or Email
 
A vote on the House “fiscal matters” bill was postponed yesterday, but will come up today. HB 3639 is used to make state policy copacetic with the House version of the Texas budget. One of the provisions in this legislation, however, suggests a permanent DECREASE in state funding for the TRS-Care health insurance program.
 
State Representative Lance Gooden (R-Terrell) is working to resolve this situation. He is offering an amendment to HB 3639 that will make this reduced state contribution to TRS-Care a TEMPORARY, one biennium change. Representative Gooden is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and knows the hardships that retirees are currently facing due to no cost of living increases in 10 years.
 
TRTA has been informed that State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) also is working on an amendment to resolve the TRS-Care funding issue. Representative Villarreal is a long-time supporter of public education retirees and a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
 
Representatives Gooden and Villarreal are working with TRTA to ensure this situation is not used to create a new, permanent funding requirement for TRS-Care.
 
TRTA members are encouraged to call their legislators using the TRTA “Call Your Legislator Hotline” (1-888-674-3788) and ask them to “support the Gooden and Villarreal amendments on HB 3639 to protect TRS health care” (sorry, there are no bill numbers for amendments to HB 3639). If you are not sure who your state representative is, please click here(http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us).
 
In addition, please send an email in support of the Gooden and Villarreal Amendments by clicking here.
 
Thank you for your help! We will keep you posted on this important amendment.
 
The Texas Senate will take up their version of the budget today. TRTA is working closely with Senators and asking them to support efforts by Senators Robert Duncan and Steve Ogden to provide higher funding for the TRS-Care program and the TRS pension Trust fund. Senator Duncan’s proposal is designed to keep TRS-Care premiums from increasing by as much as 80 percent. In addition, the proposal restores over $100 million in funding to the TRS pension trust fund.
 
This is a busy week with floor action in the House and budget work in the Senate. This may not be the last “Action Alert” this week. Your contributions are appreciated more than we can say.

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03 May
0

TRTA Action Alert May 3, 2011

TRTA Action Alert
 
TRTA Members Urged to Call House Members
 
The Texas House will take up a “fiscal matters” bill today. HB 3639 is used to make state policy copacetic with the House version of the Texas budget. One of the provisions in this legislation, however, suggests a permanent DECREASE in state funding for the TRS-Care health insurance program.
 
As you know, the current state contribution required by Texas statute is 1 percent of the aggregate active teacher payroll. The Texas House passed a budget reducing the TRS-Care contribution to .5 percent of the aggregate active teacher payroll.
 
While TRTA is still working to restore the funding to TRS-Care in the Texas Senate, the House is now voting on the language to make statute in compliance with their budget. HB 3639 is written with language that would permanently change the TRS-Care contribution from 1 percent to .5 percent.
 
TRTA does not support the reduction of TRS-Care funding from 1 percent to .5 percent. While this position is unchanged, we also must make clear that a permanent reduction in state obligation to this vital health insurance program must NOT be instituted.
 
State Representative Lance Gooden (R-Terrell) is working to resolve this situation. He is offering an amendment to HB 3639 that will make this reduced state contribution to TRS-Care a TEMPORARY, one biennium change. Representative Gooden is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and knows the hardships that retirees are currently facing due to no cost of living increases in 10 years.
 
TRTA has been informed that State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) also is working on an amendment to resolve the TRS-Care funding issue. Representative Villarreal is a long-time supporter of public education retirees and a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
 
Representatives Gooden and Villarreal are working with TRTA to ensure this situation is not used to create a new, permanent funding requirement for TRS-Care.
 
TRTA members are encouraged to call their legislators using the TRTA “Call Your Legislator Hotline” (1-888-674-3788) and ask them to “support the Gooden and Villarreal amendments on HB 3639 to protect TRS health care” (sorry, there are no bill numbers for amendments to HB 3639). If you are not sure who your state representative is, please click here(http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us).
 
In addition, please send an email in support of the Gooden and Villarreal Amendments by clicking here.
 
Thank you for your help! We will keep you posted. This is a busy week with floor action in the House and budget work in the Senate. This may not be the last “Action Alert” this week. Your contributions are appreciated more than we can say.

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29 Apr
0

TRTA Legislative Update Week End April 29, 2011

TRTA Updates: Comptroller Security Breach, Legislative Progress, and Budget Slow Down

TRTA members reported that the CSIdentity website created to enroll TRS and other state workers/pensioners into a free credit monitoring program was having technical difficulties. A data field on the web enrollment form was not accepting information even though it was correctly entered. This resulted in the user being kicked out of the enrollment process. TRTA reported this issue to the Comptroller’s office and it is now reported to be resolved after some re-programming of the site.

In addition, TRTA members have asked questions about the call center made available for people who have not been able to enroll successfully in the program online or for those who prefer to do so over the phone. The call center is staffed by agents working for CSIdentity. While the initial call may be answered by an operator, TRTA has been advised that the people enrolling individuals into the free credit monitoring program do work for CSIdentity.

The call center can only process so many calls a day. Due to the large volume of calls, individuals may hear a busy signal or may be on hold for 8 to 10 minutes before speaking with an agent. If you are willing to enroll online, but were not successful earlier today, you may want to try again this weekend since the programming issues have been reported as resolved. If you choose to call in with your enrollment, please be prepared to hold or return the call if you are unable to reach an agent.

As of 4:30 this afternoon, CSIdentity reported enrolling just over 15,000 individuals.

A number of TRTA members have asked if they can cancel with Experian or with CSIdentity if they purchased a program before the free CSIdentity program was announced. TRTA has been advised that both Experian and CSIdentity offer cancellation policies and individuals should contact the company they purchased the program from for more information.

The “fee-based” program offered through CSIdentity does offer additional service/protection options that the “free program” does not. These services include: criminal records monitoring, public records monitoring, payday loan monitoring, sex offender monitoring, change of address monitoring and $10,000 worth of insurance.  Many TRTA members may not need or want the additional protections, and cancellation of the fee-based service is an option to consider.

TRTA will continue to ask questions and provide information in an effort to make this enrollment process easier and faster. Thank you for your feedback today.

Please be advised that as of right now there is no mass mailing or other communication plan underway to inform people about the free credit monitoring program available through CSIdentity. You may want to advise your family, friends, fellow retirees and colleagues about this service.

Information on the free CSIdentity credit monitoring program is available by clicking here.

News from the Legislature

A number of TRS bills moved out of committee yesterday and today. TRTA wants to thank Chairwoman Vicki Truitt for her efforts to move these bills through the legislative process.

  • HB 3542 by Representative Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) that authorizes TRS to use investment earnings above 8 percent to provide TRS retirees with a supplemental payment passed out of the House Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services Committee yesterday. The vote was not unanimous, but it did pass 8-1 (Chair Truitt, Yes; Vice Chair Anchia, Yes; Anderson, Yes; Creighton, Yes; Hernandez-Luna, Yes; Legler, No; Nash, Yes; Orr, Yes; Veasey, Yes). TRTA will work with the House Calendars Committee and the House leadership to get this bill to the House floor for a vote as quickly as possible.
  • HB 3353 by Chairwoman Truitt (R-Southlake) allows a retiree to return to work after 12 consecutive months in retirement. The bill’s intent is to simplify the current retirement rules, which are onerous and complicated. This legislation does not impact the surcharge assessed in hiring a retiree, and does not have a fiscal impact on the TRS fund.
  • HB 2120 by Representative Doug Miller (R-New Braunfels) modifies the TRS Board of Trustee position dedicated to a representative from higher education to become a position that is “open” to any member of TRS. This change makes it possible for a wider array of candidates to run for the trustee position and encourages a broader level of interest in the board election.
  • HB 3747 by Representative McClendon (D-San Antonio) allows for the direct election of the TRS member trustees.

Senate Budget Debate

The Texas Senate is still planning to debate its version of the Texas budget. TRTA will keep you posted on the progress and how it may impact the funding for the TRS trust fund and the TRS-Care health insurance fund.

Thank you for your help this week. With only a few weeks left in the regular session, we will all be working hard to ensure that retirees are not forgotten this session.

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