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03 Feb
0

TRTA Prepares for TRS-Care Billion Dollar Funding Crisis

TRS RAC and TRS Board Meetings Offer Insight and Opportunity for Feedback

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) will host its TRS-Care Retiree Advisory Committee (RAC) today (February 3). This group of retired and active school employees receives information about the condition of the TRS-Care plan and provides feedback to TRS about member sentiment and involvement.

Today’s TRS RAC meeting is the first step in a long progression of actions that will lead up to the next legislative session. The importance of TRS-Care in the next legislative session cannot be understated.

TRTA will be in attendance for this important meeting and will provide feedback to our members. We expect to hear updates about the condition of the TRS-Care plan, as well as information from TRS staff about how the TRS Board will respond to retiree input over the coming months.

One of the first opportunities for public feedback on the impending TRS-Care funding crisis will be at next week’s TRS Board of Trustees meeting.

TRS Board Retreat Set for Next Week

Next week’s meeting of the Board of Trustees for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) will take place in Corpus Christi February 12-14. TRTA staff and board officers will be in attendance. The meeting will be broadcast live via webcast and TRTA will provide a link on its Facebook page.

The meeting will include a Town Hall event on February 12 during which the TRS Board will invite comments, questions and suggestions from those in attendance and those who send emails about the TRS-Care health insurance program.

Members, please be aware that this discussion is one of vital importance. If you are a TRS retiree or you will be, and you participate or plan to participate in this retiree health insurance program, we need your help.

The health care plan will have a serious funding shortfall in the coming legislative session, to the tune of $1 billion! We know the crisis is coming. We have 2014 to rally every TRS retiree and future retiree together to help maintain this vital health care coverage.

The TRS Board meeting presents a chance for our voices to be heard as the board considers various options for maintaining the plan. This sustainability study will provide the Texas Legislature with feedback that will impact how your insurance plan will change in the near future.

In November, we learned from TRS that TRS-Care will need reform, possibly in the form of increased revenues, increased retiree premiums, benefit reductions, or a combination of factors. Right now, retiree premiums account for 34.2% of the cost of TRS-Care. Contributions from the state account for 23.2%.

Many of our members ask why TRS-Care is experiencing significant financial issues. Although the new Aetna Medicare Advantage plan introduced in 2013 created some cost savings for TRS-Care, it has not been enough to overcome the cost drivers of the plan. The most significant cost driver of TRS-Care is the non-Medicare eligible category of participants. The cost for those participants is about 12 times as much as Medicare participants. Other drivers include increased prescription and medical costs, as well as increased utilization of the plans due to aging population.

The Medicare Advantage plan has about 70% of those eligible to participate using the plan, which is about 80,000 people. Participation in the Medicare Part D prescription plan is at about 83%.

What can you do to help?

You can help TRTA by emailing us your questions, concerns and suggestions about TRS-Care. Send an email to info@trta.org with the subject line “TRS-Care” and give us your feedback! As we mentioned above, TRS will review ALL options when conducting their study: increased revenues, increased retiree premiums, benefit reductions, or a combination of factors. Let us know what avenues you think TRS should pursue and why, and what avenues you as a plan participant are able or not able to follow and why.

Don’t forget to watch the TRS Board meeting live online next week! TRTA will provide a link to the live broadcast from its Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/TRTA-Texas-Retired-Teachers-Association/126989714019649). If you do not follow our Facebook page already, please do so! TRTA provides frequent updates about issues pertaining to your retirement benefits as well as information about other pension plans across the nation.

Thank you for being a member of TRTA. If you are not a member and are interested in becoming one, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650.

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29 Jan
0

TRTA Voter Health Series Recap and Open Seats in the Texas Legislature

Last week, the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) featured a series of articles through the Inside Line about how our members can achieve Good Voter Health! As we head into the primary election season, it is important for our members to be informed and active.

Most political races in Texas are determined DURING THE PRIMARY ELECTION, not the November General Election! While it is important to vote in ALL elections, many voters do not make it to the polls for the Primary Election. Last week, TRTA stressed that our members put early voting for the primary election on their schedules. Remember, because so few people vote in the primary election, EVERY VOTE COUNTS EXPONENTIALLY. Your vote WILL make a difference!

Please keep this in mind: this is NOT a marathon, it’s a sprint! The starting gun has sounded. We must act NOW. We have only until March 4 to make sure that we protect the interests of our members in the Texas Legislature.

Important highlights from last week include:

  1. Be sure you, your family members, friends and fellow retirees are registered to vote! Check the following link from the Texas Secretary of State website to determine your voter registration status: https://team1.sos.state.tx.us/voterws/viw/faces/SearchSelectionVoter.jsp
  2. Determine who your candidates are! Check the Texas Tribune Elections Bracket here: http://www.texastribune.org/2014/elections/brackets/
  3. Do this IMPORTANT TASK: Ask your candidates three vital questions about TRS:
  • Do you support a defined benefit plan for all current and future TRS retirees?
  • Do you support providing reasonable, affordable healthcare for TRS retirees?
  • What will you do as my legislator to ensure that the TRS pension fund and TRS–Care health insurance program are preserved and improved?
  1. Consider other ways you can get involved in the political process and support your candidate of choice. Call your candidate’s campaign office and see how you can help! If your candidate wins, they will absolutely remember your help when the legislature convenes!!
  2. Share information with your fellow retirees about what you have learned from your candidates. Do they support sustaining the TRS defined benefit plan? Let TRTA know and let your friends know as well! If you have not connected with a candidate, CONNECT WITH YOUR FELLOW TRTA MEMBERS IN A LOCAL UNIT AND ASK THEM WHO THEY ARE VOTING FOR AND WHY! TRTA local unit information can be found here: http://localunits.org/LocalUnitDirectory/
  3. Above all, VOTE IN THE PRIMARY ELECTION. Don’t wait until March 4 to vote. Schedule a day between February 18 and 28 to VOTE EARLY. Remember, when you vote early, you do NOT have to vote in your precinct. You may vote at any location convenient for you within your county. Review early voting locations in your area here: http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/county.shtml

Open Seats in the Texas Legislature
Last week, we reviewed several contested Texas Senate and House races that TRTA is following closely. It is very important if you live in an area where a contested race is taking place that you vote during the Primary Election! To review the list of contested races, please read our Voter Health Series Day 5 here: https://trta.org/index.cfm/legislation/legislative-updates/trta-good-voter-health-series-day-5.

Today, we are reviewing several races in which the Texas Senate or House seat is OPEN. This means that a new Senator or Representative will be serving the area because the former Senator or Representative resigned, retired or chose not to run for the office again.

This also means that the candidates NEED INFORMATION about TRS! Whoever wins the open seat likely will have a steep learning curve, and it is up to us to educate them on the issues that matter most to us!

If you live in one of the areas where there is an open seat, please get in contact with all candidates and ask them the questions we listed above and offer to provide them with information about TRS. We have included a link to a map for each district. If you are not sure if you reside in the district listed, review the map or use the Texas Legislature website (http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx).

Please also remember that when more than one candidate is running on the same party ticket, this will be a “contested” race in the Primary Election. It is VITAL that you get in touch with all candidates and determine their stance on issues relating to TRS. In fairness, we have also listed all other candidates for a position whether or not the candidate faces a Primary challenger. These uncontested candidates WILL face the Primary winners in November.

Open Seats: Texas Senate
Senate District 4 (map: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/Icons/Dist_Maps/Dist4_Map.pdf)
Formerly served by Senator Tommy Williams

Gordy Bunch (R)
Brandon Creighton (R)
Steve Toth (R)

Senate District 7 (map: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/Icons/Dist_Maps/Dist7_Map.pdf)
Presently served by Senator Dan Patrick

Paul Bettencourt (R)
James Wilson (R)
Jim Davis (D)
Whitney Bilyeu (L)

Senate District 8 (map: http://www.candacenoble.com/sd8.pdf)
Presently served by Senator Ken Paxton

Scott Jameson (L)
Van Taylor (R)

Senate District 10 (map: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/icons/Dist_Maps/Dist10_Map.pdf)
Presently served by Senator Wendy Davis

Tony Pompa (R)
Jon Schweitzer (R)
Mark Shelton (R)
Mark Skinner (R)
Konni Burton (R)
George Boll (D)
Mike Martinez (D)
Libby Willis (D)
Gene Lord (L)
Gene Woodward, III (L)
John Tunmire (G)

Open Seats: Texas House
House District 10 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist10/m1.pdf)
Presently served by Representative Jim Pitts

Duke Burge (R)
Jake Ellzey (R)
T.J. Fabby (R)
John Wray (R)

House District 15 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist15/m1.pdf)
Presently served by Representative Steve Toth

Mark Keough (R)
Bruce Tough (R)

House District 16 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist16/m1.pdf)
Presently served by Representative Brandon Creighton

Duane Ham (R)
Gary Louie (R)
Will Metcalf (R)
Jason Milsaps (R)
Ted Seago (R)
Steve Simonsen (R)
Michael Hayles, Sr. (D)
Bob Townsend (L)

House District 21 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist21/m1.pdf)
Presently served by Representative Allan Ritter

Judy Nichols (R)
Dade Phelan (R)
Gavin Bruney (D)
Antonio Diaz (G)

House District 23 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist23/m1.pdf)
Presently served by Representative Craig Eiland.

Wayne Faircloth (R)
Bob Senter (R)
Susan Criss (D)

House District 50 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist50/m1.pdf)
Formerly served by Representative Mark Strama who vacated the seat through a resignation. Celia Israel won a run-off election yesterday and she will fill this seat for the remainder of Strama’s term which ends in November. The candidates listed below will also be on the ballot during the Primary Election and November General Election.

Mike VanDeWalle (R)
Celia Israel (D)
David Dreesen (L)

House District 53 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist53/m1.pdf)
Presently served by Representative Harvey Hilderbran

Karen Harris (R)
Rob Henneke (R)
Andrew S. Murr (R)
Tink Nathan (R)
Wayne Ramsey (R)
B.W. Holk (L)
Maximilian Martin (L)

House District 58 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist58/m1.pdf)
Presently served by Representative Rob Orr

DeWayne Burns (R)
Phillip Eby (R)
Lyndon Laird (R)
Henry W. Teich (R)
Greg A. Kauffman (D)
Jesse Pistokache, Jr. (L)

House District 66 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist66/m1.pdf)
Presently served by Representative Van Taylor

Glenn Callison (R)
Stacy Chen (R)
Matt Shaheen (R)
Ian Santorella (L)

House District 81 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist81/m1.pdf)
Presently served by Representative Tryon D. Lewis

Austin R. Keith (R)
Brooks Landgraf (R)

House District 108 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist108/m1.pdf)
Presently served by Representative  Dan Branch

Court Alley (R)
Morgan Meyer (R)
Chart Wescott (R)
Leigh Bailey (D)

House District 129 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist129/m1.pdf)
Presently served by Representative John E. Davis

Sheryl Berg (R)
Briscoe Cain (R)
Mary Huls (R)
Jeff Larson (R)
Chuck Maricle (R)
Dennis Paul (R)
Brent Perry (R)
John Gay (D)

House District 132 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist132/m1.pdf)
Presently served by Representative  Bill Callegari

Michael Franks (R)
Ann Hodge (R)
Justin D. Perryman (R)
Mark Schofield (R)
Luiz Lopez (D)

Please help us get the word out about the races listed above if you live in an area with an open seat election, and tell your fellow retirees, family members and friends to get out and VOTE February 18-28 or on March 4! Your vote is essential!

Remember, if the district where you live is predominately Republican, you may vote in the Republican Primary and still vote as a Democrat in November. Likewise, if you live in a predominately Democratic district, you may vote in the Democratic Primary and still vote as a Republican in November. (If you do not want your Voter Registration Card stamped with a party label, simply present your Texas Driver’s License or a valid government photo ID).

Please know that if you vote in a Primary Election for one party and a run-off election for that position occurs, you can vote only in the run-off of the SAME PARTY for which you voted in the Primary. However, you may vote for any candidate you wish in the General Election.

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! If you are not a member and are interested in joining, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650.

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24 Jan
0

TRTA “Good Voter Health” Series: Day 5

Day 5: The Key Races

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) ends its “Good Voter Health” series today with an important strategic article about high profile contested races in Texas. As we mentioned in Day 2 of our series, TRTA does not endorse candidates for political office. It is vital, however, that our members research the candidates in their area and ask them tough questions about the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), the defined benefit plan, and the TRS-Care health insurance program.

To locate the candidates running for office in your area, we recommend the Texas Tribune Elections Bracket located here: http://www.texastribune.org/2014/elections/brackets/.

There are several key races that TRTA is following closely this primary season. Most legislative elections are decided during the primaries and not during the November general election. For this reason, we encourage all of our members to VOTE early in February (18-28) or on March 4.

If you live in an area where some of these key races are taking place, it is very important that you get in touch with the candidates and find out their answers to the following questions, and it is absolutely VITAL that you VOTE in the primaries:

  • Do you support a defined benefit plan for all current and future TRS retirees?
  • Do you support providing reasonable, affordable healthcare for TRS retirees?
  • What will you do as my legislator to ensure that the TRS pension fund and TRS–Care health insurance program are preserved and improved?

As we mentioned in yesterday’s series (Day 4), TRTA is often asked by its members: Who should I vote for? Although TRTA does not endorse candidates for political office, we strongly encourage our members to talk to each other and ask the following: Who are you voting for and why?

Your fellow retirees may be your best resource in helping you determine which candidate may be more favorable to issues impacting the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). Now is the time to have these important conversations with each other and to learn more about the candidates! TALK TO EACH OTHER! Share information!

Whether or not we endorse candidates, we MUST be involved in the political process. Our organization’s success depends upon our involvement! Our members’ lifetime of educating others did not end in the classroom, and continues as we educate candidates about the TRS pension fund and TRS-Care health insurance program.

Key Contested Races

Please note that we have first listed the incumbent in each district and the same party candidate(s) that the incumbent faces in the primary election (this is the contested race). In fairness, we have also listed candidates of other parties that are running for the same seat whether or not they face a challenger. During the general election in November, the candidate who wins the contested race and the other party candidate(s) will face each other.

We have included a link to a map for each district. If you are not sure if you reside in the district listed, review the map or use the Texas Legislature website (http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx) to determine your district.

High Profile Contested House Races
Texas House District 8 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist8/m1.pdf)
Incumbent Byron Cook (R) is facing two Republican challengers in the primary, Charles E. Morgan and Bobby Vickery. (Libertarian John Wilford is also running for this seat).

Texas House District 12 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist12/m1.pdf)
Incumbent Kyle Kacal (R) is facing Republican challenger Timothy Delasandro in the primary.

Texas House District 18 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist18/m1.pdf)
Incumbent John Otto (R) is facing Republican challenger Terry Holland in the primary.

Texas House District 55 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist55/m1.pdf)
Incumbent Ralph Sheffield (R) is facing Republican challenger Molly S. White in the primary.

Texas House District 59 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist59/m1.pdf)
Incumbent J.D. Sheffield (R) is facing Republican challengers Danny Pelton and Howard Ray in the primary.

Texas House District 60 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist60/m1.pdf)
Incumbent Jim Keffer (R) is facing Republican challenger Cullen Crisp in the primary.

Texas House District 71 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist71/m1.pdf)
Incumbent Susan King (R) is facing Republican challenger Isaac M. Castro in the primary.

Texas House District 72 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist72/m1.pdf)
Incumbent Drew Darby (R) is facing Republican challenger Shannon Thomasen in the primary.

Texas House District 79 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist79/m1.pdf)
Incumbent Joe Pickett (D) is facing Democratic challenger Chuck Peartree in the primary. (Libertarian Stephen Shaw is also running for this seat).

Texas House District 92 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist92/m1.pdf)
Incumbent Jonathan Stickland (R) is facing Republican challenger Andy Cargile in the primary. (Libertarian Tina Penney is also running for this seat).

Texas House District 94 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist94/m1.pdf)
Incumbent Diane Patrick (R) is facing Republican challenger Tony Tinderholt in the primary. (Democrat Cole Ballweg and Libertarian Robert Harris are also running for this seat).

Texas House District 105 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist105/m1.pdf)
Incumbent Linda Harper-Brown (R) is facing Republican challenger Rodney Anderson in the primary. Three Democratic candidates are also running for this seat and face each other in the primary: Terry Meza, Bernice Montgomery and Susan Motley. (Libertarian W. Carl Spiller is also running for this seat).

Texas House District 115 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist115/m1.pdf)
Incumbent Bennett Ratliff (R) is facing Republican challenger Matt Rinaldi in the primary. (Democrat Paul Stafford and Libertarian Kim Kelley are also running for this seat).

Texas House District 121 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist121/m1.pdf)
Incumbent Joe Straus (R) is facing Republican challenger Matt Beebe in the primary. (Libertarian Jeff Caruthers is also running for this seat).

Texas House District 131 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist131/m1.pdf)
Incumbent Alma Allen (D) is facing Democratic challenger Azuwuike Okorafor in the primary.

Texas House District 134 (map: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist134/m1.pdf)
Incumbent Sarah Davis (R) is facing Republican challenger Bonnie Parker in the primary. (Democrat Alison Ruff is also running for this seat).

High Profile Contested Senate Races
Texas Senate District 2 (map: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/Icons/Dist_Maps/Dist2_Map.pdf)
Incumbent Robert Deuell (R) is facing Republican challengers Bob Hall and Mark Thompson in the primary. (Libertarian Don Bates is also running for this seat).

Texas Senate District 15 (map: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/Icons/Dist_Maps/Dist15_Map.pdf)
Incumbent John Whitmire (D) is facing Democratic challenger Damian LaCrox in the primary. (Republican Ron Hale and Libertarian Gilberto Velasquez, Jr. are also running for this seat).

Texas Senate District 16 (map: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/Icons/Dist_Maps/Dist16_Map.pdf)
Incumbent John Carona (R) is facing Republican challenger Donald Huffines in the primary. (Libertarian Mike Dooling is also running for this seat).

Texas Senate District 31 (map: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/Icons/Dist_Maps/Dist31_Map.pdf)
Incumbent Kel Seliger (R) is facing Republican challenger Mike Canon in the primary. (Libertarian Steven Gibson is also running for this seat).

Voting Records

Many of our members are interested in learning more about the voting records of incumbents. This information is available online. The bill most closely followed by TRTA members in 2013 was Senate Bill 1458, the TRS Actuarial Soundness Bill. To review the record votes on this bill, please visit the Texas Legislature website (http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/). The budget bill, SB 1, is also a good record vote to review to determine which legislators voted to pass the state budget, which included the appropriations necessary to achieve actuarial soundness for TRS.

If you have any questions about these high profile races, please contact TRTA at info@trta.org or 1.800.880.1650. Remember, you can view ALL races for the Texas Senate and House online using the Texas Tribune Elections bracket found here: http://www.texastribune.org/2014/elections/brackets.

Tell Everyone You Know!

Please help us get the word out about the races listed above if you live in an area with a high profile election, and tell your fellow retirees, family members and friends to get out and VOTE February 18-28 or on March 4! Usually, if a candidate does not win the “early vote,” they don’t win the overall vote in the primary.

We hope we have expressed the significance of voting in the primaries over the past several days. Please keep this in mind: this is NOT a marathon, it’s a sprint! The starting gun has sounded. We must act NOW. We have only until March 4 to make sure that we protect the interests of our members in the Texas Legislature.

We hope you have enjoyed and benefitted from our “Good Voter Health” series and are prepared to VOTE during the primary election! Your vote in the 2014 primary election is VITAL! Next week, we will review races that have open seats, meaning a new Senator or Representative WILL serve in that district beginning in 2015.

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! If you are not a member and are interested in joining, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650.

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