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23 Feb
0

Push to the Polls: Early Voting Down From 2008

According to the Houston Chronicle (subscription only article), early voting has decreased from the 2008 primary elections. The 2008 elections held a particular significance, as they were the last open-seat presidential election year.

During the first six days of the 2016 Texas primary elections, 336,982 votes were cast between the Republican and Democratic parties. Comparatively, 422,561 votes were cast during this timespan in 2008. This represents a 20 percent decrease in total votes cast between the two parties.

As we’ve reported time and again, the primary elections often determine the winners of Texas elections. Many candidates will win their seats at the Texas Legislature uncontested during the November general election. Now is the time to get out and vote!

With this decrease in early voting, your vote will be amplified. Elections are among the biggest factors in allowing us to create change within the Texas Legislature. The Senators and Representatives who are elected during this cycle will have the enormous responsibility of deciding the future of TRS-Care.

If nothing is done during the next Legislative Session to TRS-Care, participants in the program could see massive premium increases or changes in benefits, or both! We must elect officials who see the value in not only the TRS defined benefit plan, but out other valuable retirement benefits as well!

In previously editions of the Inside Line, we have given you a guide to help you find the best candidates in your area. If you are unsure of whom to vote for, use our “Voter Health” series to help you find the best candidate for the job.

Early voting ends on February 26. March 1 is primary election day. TRTA recommends that you cast your vote early! Primary election day will feature long, tedious lines.

Be sure to encourage your fellow retirees, family members, friends, neighbors and active educators in your area to vote!

TRS Board of Trustees to Meet This Week

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees is set to meet February 24-26 at the Region 10 Educational Service Center, 1st Floor, Collin, Dallas, and Ellis Rooms, 400 East Spring Valley Road, Richardson, TX 75081.

TRTA encourages members to attend this meeting in person if they live in the area, especially on Wednesday and Thursday when topics pertaining to TRS-Care are discussed. You may read the board’s agenda items here.

If you are unable to attend in person, you may view the meetings online via live webcast. Please note that the links below will not be live until the meetings begin for the day. For meeting start times, please view the agenda linked above.

Here is the link to Wednesday’s video stream.

Here is the link to Thursday’s video stream.

Here is the link to Friday’s video stream.

Thank You

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! If you are not a member and are interested in joining, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650. Registration for the 63rd Annual TRTA Convention is open! To register online, click here! Stay tuned for more details about our upcoming convention in next week’s Inside Line!

Protecting your retirement benefits is one of TRTA’s top priorities, and your participation makes all the difference! Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to stay informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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11 Feb
0

New TRTATV Episode: Texas Primary Elections, Part Two

Early voting for the Texas primaries begins on February 16. For weeks, we’ve been reporting on the importance of these elections, and how your vote in them has a greater impact than in the general election!

Often, the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) receives the question of which candidates we support. Unlike a Political Action Committee (PAC), TRTA does not endorse individual candidates. We encourage our members to investigate and vote for the candidates whom they believe will best represent their interests.

There are three general criteria we use to judge the quality of a candidate:

  1. Is this a friendly incumbent?
  2. Does the challenger support defined benefit plans?
  3. Do anti-public education groups support the incumbent?

A friendly incumbent is the easiest of these three criteria to determine. Has your Senator or Representative been supportive of TRTA-friendly bills? Have they advocated for a cost-of-living increase? Or have they opposed legislation that would extend benefits to public education retirees? If you are able to answer these questions, it will be easy to determine whether you should be voting for your incumbent candidate.

It is quite common for a newly elected state representative or senator to be unaware of the defined benefit versus defined contribution discussion. Certainly, TRTA takes measures to inform all officials about the strengths of our defined benefit plans, but having a candidate who is informed when they come into office can be a major boon to our lobbying efforts. Be sure to know whether the challengers in your area are knowledgeable and supportive of defined benefit plans.

Anti-public education groups come in many different forms. For the purposes of this discussion, we will focus on groups seeking to uproot our defined benefit plans. Groups such as the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Texas Public Policy Foundation have consistently lobbied against defined benefit plans such as TRS. If the candidate you are considering is backed by one of these organizations, you should question whether the candidate really has your best interests in mind.

One of the best places to learn more about your candidates is to visit your local unit. Often, TRTA local units will schedule meetings that include Q&A’s, forums and meet-and-greets with potential candidates. These meetings are a great opportunity for you to meet the candidates who might represent you in the Texas Legislature.

If you are unable to make it to a local unit meeting or if you would like to continue your work online, we recommend the following resources:

Teach the Vote
Texas Educators Vote
Texas Teachers Vote
Texas Parent PAC
Texas League of Women Voters
Texas Tribune

If there are additional resources that you have found helpful and you think TRTA should share them with its members, please contact us!

Thank You

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! If you are not a member and are interested in joining, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650.

Protecting your retirement benefits is one of TRTA’s top priorities, and your participation makes all the difference! Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to stay informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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04 Feb
0

New TRTATV Episode: Primaries Upcoming

Texas primary elections are right around the corner. If you’ve been following the Inside Line, you know just how important these elections are to the well-being of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS).

If historical trends hold, only about eight races will be contested by the time the Texas general election rolls around in November. Due to low voter turnout, your voice will be amplified during the primary election season.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is only as strong as its membership allows it to be. We need you to research candidates in your area and find out which ones are pro-public education and pro-defined benefit plan. Similarly, you can further extend your influence on the election by encouraging your fellow retired educators to vote, as well as your family members.

In particular, the spotlight is shining hard on the 2016 election cycle. Josh McGee, an outspoken opponent of defined benefit plans and Vice-President of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, has been assigned to the Pension Review Board (PRB).

The Pension Review Board plays a pivotal role in determining the future of your retirement fund. The PRB is tasked with making recommendations to the Texas Legislature about the financial soundness of TRS. The Pension Review Board’s next meeting is Feb. 11 at 10 AM.

In order to ensure the safety of the TRS fund, we must elect legislators who are friendly to our cause. TRTA members have a strong history of voting the November general election, but we must focus on taking control of our future by voting in the primary elections. Early voting runs from Feb. 16 to Feb. 26, and the primary election day is March 1.

Windfall Elimination Provision Update

The Windfall Elimination Provision is an outdated and unfair formula that punishes a significant portion of TRTA members. Kevin Brady introduced a bill to Congress in early 2015 that would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision. Brady is the chairman for the Ways and Means Committee, wherein HR 711 currently resides.

In order to gain traction with this bill, it needs more Congressional co-sponsors. If you haven’t already, we highly encourage you to find out whether your Congressman is co-sponsoring this bill and contact them. Additionally, now is a great time to show your support for Brady.

Thank You

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! If you are not a member and are interested in joining, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650.

Protecting your retirement benefits is one of TRTA’s top priorities, and your participation makes all the difference! Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to stay informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Read More