23 May 2011

Action Alert — Second Chance for HB 3542

Another Chance for HB 3542!

Good News on Budget Negotiations for TRS-Care Participants

The Texas House should take up SB 1581, the “school finance” bill, tonight. This bill is being prepped for several possible amendments. One amendment that will be offered to SB 1581 is a bill the Texas House previously approved with a vote of 136-1.

Representative Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) has an amendment that will add the language from HB 3542 to the school finance bill. As TRTA reported last week, HB 3542 was sent to the Senate but was never scheduled for a committee hearing. Now, Representative Gonzales is asking his fellow House members to support him one more time and add HB 3542 as an amendment to SB 1581. This legislative maneuver will keep the idea alive as time runs out to pass the bill this legislative session.

We need your help! Please email or call (1.888.674.3788) your Texas House member and ask them to “Vote YES on the Larry Gonzales Amendment Supporting TRS Retirees.” (There is no pre-filed amendment packet to reference, and this is the only amendment being offered by Representative Gonzales).

TRTA members are very grateful for the overwhelming support we already have received from the Texas House on HB 3542. Now, with time running out, we have one more opportunity to keep this legislation advancing in the process.

Please email your legislator TONIGHT. TRTA will keep you updated on the progress of this amendment.

Click Here to Email your Texas House Member Supporting the Larry Gonzales AmendmentBudget Update

The House and Senate budget conferees met this morning to announce their strategy on the TRS budget. TRTA members have made a major difference on this vital issue. The conferees announced their support for the Senate plan, also known as the “Duncan Plan.” As you recall, this plan:

·         funds the TRS pension trust fund at 6.0 percent in the first year of the biennium and 6.4 percent in the second year of the biennium (this is an additional $100 million over the original budget proposal);

·         funds the TRS-Care program at 1.0 percent in the first year of the biennium and 0.5 percent in the second year (this is an additional $135 million over the original budget proposal);

·         provides budget language that prohibits an increase in TRS-Care premiums for the coming biennium; and

·         sweeps any excess budget dollars available through the annual “settle-up” from/to TRS in the budget process back to TRS-Care.

The actions taken by the budget conferees are one more step towards achieving the goal of preventing drastic TRS-Care premium increases in the coming biennium. We are truly grateful to the conferees for agreeing with the Senate strategy to help TRS-Care participants. While this issue is not completely resolved yet, TRTA is working with legislators to preserve this current budget strategy. We will let you know when a decision is finalized.

Thank you for your continued support in these final days of legislative session. Your emails and phone calls are making a difference!

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23 May 2011

UPDATE – SB 1581 Falls to Point of Order

SB 1581 Dies on Procedural Issue

The bill that was earlier thought to be a vehicle for an amendment by Representative Larry Gonzales has died on a procedural ruling known as a “Point of Order” by Representative Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas).

TRTA thanks all the members that responded so quickly to our earlier email on this important amendment. We also express our sincere appreciation to Representative Larry Gonzales for making every effort to get this amendment added and to find ways to provide some financial relief to TRS retirees.

TRTA will continue to work through the final days of this legislative session and identify any other possible opportunities to move HB 3542.

Again, thank you for your support and hard work!

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21 May 2011

HRA Amendment Not Added

Update on HRA Amendment and SB 1811

Legislature Does NOT Add HRA to TRS-Care

Thousands of TRTA members emailed and called their legislators asking them to vote “NO!” on an amendment adding Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA) to the TRS-Care program. With much gratitude to the TRTA membership and the Texas Legisalture, this amendment was NOT added to the final bill.

TRTA also asked members to email and call House members about the Gooden/Villarreal Amendment making any reduction to TRS or TRS-Care a temporary change. House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts amended SB 1811 to ensure changes to TRS and TRS-Care are temporary reductions. Representative Villarreal spoke-up for TRTA members and for all TRS retirees by asking Representative Pitts to speak more about this change and clarify the position being taken through the amendment. Representative Pitts did assure Representative Villarreal and the Texas House that changes to TRS are considered temporary to the upcoming biennium, and he also spoke about a potential agreement in the budget conference committee that will reduce TRS and TRS-Care contributions for only one year in the coming biennium (this sounds like the Senate proposal that has become known as the “Duncan Plan”). TRTA will learn more about this in the coming days. As a final note, your communication on this vital amendment helped propel it to top of the list for consideration. Out of about 90 considered amendments and hours and hours of debate, the amendment on TRS funding was number 2 on the list. Thank you for your help to make the legislature aware of these vital issues.

TRTA will provide additional updates this weekend as issues advance through the legislative process.

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