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19 Feb
0

TRS Board to Meet Thursday, Will Discuss Downtown Building Lease

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees will meet this week on Thursday, February 20 and Friday, February 21. On Thursday, the Board plans to hear public testimony and additional information about the decision-making process that led TRS to lease space in a downtown high-rise office building known as the “Indeed Tower.”

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) will attend the meeting and provide a statement. TRTA members and friends may view the TRS meetings online using the links below. It is vital that our members view the meeting on Thursday morning, as this is when trustees are expected to hear from various educator stakeholder groups and discuss options going forward regarding the building lease.

Click on the links below to view a live webcast of the TRS meetings (please note, the links will not be live until the meetings are called to order)

You can also view the planned meeting agenda by clicking the link below.

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18 Feb
0

Early Voting Begins Today, February 18!

Early voting for the Texas Primary Election begins today, Tuesday, February 18, 2020 and continues through Friday, February 28. Primary Election day is Tuesday, March 3.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) encourages all of our members, friends, and supporters to get out and vote and to vote early! Take a friend, family member, or colleague along with you.

Are You Registered?

You must be registered in order to vote in Texas. You can check online to see if you are currently registered to vote.

Where to Vote

Registered and eligible voters may vote at any early voting location located in the county they live in. Early voting locations will be populated on votetexas.org two days before the first day of early voting. All voters have to do is plug in their information in order to find polling locations.

On Election Day, March 3, things work a little differently. You will want to see if the county you live in participates in the Countywide Polling Place Program (CWPP). If your county does participate in CWPP, you can vote at any polling place in the county. If your county does not participate in CWPP, you can only vote at the polling place assigned to you.

When to Vote

During early voting, polling place hours vary at each early voting location. On Election Day, however, all polling places across Texas are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

What You Need to Vote

You need to have a form of identification when you go to cast your ballot. Here is a list of acceptable forms of photo identification:

  • Texas Driver License issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas Personal Identification Card issued by DPS
  • Texas Handgun License issued by DPS
  • United States Military Identification Card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States Citizenship Certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • United States Passport (book or card)

If you don’t have an acceptable form of photo identification, and cannot reasonably obtain one, you can bring one of the following in order to execute a “Reasonable Impediment Declaration:”

  • Copy or original of a government document that shows the voter’s name and an address, including the voter’s voter registration certificate
  • Copy of or original current utility bill
  • Copy of or original bank statement
  • Copy of or original government check
  • Copy of or original paycheck
  • Copy of or original of (a) a certified domestic (from a U.S. state or territory) birth certificate or (b) a document confirming birth admissible in a court of law which establishes the voter’s identity (which may include a foreign birth document)

Why Vote in the Primary Election?

Using our influence begins now, well ahead of the 87thLegislative Session that begins next January. This is the time when members of the Texas Legislature are most receptive to us! They want our vote and they need to know what our priorities are.

When I speak at retirement seminars, I ask non-members a simple question. “Do you think your retirement would be more secure if TRTA did not exist?” Most people offer a quick and resounding “NO!” You simply cannot leave your retirement security to chance with an ever–changing Legislature that is lobbied by many other organizations that want to change what you have earned.

Twenty years ago, the legislative landscape was far less crowded than it is today. Our association MUST increase its influence or we will hand the power over to those other groups that want TRS benefits reduced and do not care if you have retirement security. TRTA is not willing to leave that to chance!

What Can You Do to Ensure TRTA’s Success and Protect Your Own Retirement? 

You may think, “I’m just one person. What can I do that will really make a difference on issues that impact more than 400,000 people?” See the list below and help TRTA and your fellow retirees today!

  • VOTE and do it early! Encourage your friends and family members to vote in the Primary Election too and let them know that very few registered Texas voters show up at the polls in March.
  • Ask a friend to join TRTA! Better yet, give a TRTA membership to a friend as a gift. Visit www.trta.org/join to learn more.
  • Attend a local unit meeting. With 250 units across the state, a local unit is meeting near you and they are inviting political candidates to speak. Visit our local unit sites to locate one near you.
  • Research and meet the candidates running in your state House or Senate district.
  • Find your candidates on the Texas Tribune 2020 online March Primary Ballot: www.trta.org/2020ballot/.
  • Help promote a culture of voting in all Texas schools and get valuable non–partisan voter information about education issues from Texas Educators Vote at www.texaseducatorsvote.com.
  • Compare information about candidates running for office and where they stand on public education issues from Teach the Vote at www.teachthevote.org.

Share TRTA’s Legislative Priorities

Pension Fund Contributions Secure adequate contributions from the Legislature and stakeholders to meet the pension trust fund obligations and funding increases set to be phased in pursuant to Senate Bill 12 as passed by the 86th Texas Legislature in order to maintain a path to actuarial soundness for the TRS pension fund.
Cost-of-Living Adjustment Secure legislation to provide a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for all TRS annuitants.
Pension Fund Fairness Secure equal contributions for equal benefits from all employer stakeholder contributors to the pension fund (currently higher education employers pay less contribution per employee than school districts).
TRS-Care Benefits Provide for benefit improvements and lower out-of-pocket costs for TRS-Care participants and allow a one-time re-enrollment opportunity for any participant who has left the program since 2018.
TRS-Care Funding Advocate for increased base funding and a long-term funding strategy for TRS-Care insurance indexed to the projected cost of health insurance over time (similar to the ERS insurance funding for state employees).
Rules on Work After Retirement Reform and simplify employment after retirement statutes and rules to allow retirees to return to work full-time without penalties and modify the structure for half-time retirees dealing with minor return-to-work violations to allow for more fairness when dealing with unexpected circumstances.
TRS Sunset Review Work collaboratively with TRS through the sunset process to improve administrative and customer service functions of the agency with emphasis on meeting the needs of the retiree members.
Federal Offsets Reform the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) to eliminate unfair laws and rules affecting public servants who qualify for Social Security benefits.

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05 Feb
0

TRS Set to Testify to Senate and House About Office Lease, Primary Elections Upcoming, WEP Reform Update

Public education retirees are seeking answers to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas’s (TRS) decision to lease new office space in downtown Austin. The TRS lease is slated to cost $326,000 per month at the “Indeed Tower,” which will house the TRS investment team.

Retired and active public educators have taken to social media to admonish TRS’s decision, and legislators have written letters to the state agency questioning the price tag. The Texas Retired Teachers Association’s (TRTA) Executive Director Tim Lee spoke with the Austin-American Statesman about the TRS lease.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association’s (TRTA) Executive Director Tim Lee spoke with the Austin-American Statesman about the TRS lease.

“People are just mad, and they don’t understand how (the retirement system) could be spending this much money on a lease,” Lee said.

Lee has also spoken to Brian Guthrie, TRS Executive Director, who assured him that the TRS Board of Trustees and he understand people are concerned about the lease issue. Guthrie says that TRS is looking forward to speaking openly about the lease issue with the Legislature as well at the upcoming TRS Board of Trustees meeting (scheduled for February 20 and 21).

“I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the Indeed Tower lease, address our (TRS) members’ concerns, and provide all the facts in a public setting,” Guthrie said. “I look forward to a discussion of our agency’s long-term facilities planning process.”

TRS has been called by the Texas Senate and House to testify about their decision. TRS will testify to the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 25. TRS will testify to the House Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee in early March, though no date has been specified at this time.

TRTA applauds the Texas Legislature for their immediate attention on this matter and thanks Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson and Senate State Affairs Chair Bryan Hughes, as well as House Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services Chair Jim Murphy and House Appropriations Chair Giovanni Capriglione for their concern and working this issue into their upcoming hearing schedules. Like TRTA, these elected officials care about retired and active public educators and want to ensure that TRS is managing the trust fund dollars in the best interests of all Texans.

TRTA has been clear in our concern over the lease of the Indeed Tower space. Our members have sent a loud and strong message that they are not in favor of what seems to be unnecessary spending on costly downtown Austin office space.

TRTA also has a nearly 70 year working history with TRS, and we know TRS understands their fiduciary duty to the trust fund members. We hope that the upcoming legislative hearings will shed more light on this topic and provide a more complete picture as to why TRS believed this decision was the right one to make.

Mr. Guthrie expressed his appreciation to TRTA and our members for constructive input on the matter, as well as for their patience to hear more about this in the upcoming public hearings.

We appreciate TRS speaking with TRTA directly on this matter, and we are also pleased to hear that TRS is being responsive to member concerns and plans to address this issue at their upcoming board meeting and at the legislative hearings.

TRTA will provide links to the live broadcast of these meetings and will offer our association insight as the information is presented.

Primary Elections Are Right Around the Corner

The Texas Primary elections will occur on March 3. However, early voting starts Feb. 18. Primary elections are a critical and undervalued part of the election process. Many elections in Texas are determined in the Primary elections, not the General election.

Beyond being educator’s civic duty to vote, the elections represent your best way to influence change on your retirement benefits. It’s critical that our members vote for pro-education candidates. TRTA’s friends at Texas Educators Vote have created an excellent website on how you can make your vote matter. Additionally, Raise Your Hand Texas is a great resource to learn about pro-education candidates. Raise Your Hand Texas has more than 40 political candidate forums happening all over the state. Finally, TRTA local unit meetings are in full swing, and many are providing a platform for candidates to come speak.

WEP Reform Update

TRTA continues to work with congressional members in Washington D.C. to advance Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reform. As a part of the Public Retirees Alliance, TRTA is working with the Mass Retirees to educate congressmen and influence change.

Currently, Rep. Richie Neal (D – Massachusetts), the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has filed H.R. 4540, which proposes to repeal the WEP and replace it with a new, fairer formula. Rep. Kevin Brady has filed a very similar bill in H.R. 3934. Both bills would be an improvement for the lives of retirees impacted by the WEP. TRTA is pushing for the best possible outcome for retirees.

Please contact your congressional representative and ask them to support both H.R. 4540 and H.R. 3934. You can find your representative’s contact information here. TRTA members can be incredibly helpful to get this issue moving by calling their representatives at least twice per month requesting an update on the progress of these two bills. Let them know that relief is needed as soon as possible!

Below, you’ll find a list of the Texas Congressional Representatives. If your Congressperson is listed below as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, your voice is amplified! Your communications of support for these two bills are vital as the Ways and Means Committee must act on a WEP bill before the full Congress can start addressing the issue.

As of this writing, only one Texas Congressman serving on House Ways and Means has not signed on to either H.R. 4540 or H.R. 3934. Congressman Lloyd Doggett is a friend to all educators, but we need his support on a bill that has a chance to pass in Congress! All TRTA members are welcome to contact Congressman Doggett and urge his support of H.R. 4540, HR 3934, or both.

Finally, if you have friends or family who live in states where the other House and Ways members live, please ask them to call those Congressional members on your behalf.

Name Phone Number Signed HR 4540 (Neal) Signed HR 3934 (Brady)
Jodey Arrington (202) 225-4005 No Yes
Kenny Marchant (202) 225-6605 No Yes
Kevin Brady (202) 225-4901 No Yes
Lloyd Doggett (202) 225-4865 No No

 

 

Name Phone Number Signed HR 4540 (Neal) Signed HR 3934 (Brady)
Al Green (202) 225-7508 Yes No
Bill Flores (202) 225-6105 No Yes
Brian Babin (202) 225-1555 No Yes
Chip Roy (202) 225-4236 No Yes
Colin Allred (202) 225-2231 Yes No
Dan Crenshaw (202) 225-6565 No Yes
Eddie Johnson (202) 225-8885 No No
Filemon Vela (202) 225-9901 Yes Yes
Henry Cuellar (202) 225-1640 Yes Yes
Joaquin Castro (202) 225-3236 Yes No
John Carter (202) 225-3864 No Yes
John Ratcliffe (202) 225-6673 No Yes
Kay Granger (202) 225-5071 No Yes
Lance Gooden (202) 225-3484 Yes Yes
Lizzie Fletcher (202) 225-2571 No No
Louie Gohmert (202) 225-3035 No Yes
Mac Thornberry (202) 225-3706 No No
Marc Veasey (202) 225-9897 Yes No
Michael Burgess (202) 225-7772 No Yes
Michael Cloud (202) 225-7742 No No
Michael Conaway (202) 225-3605 No Yes
Michael McCaul (202) 225-2401 No Yes
Pete Olson (202) 225-5951 No Yes
Randy Weber (202) 225-2831 No Yes
Roger Williams (202) 225-9896 No Yes
Ron Wright (202) 225-2002 No Yes
Sheila Jackson Lee (202) 225-3816 No No
Sylvia Garcia (202) 225-1688 Yes No
Van Taylor (202) 225-4201 No Yes
Veronica Escobar (202) 225-4831 Yes No
Vicente Gonzalez (202) 225-2531 Yes Yes
Will Hurd (202) 225-4511 No Yes

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