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02 Mar
0

TRTA 67th Convention Registration Closes March 16!

Registration for the 67th TRTA Convention to be held April 6-8, 2020 in Corpus Christi closes Monday, March 16. There’s still time to register for this exciting event by clicking here or see page 8 in the first quarter issue of The VOICE!

The convention will be held at the American Bank Center on 1901 Shoreline Boulevard. TRTA hasn’t visited this beautiful coastal town since 2013 and we are excited to return!

Shuttle busses will run in twenty-minute increments from the Omni hotel and the Holiday Inn Corpus Christi Downtown Marina hotel to the American Bank Center, with the final shuttle pickup from the convention center back to the hotels occurring at 7:00 p.m. If you want to park at the convention center, the cost is $13 for three days. However, that rate can only be purchased on the first day, April 6. Otherwise, it’s $5 per day. The convention center parking is cash only.

Now that the 86th Legislative Session has concluded, convention attendees will focus their attention on connecting the dots to TRTA’s success in Congress to repeal the unfair Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and in pursuing statewide organizational goals, such as reaching 100,000 members! Members will also hear about TRTA’s ambitious vision for Day at the Capitol 2021.

Convention events include the Catch the Wave to Wellness Fair on April 6, featuring local providers who will share information about health, fitness, and overall well-being. There’s also a welcome reception featuring musical entertainment by the Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco Mariachi Azul y Plata band.

Attendees can meet the candidates running for TRTA state office on April 7 during our inaugural Coffee with the Candidates event and attend opening ceremonies. District caucus meetings follow, then a legislative luncheon. The afternoon continues with two hour-long informational and training sessions. A “coastal social” ends the day at 4:15 p.m. with an optional “beach bingo” night!

Day three (April 8) includes the House of Delegates, as well as a fundraising luncheon for TRTF. Attendees will be able to present gifts to the Foundation in honor or in memory of a loved one, friend, or colleague. House of Delegates continues in the afternoon and the convention concludes once all association business has been completed.

Be sure to register for convention today! The deadline is March 16. You may register online today by visiting www.trta.org/2020convention. If you plan to attend one of the free evening socials on April 6 or 7, please RSVP so that TRTA may collect an accurate headcount.

For attendees who do not wish to attend the convention luncheons, concession stands will be available each day. Additionally, Hester’s Café, located at 1902 Shoreline Boulevard at the Art Museum of South Texas, is open for lunch Tuesday and Wednesday.

We hope you will join us in Corpus Christi in April for convention on the beautiful Texas coast!

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27 Feb
0

WEP Reform Push Continues as Primary Elections Loom Large

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) is an unfair Social Security provision that negatively impacts thousands of retired educators nationwide, including educators who have paid into the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) as well as Social Security.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is involved in a national coalition, Public Retirees Alliance, which is dedicated to reforming the WEP. TRTA’s Executive Director Tim Lee is visiting Washington D.C. on Monday, March 2 to help advance WEP legislation. However, traction in Congress has slowed this year due to the upcoming elections.

While progress has slowed in Washington, congressional members are busy in their districts seeking voter approval.

It’s critical for our TRTA members to be active and involved during the primary election process. If there’s a candidate forum for a congressional member in your area, we encourage you to attend and ask the candidates about their stance on WEP reform. This year, there’s one Texas Senator up for re-election, John Cornyn, and all of the Texas Representatives are up for re-election. If constituents make WEP reform a priority, so will friendly candidates and future elected leaders. Be sure to vote early today or tomorrow, or on Primary Election Day, March 3.

There are currently two WEP reform bills on the table, H.R. 4540, by the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richie Neal, and H.R. 3934 by Texas Rep. Kevin Brady.

Both bills are similar and 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.

Currently, there’s only one congressional member on the House Ways and Means Committee that has not signed on to either bill, Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett. If you want WEP reform to move forward, please contact Rep. Doggett and ask him to take action on this very important issue!

True WEP reform will start in the House Ways and Means Committee, but it will take all Texas Congressional members to resolve the WEP issue. Texas Congressional members must play their part to resolve the WEP. We need Congressional members to support one or both of these bills. Let’s get 100 percent Texas Congressional support on these bills. Currently, Reps. Mac Thornberry, Michael Cloud and Sheila Jackson Lee are also not signed on to either bill!

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 Yes 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 Yes 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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25 Feb
0

TRS Testifies Before Senate Finance Committee About Indeed Tower Lease

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) provided testimony today, Feb. 25, 2020, before the Senate Finance Committee. Among the topics discussed were the long-term facilities planning for TRS, including the recent decision made by the TRS Board of Trustees to continue leasing space at 816 Congress Avenue for its Investment Management Division (IMD) in lieu of moving into the Indeed Tower. The committee had already scheduled TRS to testify on a Senate interim charge relating to the agency’s investment responsibilities, but Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick added a discussion about the Indeed Tower lease to the Senate Finance Committee charge.

As TRTA reported last week, the space TRS reserved at the Indeed Tower, which is still under construction, will be sub-leased per the TRS Boards decision. The decision to back away from moving into Indeed Tower was influenced by a massive amount of public backlash, including more than 4,000 Facebook comments. The decision for TRS to stay and expand its current space, 816 Congress Ave., is projected to save $9.1 million.

TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie testified before the panel of legislators. Sen. Jane Nelson serves as the chairman for the Senate Finance Committee. She communicated that Senators were prohibited from going into detail about the Indeed Tower decision due to restrictions set by the State Attorney General. However, Nelson and her fellow Senators used the opportunity to question the decision-making process of TRS and the lack of oversight that the state has over the agency.

In particular, Nelson questioned why TRS found it necessary for its investment team to be in downtown Austin.

Guthrie said that housing the investment team in downtown Austin represents and opportunity to be closer to the action.” He said that the location represents a recruiting tool for talent, and he said that TRS is competing for talent with Wall Street and Chicago.

Nelson said that TRS made a good decision in not moving its team to the most expensive real estate in downtown.”

Guthrie said the TRS decision to keep its team downtown is a short-term, interim” plan. He added that TRS is considering moving out of downtown and establishing a different headquarters. Guthrie said that staying at 816 Congress was TRSs first choice, but originally, there wasnt enough available space to house the growing investment team.

Retired Texas educators received support from Senators during the meeting. Senators reported receiving a lot of feedback from educators, and the TRS decision reflected poorly on the Senators.

Sen. Charles Perry stated that he was surprised at how much lack of real oversight the legislators have over the TRS community.” Perry lamented that legislators didnt have jurisdiction to tell TRS how to spend administrative funds.

Guthrie said that TRS maintains a close partnership with the Legislature and listens to their direction.

Sen. John Whitmire expressed frustration about the lack of accountability that TRS is being held to.

Im getting a lot of questions from retired teachers. I dont have a lot of answers,” Whitmire said. He described TRSs Indeed Tower lease as a hell of a mess” and that it was a dumb decision.

Nelson echoed Whitmires sentiments, and she said that legislators had been flooded” with hand-written letters from retirees.

What were you thinking?” Nelson said. There are some very disheartened retired teachers.”

Each (legislator) now has to explain your severe bad judgement,” Whitmire said. It gets down to arrogance. Somebodys head ought to roll.”

Guthrie said that TRS made a mistake when we made a decision to sign the lease.” However, Guthrie said that the mistake wasnt a financially irresponsible decision. He said that the mistake was that by signing the lease, TRS couldnt release the information that shares the reasoning.

Sen. Lois Kolkhorst that TRS had tarnished the good feeling that retired educators experienced from the 13thcheck. For all the good that we did last session, it was undone.”

Sen. Pete Flores said that TRS had lost its memberstrust with the lease. Theyre struggling to pay their bills and their prescription drugs… Basic trust is the most important of all.”

TRTAs Executive Director Tim Lee provided public testimony to the committee. Lee said that retired educators are badly in need of a COLA. When the TRS members saw the Indeed Tower lease paid for out of the pension fund, “it was shocking.”

In a written statement Lee said, “TRTA members did not want their retirement security dollars being used to pay for luxuries they themselves would never dream to have and did not think were necessary to increase the funds performance. It looked frivolous. And the idea of frivolous or unnecessary spending when our retirees are struggling to make ends meet is why that issue met so much resistance.”

He concluded with,“At TRTA, we believe a well-managed, strongly backed, transparent, TRS pension trust fund is a benefit to all Texans. We are all in this together, and I know that our partnerships will help ensure future decisions are handled differently. TRTA believes it is important to win the hearts and minds of the trust fund members before their dollars are spent.”

 

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