12 May 2011

TRTA Update May 12, 2011 “A Good Day for TRTA”

TRTA Members Make a Difference
TRS Language Adopted in Senate, HB 3542 and HB 2120 Move to Third Reading
TRTA members have done a great job educating and encouraging their legislators to vote on these critical bills. The actions taken earlier this week and today have helped advance the TRTA agenda to protect retiree benefits and develop opportunities to help retired public education employees.
The Texas Senate passed SB 1671 earlier this week. This measure included a number of TRS related provisions, but it also included what many have come to know as the “Duncan Plan” to protect TRS and TRS-Care funding in the coming biennium. Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) developed a plan, with the help and support of many other state senators, that restores funding to the pension trust fund and the TRS-Care health insurance program. This plan adjusts the state funding levels to a higher level than what is currently proposed by the Texas House. This legislation, along with the more favorable language in the Senate version of the state budget, will restore over $235 million in TRS funding. The most significant component of the “Duncan Plan” for TRS retirees is that it is designed to help prevent TRS-Care premiums from increasing in the coming biennium. This legislation now moves to the Texas House and the budget is presently being negotiated.
TRTA thanks Senator Robert Duncan and the members of the Texas Senate for working on a plan to help restore funding to the TRS and control TRS-Care premium costs. If you want to thank your senator and ask for their support for Chairman Duncan in these ongoing negotiations, please click here.
House Update
Earlier this evening (May 12, 2011) the House considered HB 3542 and HB 2120 for passage from “second reading” to “third reading.” Today is the last day for bills to be considered on second reading and moved through the process to third reading. TRTA members have sent thousands of emails and made thousands of phone calls asking the House to consider these bills before time expired leaving the bills ineligible.
Those emails and phone calls have paid off! The House voted favorably on both HB 3542 and HB 2120. TRTA wants to thank Representative Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) and Representative Doug Miller (R-New Braunfels) for their hard work and leadership on these bills. A summary of each bill is provided by clicking here.
TRTA members can contact their representative and thank him/her, as it was with the FULL House support that BOTH bills were adopted and moved to third reading!! Hopefully, the bills will see final House action in the next day or two and will then move to the Senate for consideration.
Please click here if you want to send an email thanking your Representative for his/her support and to ask him/her to finish the job and send HB 3542 and HB 2120 to the Senate for consideration.
House Fiscal Matters Bills
Many TRTA members have also been working to gain support for language to change a bad provision in the House fiscal matters bills that would have permanently reduced TRS-Care funding. TRTA learned earlier this week that House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts was in full support of changing the “permanent” provision to a “temporary” provision. TRTA had also been working with Representative Lance Gooden and Representative Mike Villarreal on this important change. While it was agreed that this provision would be changed so that any change would be temporary, the House fiscal matters bills have been so delayed that the use of these bills may not be possible. The good news is that the Senate has adopted their fiscal matters bills, and in them is the “Duncan Plan” protecting TRS and TRS-Care.
The budget negotiations are moving forward and we will keep you posted on all these major events in the final weeks of session.
Please know that your help is making a big difference. If you are not a member but would like to join TRTA in our efforts to protect your pension benefits, please contact our office at 1.800.880.1650 and we will be happy to help answer any questions you may have about joining TRTA.

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07 May 2011

TRTA Bills Head to House Floor–We Need Your Help

Two TRTA Bills Set for Floor Action
House Vote on Supplemental Payment Bill and TRS Board Composition set for Monday


Click Here to Send an Email Supporting HB 3542 and HB 2120–Read complete update Below


There is some good news for TRS retirees! Two bills are set on the Texas House Calendar for Monday, May 9. HB 3542 by Representative Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock), and HB 2120 by Representative Doug Miller (R-New Braunfels) should be taken up in the Texas House sometime Monday. TRTA supports both of these bills and we encourage EVERY TRTA member to send an email or call their Representative asking for their support.

HB 3542 summary: Would allow the TRS Board of Trustees the authority to provide a one-time supplemental payment to TRS retirees contingent upon investment earnings exceeding 8%. Such a payment must maintain the system funding level at 80% or above.
Why TRTA supports this bill:
·         Retirees received a supplemental payment in 2007, and it was a big help to hundreds of thousands of TRS annuitants that are struggling to keep up with their bills and health care costs.
·         Retirees have not received a permanent pension increase in 10 years.
·         The buying power of TRS retirees has diminished by over 30% since 2001.
·         The economic impact on local communities is substantial, in that 95% of TRS benefits—over $6.2 billion—are paid directly to retirees who live in and spend these dollars in Texas.
·         TRS earns over $80 million per day in investments. The cost to the system for providing this one-time payment could, theoretically, be earned back in four days or less.
·         This one-time payment is financed through investment earnings over and above the system’s 8% investment expectations and protects the stability of the pension fund by ensuring payment will only be made if it is at least 80 percent funded. 
·         The one-time expenditure would not have an impact on the state’s general revenue fund.
·         This is not a permanent shift away from legislative authority in granting pension increases or supplemental payments to the TRS Board of Trustees. This is a one-time, emergency relief measure using investment earnings over and above the actuarially assumed return.
This is a good bill. TRTA is very grateful to Representative Larry Gonzales for authoring this legislation and working to get it to the House floor. It protects the pension fund and provides retirees with a supplemental payment just like the one in 2008. TRTA needs your support on this legislation. Your Representative needs to hear from you. Please, click the link below to send your email asking for their support on HB 3542. TRTA provides the basic letter for your convenience, but you may want to enter some information about how a supplemental payment may help you during these difficult economic times.
HB 2120 by Representative Doug Miller: Would allow the designated higher education retiree position on the TRS Board of Trustees to be open to any member of TRS, including public education and higher education retirees as well as active teacher members.
Why TRTA supports this bill:
·         It would allow public education retirees and active members the possibility of greater representation on the TRS Board of Trustees.
·         It would stimulate more interest among TRS members to pursue board positions.
·         It would encourage members to become more involved in decision-making at TRS.
Last session, Representative Miller championed legislation adding a second retiree on the TRS Board of Trustees. The bill was passed unanimously out of the Texas Legislature, but was then vetoed by Governor Perry. TRTA has worked diligently with Representative Miller develop a new bill that is designed to get more parties involved in the TRS election process and one that would not take any direct appointments away from the Governor. This, too, is a good bill and we need the Texas House to support HB 2120. Please click the link below to send an email to your Representative asking for their support on HB 2120.
Update on Other TRTA Action Alerts
Thousands of TRTA members have sent emails and made phone calls supporting other TRTA action alerts in the Texas House and Senate. Action on the bills in these chambers has simply slowed down and we are hopeful that the Gooden/Villarreal amendments in the House and action in the Senate on TRS funding and supporting Senator Robert Duncan’s proposals will occur sometime next week. If you would like to send another email or participate in these legislative campaigns, you may do so by clicking the links below.
Again, TRTA is so thankful for your help and support. We have many legislators working to get things done for you. The good news is progress is being made, and we cannot thank you enough for taking the time to support TRTA with your communication and your membership.
If you are not a TRTA member, but would like to join, please contact our office at 1.800.880.1650 and we will be happy to assist in any way we can.
TRTA Action Alert Center (Click any link below to send your Action Alert Email)

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05 May 2011

TRTA Action Alert: We Need Your Help to Protect TRS Funding

TRTA Action Alert–Contact Your Senator


The Senate may take up a “fiscal-matters” bill tomorrow dealing with TRS and the TRS-Care fund. Senator Robert Duncan has authored SB 1666, SB 1667, and SB 1671. These bills all address issues pertaining to TRS. These bills may also be used to move a funding plan forward that is designed to maintain TRS-Care health insurance premiums in the coming biennium.
Please click the link below and send an email to your Senator asking them to support Senator Robert Duncan’s TRS funding plan. If you would like to call your Senator, please use the “TRTA Call Your Legislator Hotline: 1.888.674.3788. Ask your Senator to support Senator Duncan’s TRS funding plan and keep retiree health care costs from increasing 80 percent .”
Again, the bills that Senator Duncan may use for this important action may come up tomorrow (Friday, May 6, 2011). Senator Duncan’s plan will fund TRS-Care in a way that helps prevent a major premium increase for retirees this coming biennium. This plan will also restore over $100 million in funding to the TRS pension trust fund. We must support Senator Duncan and ask the Senate to vote for retired public education employees. (Bills that may be used for this effort include SB 1666, SB 1667, and SB 1671. It is most likely that SB 1671, which should come up tomorrow, is the target bill for Senator Duncan’s work to protect TRS and TRS-Care)

You may also want to call your Senator on Friday and ask them to support Senator Duncan’s efforts to protect the TRS pension and health care programs. Please use the “TRTA Call Your Legislator Hotline: 1.888.674.3788.” The Capitol Switchboard office hours are from 8 AM to 5 PM M-F.

Thank you for your support on short notice. Your emails are making a BIG difference in both the Senate and the House. As a quick update, the House fiscal matters bill, and the Gooden/Villarreal amendments have not come up for a vote and these bills have been postponed. It now may be next week before the House takes up these bills. We will keep you updated.
Thank you again for all you are doing to help. If you are not a member, but would like to join TRTA in our efforts to protect your TRS pension plan and TRS-Care health insurance program, please contact our office at 1.800.880.1650 and we will gladly answer any questions you may have.

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