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13 Apr 2021
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Texas House Passes TRS Sunset Bill

  • Executive Summary:
  • Texas House Passed the TRS Sunset bill
  • A bill to create a COLA study received testimony in the Administration Committee
  • Tim Lee to interview Ken King live on Facebook and YouTube on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

The Texas House passed the House version of the Sunset bill today related to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) to third reading. HB 1585 by Stan Lambert (R – Abilene), passed on second reading on a vote of 147-0. There were no amendments. The Sunset bill will be heard on third reading tomorrow in the House and finally passed over to the Senate.

The Sunset bill’s Senate version, SB 706 by Eddie Lucio (D – Brownsville), passed the Senate Finance Committee yesterday. It will most likely make it to the Senate floor next week. The two bills are almost identical, although their may be some amendments in the Senate.

The Sunset bill makes major changes to TRS agency processes and procedures aimed at helping the agency be more responsive to its members. The bill implements an ombudsman for member issues and complaints, requires member outreach plans including regarding health care claims appeals, and reforms the penalty structure for return-to-work retirees among many other issues.

House Committee on Administration Meets, Discusses HB 1732

The Texas House Committee on Administration met today and discussed HB 1732. HB 1732 would create “a joint select committee to study the feasibility and sustainability of providing a cost-of-living adjustment” to Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) annuitants.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) supports HB 1732. TRTA believes there’s a need for regularly scheduled cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for retired educators. From 1995-2001, the Texas Legislature provided a stair-step approach to increasing retired educators’ pension checks, called the consumer price index (CPI) catch-up. Since that time, there’s only been one COLA for retired educators. TRS annuitants who have retired since Sept. 1, 2004 have never received a COLA.

Rep. John Bucy III (D – Austin) presented the HB 1732 to the committee. He urged the committee to put themselves in retired educators’ shoes. He said that the bill would create a study with the goal to make COLAs sustainable. “Let’s take care of our retired teachers,” Bucy said.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified in favor of HB 1732. “Most studies scare our retired educators,” Lee said. He said that the studies scare retirees because they often deal with changing the design structure of the pension plan or health care system. Also, the studies are paid for out of the pension plan. However, this study is welcome by retired educators.

“We’re studying something that could help retired educators,” Lee said. “This is a big deal.”

Lee said the bill would help ensure future COLAs for retired educators.

TRTA’s District 13 Legislative Chair Larry Yawn also testified in favor of the bill. Yawn emphasized the personal stories that retired educators shared from the 2013 supplemental payment. “What you do makes a difference in their lives,” Yawn said.

The bill was left pending today.

Reminder: Tim Lee to Interview Rep. Ken King Tomorrow at 3:30 P.M.

Tim Lee will interview Rep. Ken King tomorrow, April 14, at 3:30 p.m. via Facebook and YouTube. Be sure to tune in as they discuss a potential COLA for retired educators!

Thank You

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! Be sure to download the TRTA app to receive all of the latest legislative updates.

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12 Apr 2021
0

Senate Finance Discusses TRS Sunset Bill, Passes SB 706

On April 12, the Senate Finance Committee met and passed the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Sunset bill, SB 706. The bill was authored by Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D – Brownsville), who also served on the Texas Sunset Commission while TRS underwent review. Lucio is also the Vice-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. The bill will now move to the Senate for action.

Upon laying out SB 706, Senator Lucio discussed how TRS is one of the largest public pension systems in the world and the importance of “ensuring the system remains accessible and responsive to its members.”

Lucio added that SB 706 “incorporates several major provisions that will improve the experience of retirees” when they interact with the system.

He discussed the proposed ombudsman position, stating it is a “vital role in member advocacy” that will help members “navigate the complaint process” and that reports to the TRS Board of Trustees on member interactions and suggestions for improvement.

The bill also addresses and would fix several areas of the employment after retirement law, including replacing the required forfeiture of an entire month’s annuity with a fairer dollar-for-dollar reduction when a retiree exceeds their allotted monthly working hours.

Lucio laid out several committee amendments that will have to be discussed before the entire Senate before being added to the bill. These amendments included adding the text from SB 288 (by Sen. Kel Seliger) that passed out of the Senate last week and grandfathering in retirees who retire before January 1, 2021 so they can re-enter service to help students recover from learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified in favor of SB 706, saying its passage would “ensure greater transparency of the agency” and “solve issues with return-to -work.”

Lee added “we’re very supportive of the agency for what they have done to start implementing some of these changes and to the sunset staff for including the (TRS) members in the review process.” Some members of the Senate Finance Committee also served on the Sunset Commission, and Lee expressed his gratitude to them for a thorough and considerate review of TRS.

He reiterated the association’s support of the ombudsman position and expressed favorable support of the committee amendments that were offered during the meeting.

TRS COLA Study Bill (HB 1732) in Committee Tuesday, April 13

Many of our members may recall that in the 1990s, a Consumer Price Index (CPI) Catch-Up Plan was developed and implemented through four successive sessions of the Legislature (73rd through the 76th). The plan was designed to help retiree annuities “catch up” with rising costs due to inflation. After completion of the plan, the 77th Legislature took additional action to increase state funding to TRS in 2001.

Since 2001, only one permanent COLA was enacted for TRS retirees. In 2013, a 3 percent COLA (capped at $100 per month) was granted for retirees who had retired by August 31, 2004. Any TRS retiree who retired after that date has never received a raise! Two supplemental payments—also known as thirteenth checks—have been granted. One was paid in 2007 (capped at $2,400) and the other in 2019 (capped at $2000).

TRTA knows the CPI catch-up plan laid out a blueprint for what can be accomplished over a phased, planned effort. It is the intent of HB 1732 to institutionalize a process that can ensure periodic reviews of the effect of the economy on the TRS retirees’ pensions and to bring to the attention of the Legislature potential sources of funding.

TRTA supports HB 1732, and we look forward to testifying on it in the House Administration Committee on April 13 at 9:00 a.m. A live link to the meeting webcast will be available from this website once the meeting begins.

Thank You!

We have news coming up soon about the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Recently, Representative Richie Neal filed HR 2337. Tim Lee will update TRTA members about this important bill later this week. Stay tuned!

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! Be sure to download the TRTA app to receive all of the latest legislative updates.

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09 Apr 2021
0

TRTA Week at the Capitol Ends with MAJOR Action, PLUS: Senate Committee on Education Discusses SB 1356, HB 1732 On Agenda for Next Week

Executive Summary

  • TRTA priority bills voted out of PIFS Committee, now on their way to the House for a vote!
  • SB 1356 (the tutor bill) was heard in the Senate Education Committee
  • TRTF announces free tutoring hours for TRTA family members
  • TRS COLA study bill will be in committee Tuesday, April 13
  • CLICK HERE TO THANK LEGISLATORS FOR TRTA ZOOM TO THE CAPITOL
  • New WEP bill (HR 2337) filed by Representative Richard Neal

TRTA Priority Bills on Their Way to the Full House!

Today, the House Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services (PIFS) Committee met and voted TRTA-supported bills out of committee and on to the full House for action!

The following bills were voted out of committee:

  • HB 1585 (Lambert, TRS Sunset Bill)
  • HB 2022 (Darby, Provides one-time re-enrollment in TRS-Care for certain participants);
  • HB 2109 (Wu, Relating to return-to-work penalties for TRS retirees);
  • HB 3207 (Herrero, Relating to return-to-work issues in disaster areas);
  • HB 3214 (Capriglione, Relating to a cost-of-living increase for TRS retirees); and
  • HB 3507 (Rogers, Relating to a supplemental payment for TRS retirees).

These are ALL TRTA priority bills! Thank you to House PIFS Chair Rafael Anchia and to all PIFS Committee Members: Representatives Tan Parker, Vice Chair; Giovanni Capriglione; Sergio Munoz, Jr.; Mary Ann Perez; Glenn Rogers; Shelby Slawson; Phil Stephenson; and Hubert Vo.

Your dedication to have these bills placed on the agenda, heard in committee, and voted out in such an expeditious manner demonstrates a deep commitment to TRS retirees! Your work is appreciated and heralded by our nearly 100,000 TRTA members!

Now, we push on for action in the full House and then on to the Senate! TRTA members are making a difference.

SB 1356 Update

The Senate Committee on Education met on April 8 and discussed SB 1356 by Sen. Bryan Hughes. SB 1356 is related to tutoring programs for Texas public school students. The bill would enable retired teachers to work through TRTA/TRTF and directly with ISD’s to provide tutoring services.

Last year, the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) launched the nation’s first retired teacher tutoring initiative. This program was born out of the pandemic as a way for retirees to earn extra income after school closures and the loss of substitute teaching jobs. Now, the program is leading the way to help students, parents, and schools with enhanced learning options as the state emerges from the difficulties of the pandemic.

SB 1356 will ensure that TRTF and TRTA can work more closely with TEA and our Texas schools so that we can match up our program directly with school districts. TRTA and TRTF are extremely grateful to Senator Hughes, TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie, and TEA Commissioner Mike Morath for working so closely with retired teachers on this bill.

“SB 1356 is a game-changer for the work we are doing with our tutoring initiative,” said Tim Lee, TRTA and TRTF Executive Director. “Right now, it is just not as easy as it should be for retired educators to engage directly with our school districts and provide the tutoring services. SB 1356 is designed to provide more options to the ISDs and allow our retired teachers to partner directly with the school district. It really is a great bill and Texas needs this,” said Lee.

Sen. Larry Taylor described it as a “good deal” and “very valuable,” adding “I’m in full support of this.” Our schools are struggling to meet the needs of students experiencing learning loss. Sen. Taylor also said that now, “it’s all hands on deck . . . they (retired educators) are ready to come back and help.”

TRTA thanks Senator Taylor for adding SB 1356 to his busy committee agenda, and for being so supportive of TRTA and TRTF tutoring efforts since we started our program.

Sen. Paul Bettencourt said he is “behind, behind, behind” the bill, and added “we desperately need people to come back and help with the learning gap we’ve got.” TRTA and TRTF are proud to have strong support from Sen. Bettencourt and we look forward to working with him and all members of the Senate Education Committee as the bill moves through the legislative process.

Tim Lee testified that a major focus of this initiative is to engage with retired Texas teachers and help get them actively involved in tutoring. “We are able to leverage hundreds of thousands of retired teachers,” Lee stated.

The bill was left pending in the Senate Education Committee, and TRTA will keep working with our Senators to move it through the process quickly.

TRTA and TRTF Announce “Thank You” Tutoring Gift!

As a “thank you” to our TRTA members, the TRTA and TRTF boards announced yesterday that they are offering 1,000 hours of free tutoring for public school students who have a TRS retiree in their family!

This announcement is part of a $30,000 joint donation between TRTA and TRTF to provide pre-paid tutoring hours to thank both our members and TRTF tutors.

Now is a great opportunity to try our TRTF online tutoring platform with your student or as a tutor! Learn more about the program at www.trtf.org/tutor.

TRS COLA Study Bill (HB 1732) in Committee Tuesday, April 13

Many of our members may recall that in the 1990s, a Consumer Price Index (CPI) Catch-Up Plan was developed and implemented through four successive sessions of the Legislature (73rd through the 76th). The plan was designed to help retiree annuities “catch up” with rising costs due to inflation. After completion of the plan, the 77th Legislature took additional action to increase state funding to TRS in 2001.

Since 2001, only one permanent COLA was enacted for TRS retirees. In 2013, a 3% COLA (capped at $100 per month) was granted for retirees who had retired by August 31, 2004. Any TRS retiree who retired after that date has never received a raise! Two supplemental payments—also known as thirteenth checks—have been granted. One was paid in 2007 (capped at $2400) and the other in 2019 (capped at $2000).

TRTA knows the CPI catch-up plan laid out a blueprint for what can be accomplished over a phased, planned effort. It is the intent of HB 1732 to institutionalize a process that can ensure periodic reviews of the effect of the economy on the TRS retirees’ pensions and to bring to the attention of the Legislature potential sources of funding.

TRTA supports this bill and we look forward to testifying on it next week in committee.

Thank You!

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! Be sure to download the TRTA app to receive all of the latest legislative updates.

We have news coming up soon about the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Last week, Representative Richie Neal filed HR 2337. Tim Lee will update TRTA members about this important bill next week. Stay tuned!

Read More