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27 Feb
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TRTA Day at the Capitol Announced: March 29, 2017!

TRTA Day at the Capitol is set for Wednesday, March 29, 2017 on the heels of the 64thAnnual TRTA Convention. Day at the Capitol raises awareness on Texas public education retirees’ most important issues and encourages immediate legislative action to address them.

TRTA is expecting a big crowd! District and local leaders are making transportation plans to visit Austin, and the TRTA staff is happy answer any questions you may have. Below are some important facts you need to know about TRTA Day at the Capitol. Please call 1.800.880.1650 or email info@trta.org with questions or comments.

RSVPs Required

Help TRTA get a headcount for Day at the Capitol! If your district or local unit is bringing a large group to the event, send an email to info@trta.org with details such as how many people will be attending. You do not need to RSVP if you have registered for the 64th Annual TRTA Convention.

You can also let us know if you’re going by joining our Facebook event!

TRTA Day at the Capitol Schedule of Events

7:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.                    Shuttle service from Hilton to Capitol for Convention attendees

8:00 – 9:00 a.m.                            Legislative Visits

9:30 a.m.                                        House Gallery

10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.                Photo opportunities with legislators (TRTA staff photographer is first come, first served)

10:30 a.m.                                      Senate Gallery

11:30 a.m.                                      Rally on the Capitol South Steps

12:00 p.m.                                      Additional Legislative Visits

12:30 – 2:30 p.m.                          Ice Cream Social on the East Lawn

1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.                   Return shuttle service to Hilton Austin for Convention attendees

Capitol Map

Download the Capitol Building Guide here

Capitol Parking

Parking at the Texas Capitol is located at 1201 San Jacinto Boulevard, Austin, TX 78701. Parking in a state parking garage is free for the first 2 hours and $1.00 for each half hour thereafter. The maximum daily charge is $12.00. You may enter the garage off of E. 12th Street or E. 13th Street. The exit is onto San Jacinto Boulevard.

Frequently Asked Questions

What time will Day at the Capitol begin?

TRTA Day at the Capitol has a general start time of 9:00 a.m., though staff and volunteers will be there to greet you by 8:00 a.m. The Day at the Capitol has been scheduled on a Wednesday so that participants close to Austin or those spending the night may be able to visit with their legislators or attend any scheduled morning legislative committee hearings. Those wanting to visit a legislative committee hearing will need to check with TRTA a few days before the event to see what committee meetings are scheduled for that date. For members who are attending the 64th Annual TRTA Convention in Austin and staying at the Hilton, TRTA will provide continuous service shuttle buses to and from the Texas Capitol in twenty-minute increments. Rides to the Capitol begin at 7:00 a.m. and end at 10:30 a.m. Return rides to the Hilton begin at 1:30 p.m. and end at 4:00 p.m. An ADA bus will be available the entire day.


When will the first TRTA event happen?

TRTA members are asked to make their way to the House gallery (3rd floor west) no later than 9:30 a.m. on March 29. We hope to fill the House and Senate visitor galleries with members so that they will be recognized by legislative leaders. TRTA will have a proclamation read into the record recognizing March 29 as TRTA Day at the Capitol. Upon the statement being read into the record, TRTA members are ENCOURAGED to APPLAUD WITH GREAT ENTHUSIASM! TRTA is also working with legislative leaders on making a presentation to the House and Senate regarding the number of volunteer hours members have given and the number of books donated through the Children’s Book Project over the past year.


What about the Senate?


When will we visit the legislators?

The TRTA Day at the Capitol is ultimately about our members making their presence known to their elected officials. Depending on your planned arrival time, early morning legislative appointments can be made between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. TRTA wants to have as many members as possible in the House gallery by 9:30 a.m. and the Senate gallery by 10:30 a.m. TRTA members should be able to make additional mid-morning and afternoon appointments between 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. (depending upon how long members are able to stay).

Keep in mind that many legislators may be attending committee meetings that morning. If you know that your legislator(s) is scheduled to be in a specific committee, you may want to visit that committee hearing before it starts or as it is finishing so that you may see them before the start of the floor session. Also, it is perfectly acceptable to visit with your legislator’s key staff. These hard-working, dedicated employees are responsible for letting their boss know what you have to say. If you cannot see your legislator, visiting with their staff is a very good way to deliver the TRTA message.


What if I want a photo taken of me with my legislator(s)?

Many members want to have a picture taken for publication in their local unit newsletter, website, and/or in local newspapers. TRTA will have volunteers to take pictures with you (and your group) and your legislator(s), although available times are limited. You may request that a TRTA photographer be present at your appointment to take a photo by sending an email to info@trta.org, Subject Line: Day at the Capitol Photo. Photo appointments are first come, first served. In lieu of having a TRTA staff member take your photo, you can often ask a legislative staffer to take your photo with your legislator using your camera or phone.


Will TRTA provide handouts?

Yes. TRTA is developing a one-page handout that you can provide to your legislator or their staff. The important part is that you, as their constituent, are the person delivering this information. TRTA members coming to the Day at the Capitol will also receive a free commemorative TRTA tote bag! Bags and information will be handed out at the various Capitol building entrances.


How can I find other TRTA members in my area who plan to come to this event?

TRTA District Presidents and local unit leaders may be chartering buses, planning carpools or helping to connect members that may be coming on their own for this event. If you do not know how to contact local TRTA leaders in your area, click on this link to find your TRTA Local Unit Web Page.


I am coming on my own and am thinking about spending the night. Where is a good place to stay?

TRTA has lodging benefits at the Drury Inn and La Quinta. Click here to learn more.


What are some other important items I need to know?

Perhaps the most important fact to know about visiting the Texas Capitol is that it is always very busy. Plan your schedule so that you have least twenty minutes between appointments or events. All Capitol entrance doors require visitors to pass through metal detectors and have their bags searched. TRTA members who have a Texas-issued concealed handgun license (CHL) may use a quicker security line that bypasses metal detectors and bag search. Buses coming to the event must unload passengers on the east side of the Texas Capitol. Due to the long lines that may form at the Capitol’s east door, TRTA members that are willing and able should utilize alternate Capitol entrances (north, south, and west). Please be aware that the only wheelchair accessible ramp is located at the Capitol’s north entrance. View the Capitol Accessibility Guide here.


What should I wear?

TRTA members are encouraged to wear red shirts. This is the color we have used in previous sessions, and it makes our crowd instantly recognizable. We suggest wearing comfortable clothes and shoes. Making a good impression is always important, but this will be a long day for many of our members from outlying TRTA districts and local units.


Will there be a central staging or rally area?

TRTA will host a press conference at approximately 11:30 a.m. on the south steps of the Texas Capitol. Between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m., TRTA will host an old-fashioned ice cream social under the tent on the east lawn. Please invite your legislators and their staff to attend. Join us for free ice cream, water, and fun with your legislators and fellow TRTA members!


What should I do for lunch?

TRTA is not providing a lunch meal during Day at the Capitol, but recommends that visitors go to the Capitol Grill on Floor E1 (Room E1.002). The Capitol Grill has a wonderful selection of lunch items, including food made-to-order, a salad bar, and pre-made meals.


I am not able to come, but I want to help. What can I do to make this event successful for TRTA?

Those who are not able to attend may make phone calls and send emails announcing and promoting the event to their legislators. A special email campaign is being developed about the March 29 TRTA Day at the Capitol. TRTA is hoping for a tidal wave of grassroots communication about this event to legislative offices from now until the big day. We want every legislator in Texas to know that TRTA is coming to the Capitol on March 29.


What You Can Do to Help Now!

TRTA IS THE VOICE FOR EDUCATION RETIREES, and we want to be seen and heard during Day at the Capitol.

We want to thank all of you who plan to attend or help us communicate with legislators about the big day.

The planning is well underway and we are looking forward to having as many members as possible here for this legislative event. Your phone calls, emails, and presence in Austin are all going to help advance the issues most important to you and your retirement.

Again, thank you for all you do! TRTA will continue to update you on our plans for March 29. For now, we ask that you begin making phone calls and letting your legislators know we are looking forward to SEEING THEM ON MARCH 29! Use the toll-free legislator hotline (1.888.674.3788) to call your Senator and Representative today!

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22 Feb
0

TRTA 64th Annual Convention Registration Deadline Nearing

Plans are underway for the 64th Annual TRTA Convention, which will be held in Austin March 27-28, 2017 at the Hilton (located at 500 E. 4th Street). This year, a truncated convention will occur on March 27 and 28, followed by a Day at the Capitol on March 29 where members will have the opportunity to visit one-on-one with their state Senators and Representatives! (Click here to read all about TRTA Day at the Capitol).

There is no better time to be in Austin! The Texas Legislature will be in regular session, discussing the TRS–Care health insurance program and ways to protect the longevity of benefits for our public education retirees and pre-retirees.

This year’s theme, “TRTA: Teamwork is Key,” is a perfect sentiment that matches TRTA’s drive to succeed as we navigate another challenging legislative session in the Texas capital city.

Registration Deadline: March 1

The deadline to register for the TRTA Convention will close next Wednesday, March 1, 2017. The deadline to reserve a room at the Hilton is also on March 1.

To register online for the TRTA Convention, please click here. You can preview the TRTA Convention schedule here.

The group rates at the Hilton for a single or double ($199), triple ($219), and quad ($239) per night are good through March 1, 2017. TRTA room rates do not include dates outside of March 27-29. Reserve your hotel room now by clicking this link. You may also call Hilton Austin at 1.844.291.8931 or 512.482.8000 and use reservation code “TRT.”

Please note that the room reservation block does not include ADA as an option. If you need a handicap-accessible room, reserve a regular room then contact TRTA’s Event Planner Ashley Welch at 512.650.6484.

We hope you will join us in Austin in for convention, Day at the Capitol, or both and be a part of the TRTA Team!

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are ardently fighting for your benefits every day at the Capitol. If you are not yet a TRTA member, please join here.

Be sure to like us on Facebookfollow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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21 Feb
0

House Appropriations Subcommittee Hears Testimony From TRS, TRTA

Today, February 20, 2017, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III listened to invited testimony from multiple state agencies, including the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), as well as public testimony.

The House budget bill will include funding for the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program. The Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III is responsible for education issues in the House budget.

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III members are: Rep. Trent Ashby, Chair; Rep. Helen Giddings, Vice-Chair; Rep. Mary E. González; Rep. Donna Howard; Rep. Linda Koop; Rep. John Raney; and Rep. Gary VanDeaver.

Trevor Simmons of the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) testified about TRS’s legislative appropriations request (LAR), and indicated that House Bill 1 (the budget bill) includes $4.8 billion for the TRS pension fund and health care programs for the coming biennium.

Simmons said the budget changes from the previous biennium are due to payroll growth. As our members know, contributions to the pension fund and TRS-Care from the state, school districts, and active employees are based on a percentage of payroll.

Simmons said TRS’s 7.3 percent rate of return in 2016, though less than the projected return of 8 percent, was higher than most other retirement systems for the year. He said the pension fund is in good shape and is moving in right direction.

For TRS-Care, HB 1 includes a total of $650 million for FY 2018-19, which is the projected amount based on the statutory contribution of 1 percent of payroll. HB 1 also deletes Rider 15, which in previous sessions has included legislative intent not to increase retiree premiums.

In TRS’s LAR presented in August, the agency requested $1.35 billion in exceptional funding for the TRS-Care shortfall. The most recently updated estimate is now $1.05 billion. This amount will continue to be updated throughout session.

LBB also presented a possible funding scenario, whereby the state would cover 50 percent, retirees would cover 25 percent, and school districts and active employees would cover 12.5 percent each. The state’s contribution would include $673 million additional dollars for the 2018-19 biennium, equivalent to 2 percent of active payroll.

HB 1 includes a new rider (18) that would provide for shared financial responsibility of the TRS-Care shortfall for 2018-19 (such as what is seen in scenario above).

Brian Guthrie, Executive Director of TRS, said the major focus on TRS’s budget requests for the biennium pertains to TRS-Care. For the third session in a row, TRS-Care shortfalls have been an issue.

Guthrie stated that TRS-Care is in distress, and the agency has done everything it can to forestall insolvency without help from the Legislature or major program changes.

Chair Ashby, who also served on the joint committee to study TRS-Care during the interim between legislative sessions, referenced the joint committee report and encouraged his committee members to read it. He also asked Guthrie about the worst case scenario, pondering what happens to TRS-Care if the Legislature does not add any additional money or make any program changes this session.

Guthrie said the program is unsustainable without additional funding or legislative changes, saying this is due primarily to the funding mechanism, which is based upon metric not associated with rising cost of health care. Though active member payroll is growing, it is not increasing at the same rate as medical inflation. Health care costs will continue to increase, widening the gap between program revenues and costs.

Guthrie also said the Legislature’s decision to remove the rider would allow the TRS board to increase retiree premiums, but reminded committee members that TRS-Care 1 is a free option. Large premium hikes in Care 2 and 3 could result in a migration to the free option. This would create a “death spiral” for the program as a whole: as premiums become unaffordable, members will gravitate to free option which would no longer be supplemented by revenues from Care 2 and 3. The program would quickly run out of money and be forced to close.

Chair Ashby also asked about the Medicare Advantage plan. Ashby said his constituents say many doctors in his district don’t accept Medicare Advantage. Guthrie said TRS is working with providers to educate them about the program, but there are still holdouts. He also said that as long as a physician accepts Medicare, retirees would still have access to coverage and service through TRS-Care Medicare Advantage.

Tim Lee, TRTA’s Executive Director, provided testimony on TRS-Care. He expressed the gratitude that retirees had for the state’s $768 million contribution last session, and he said retirees want “to do all that we can” to help legislators.

“We are fighting the rising cost of health care in this country,” Lee said. “These costs are so huge.”

TRTA believes that retirees can be a part of the solution with some consideration of benefit changes or premiums increases, but it is the rising costs of health care that are jeopardizing TRS-Care sustainability.

TRTA believes a shared-pain solution is the best approach for resolving the TRS-Care issue, and is more representative to how funding shortfalls have been resolved in the past.

Health care costs keep going up and without adding much needed funding to the TRS-Care program, retired teachers will be hit the hardest through massive premium increases and drastically cut health care benefits.

There are no sliver-bullets left for cost savings in TRS-Care. If retired school employees are going to have reasonable health care benefits at an affordable cost, more money is need for TRS-Care.

Chair Ashby said he looks forward to working with TRTA to develop a solution, and that he has appreciated working with TRTA in the past.

Stay tuned to The Inside Line for future updates from the House Appropriations Committee. Changes to TRS-Care funding will be coming hard and fast as the Legislature picks up steam. If you haven’t already, please use our legislator hotline (1-888-674-3788) to contact your Senator and Representative and inform them that TRS-Care is important to you. Our phone script can be found here. Looking for more ways to get involved? Use our TRS-Care page!

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are ardently fighting for your benefits every day at the Capitol. If you are not yet a TRTA member, please join here.

Be sure to like us on Facebookfollow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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