Blog

02 Oct 2018
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WHY VOTE? Because Retirees Deserve Better!

As many of our members know, Mr. Bill Barnes has served on the TRTA legislative committee as its Coordinator and Chair for many years. Working side-by-side with Executive Director Tim Lee, Bill has represented the voices of retirees across the state by making hundreds of visits to the Capitol and meeting with every legislator. Although Mr. Barnes will no longer chair the TRTA State Legislative Committee, he will continue to work with TRTA on legislative matters as a consultant and with Tonna Duke as she transitions into this new and exciting role. Bill is so pleased to welcome Tonna to this position, and knows her dedication, thoughtfulness and intelligence will be great assets to the TRTA legislative team.


Hello! My name is Tonna Duke, and I am honored to have been given the opportunity to serve as the TRTA Legislative Coordinator and Chair of the TRTA State Legislative Committee. This committee consists of 20 intelligent, interested and motivated TRTA members working toward the success of TRTA legislative efforts. Our committee members advocate on behalf of all TRTA members with legislators and candidates at the district level and in the Capitol.

A document listing TRTA issues and goals was developed this past summer by members of the legislative committee for use by TRTA members.

WHY VOTE?

  • We must protect the defined benefit plan and funding for the TRS pension fund.
  • There must be a plan for increasing permanent state funding to ensure defined benefits, retirement security and a strong pension fund.
  • We need affordable and accessible health care for ALL Texas education retirees.
  • There is NO long-term funding plan to sustain TRS-Care. The two-year supplemental plan is NOT a permanent solution to our health care funding issue.
  • We must promote an annuity increase for ALL retirees.
  • The cost of living continues to go up, but annuities are relatively stagnant.
  • We support the reform at the national level for Social Security offsets, the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO).
  • Retired Texas educators are penalized under these offsets, and the programs treat retired teachers differently than the rest of the population.

Our committee has been busy trying to increase membership numbers to make our unified voice stronger. Our goal is to ensure all TRTA members are registered to vote and are informed and ready to cast their ballots on November 6. We ask that TRTA members consider voting for candidates who will support TRTA’s issues and those who will actively seek solutions for our priorities.

TRTA leadership at the district and local unit level are researching, visiting and interviewing candidates and legislators to determine which of those individuals will be the ones who support retired teachers.

Please note: The following links are to organizations not administered by TRTA. TRTA doesn’t endorse individual candidates. The links are for informational purposes only.

Click here to see a statewide list of candidates for the November 6 General Election. Click the links below to gather more information on candidates running for political office.

www.vote411.org

www.teachthevote.org

www.texaseducatorsvote.com

All districts and local units are using creative methods to help members gather and share information to help them determine who to vote for. I would like to share just one with you. District 13 has developed a chart to record responses received from legislators and candidates. They have published questions for their members to ask those candidates. This is a good tool that local units can adapt to fit their needs.

Thank you for allowing me to share information from the TRTA State Legislative Committee. Achieving our goals will take 100 percent of TRTA members participating in our legislative efforts and voting on November 6.

WHY VOTE? Because retirees deserve better!

-Tonna Duke

TRTA Legislative Committee Chair

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28 Sep 2018
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BREAKING: WEP Legislation Filed by Congressman Brady

Congressman Kevin Brady (R – The Woodlands) has filed legislation to replace the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) with a formula equalizing benefits for certain individuals with non-covered employment. The bill is labeled HR 6933, and it is a bipartisan bill co-authored by Richie Neal (D- MA).

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) is an unfair federal provision preventing retirees from receiving the Social Security benefits they are owed. The WEP, which took effect in 1983, provides a means of eliminating the “windfall” of Social Security benefits received by beneficiaries who also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security.

Brady created this press release about the bill.

Ninety-five percent of Texas public school employees do not pay into Social Security through their work with Texas schools. However, many have other jobs before, during, or after their employment in education in which they do pay into the federal program.

The bill, known as the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act of 2018, is similar to a bill filed in 2016, H.R. 711, the Equal Protection for Public Servants Act. The bill failed to receive a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee in the summer of 2016, of which Brady is the Chairman.

Congressman Brady has communicated with the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) and other interest groups multiple times over the past two years, indicating his strong desire to continue working to correct an issue that impacts hundreds of thousands of retired public servants nationwide.

TRTA, along with our friends at the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) and other active and retired public employee organizations, thank Chairman Brady for his ongoing efforts to fix the unfair and arbitrary WEP. His work with Richie Neal is greatly appreciated.

While there are other bills suggesting a complete repeal of the WEP and the GPO, this is the only bill with Congressional support that may actually be able to move through the very difficult process of getting passed in Congress.

TRTA will have a longer update about this coming as we receive more information.

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25 Sep 2018
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Countdown to the General Election: A Simple Plan

The November 6 mid-term General Election is shaping up with many good candidates and considerable political fodder for marketing gurus. When you hear the next amazing fact that sounds too good to be true or an out-of-context statement excoriating a political opponent, remember it is the job of marketing experts to make their candidate appear superhuman and their opponent seem weak. Do not let political ads goad you into voting based solely on an emotional reaction!

The problem with all the marketing glam and sham is that it works! It’s easy to get caught up in the spectator sport of politics and take sides based on how we feel instead of what will help us achieve our priorities. It’s fun to watch the commercials, but it’s a show with the purpose of making viewers act on instinct instead of reason.

Here is a simple plan to remind TRTA members why we encourage you to vote based on facts and what we stand for as educators. Use these tips to reflect on your emotions after seeing the same commercial for the 50th time or receiving yet another mud-slinging flyer in the mail.

Answer these five grounding questions about voting:

Why? It is simple. As public servants, our livelihood (monthly annuities, health care, and Social Security) and the programs young Texans need to carry us into the future are determined by elected officials. Our unified voice is our strongest asset, helping us elect leaders who care about our priorities and make them their priorities.

What? This non-presidential mid-term election features a U.S Senate race, all U.S congressional seats, Texas statewide leaders (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, Agriculture Commissioner, and Land Commissioner), half the Texas State Senate and all Texas State House Representatives. You must be registered to vote! CLICK HERE TO REGISTER. TRTA leaders are pushing for 100 percent voter registration for the TRTA membership. Just do it!

When? Voter registration ends on October 9. Today is National Voter Registration Day. Early voting for the General Election begins on October 22 and continues through November 2. Election day is November 6. Mail-in ballots can be requested through October 26. Request them now and send them in when early voting begins to ensure your ballot arrives on time.

How? Voter turnout is determined by motivation to act. Motivation can stem from fear and anger, which is what political consultants want; but motivation can be strategic and based on priorities, such as our economic future. Voters decide who wins, and elected officials work for us–not the other way around! However, democracy is not a spectator sport! Please plan to vote early and then persuade every educator you know to vote in this election, particularly active educators.

Who? You decide who to vote for and your vote is private, so no one will know unless you tell them.  TRTA does not endorse candidates or political parties, but we do encourage you to consider our priorities and who you think best supports public education overall. We encourage you to talk to TRTA local unit legislative committee chairs and people you trust who have the same priorities as you to get the facts you need. You can also go to the following websites to research candidates’ stances on education and retiree issues.

www.vote411.org

www.teachthevote.org

www.texaseducatorsvote.com

The Texas Tribune election app

These non-partisan sources contain personalized ballots, links to the candidate websites, candidate surveys, voting records, a list of candidates who pledge to stand by education principles, and more. Talk to your friends, attend campaign forums, or contact the candidates to glean more information.

We hope this simple list helps you consider what’s at stake before you vote. There are only fourteen days until the voter registration deadline. Keep up the good work, stay focused, and stay tuned to the Inside Line as we near election day.

Next Tuesday, we will feature a special detailed message about TRTA’s priorities from the state legislative committee.

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