Blog

30 Mar
0

TRTA Convention and Day at the Capitol Are Almost Here!

  • Invite your legislators to TRTA Day at the Capitol on April 3!
  • Please be sure to share our press release about convention and Day at the Capitol with your fellow retirees and local media outlets.
  • Please pay attention to the weather forecast. Some recent forecasts have indicated there could be rain and thunderstorms in the Austin area the week of April 1. Pack an umbrella or poncho!

TRTA 66th Annual Convention Details

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) 66th Annual Convention begins Monday, April 1, 2019. The two-day event is followed by a TRTA Day at the Capitol on April 3.

Early registration for the convention is now closed. Late (on-site) registration will begin on April 1 at 10:00 a.m. The TRTA state office will be closed, as all staff are attending the convention. If you have any questions about your registration or delegate certification, please contact our Membership Department at membership@trta.org or communicate with the staff at the registration booth on the 6th floor.

Legislation is always a key focus of our annual conventions, and this year our members are excited to learn more about legislation filed this session to make the TRS pension fund actuarially sound and provide retirees with some financial relief.

During the Legislative Luncheon being held on April 2, members will hear from TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee, Senator Bryan Hughes, Representative Mary Gonzalez, Representative Greg Bonnen, and TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie and about what potential solutions are on the table and how it will affect retirees.

Members will also be able to attend a special legislative pep rally that occurs after the House of Delegates on April 2. Legislative Coordinator Tonna Duke and the Austin legislative team will provide updates on the 86th Legislative Session, including what is happening with bills such as HB 9 and SB 12 and the state’s budget bills. Ms. Duke will share techniques and materials to help members advocate during TRTA Day at the Capitol on April 3.

Day at the Capitol Details

Day at the Capitol, which is open to all convention attendees as well as any member or friend who wishes to join us, will occur on Wednesday, April 3! TRTA is expecting nearly 2000 attendees for this day of grassroots lobbying. Attendees will receive a special #RaisetheBase bracelet and sticker to wear while supplies last.

Schedule of Events

8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.                 Legislative Visits (optional)
9:30 a.m.                                        House Gallery (head to gallery at 9:00 a.m.)
10:30 a.m.                                      Senate Gallery (head to gallery at 10:00 a.m.)
11:30 a.m. or 12:00 p.m.             Rally on the East Lawn
12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.               Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Social
12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.               Additional Legislative Visits (optional)

Capitol Maps

Capitol Grounds and Building Maps
Capitol Directory of Legislator Offices

Day at the Capitol Quick Tips

  • Wear red!
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes.
  • If you’re attending convention, bring your convention bag and name badge with you.
  • If you are not attending convention, please consider bringing a bag from home.
  • Bring business cards if you plan to meet with legislators or staffers.
  • Carry your identification and any pertinent medical information you may need in case of an emergency.
  • To set an appointment with your legislators, call the Legislator Hotline (888.674.3788) and speak with the scheduler in your Senator’s or Representative’s office.
  • There is more than one line to enter the Capitol! If the line is too long at the east door, please consider going to the south or north doors for quicker access. The only wheelchair accessible entrance is the north door.
  • Email your photos to info@trta.org and we will post them to Facebook.

Shuttles and Parking
Convention attendees may ride a shuttle from the Hilton to the Capitol. Shuttles will begin running in 20-minute intervals at approximately 7:00 a.m. and will run continuously until 4:00 p.m. (final pickup).

If you are travelling to Austin on April 3 or prefer to park near the Capitol you may do so in one of the state parking garages located along San Jacinto Street (between 12th, 13th and 14th streets). From the state garages, the east lawn is a short walk of one block to the west.

If you are with a large group arriving on April 3, please be aware that buses must unload passengers on the east side of the Texas Capitol (on Brazos street). Buses may park along Trinity Street.

Thank You!

TRTA is the voice for public education retirees, and we want to be seen and heard on April 3! Let’s get as many TRTA members and friends as possible in Austin for this important legislative event!

Let your legislators know we are looking forward to seeing them on April 3! Call 888.674.3788 to reach out to your legislators now or send them an email.

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26 Mar
0

House Bill 9 is Heard in Committee

  • This is a very busy week in the Texas Legislature for TRTA and TRS-related issues!
  • House Bill 9, the House actuarial soundness bill for TRS, was heard in the PIFS Committee
  • The full House debates the budget tomorrow, March 27, and many amendments affecting retirees will be debated
  • Senate Finance will discuss Article III on March 28
  • Don’t forget to invite your legislators to TRTA Day at the Capitol on April 3!

(Editor’s note: A previous version of the Inside Line said that HB 9 passed committee today. The bill was heard, but has not yet passed.)

Today, March 26, the House Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee (PIFS) met to discuss House Bill 9 (HB 9). As members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) may know, HB 9, authored by Representative Greg Bonnen (R – League City), is the House’s proposal to make the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) pension fund actuarially sound.

Similar to SB 12, which passed the Texas Senate yesterday, HB 9, if passed, would provide long-term solvency for the pension fund and provide some immediate financial relief to retirees in the form of a one-time supplemental check. The proposed amount of the check would be capped at $2400.

TRTA knows Representative Bonnen has been working with Senator Joan Huffman to pass a long-term, cost-efficient plan to stabilize the pension fund. Yesterday’s passage of SB 12 in the Senate showed unanimous support for long-term sustainability of the pension fund and for retired educators.

As our members may know, by state law, the Legislature cannot approve a cost-of-living increase for retirees unless the system can pay off its liabilities within 31 years or less.

Rep. Bonnen described the purpose of his bill to the committee. According to Bonnen, retired educators “are looking for and deserve reliability in their pension.”

He said that both chambers have shown broad support for making the pension actuarially sound, and both are hopeful that some kind of benefit increase to current retirees can be provided.

Tim Lee, TRTA’s Executive Director, spoke to the committee too. He showed support for HB 9.

“Texas has done more right with their pension fund than many other states,” he said. “What we have represents a tremendous value for all Texans.”

Legislation can be fluid during a legislative session, undergoing multiple versions before a final bill is passed. At the moment, SB 12 and HB 9 differ on a few elements, including the amount of the proposed one-time supplemental payment for retirees. However, both bills are working toward the vital and necessary step to make the pension fund sound enough to provide a much-needed benefit increase for retirees.

TRS retirees really need a permanent boost in their pension benefits, but any permanent COLA is only possible if the Legislature passes a comprehensive funding plan for TRS. The vote in the Senate yesterday and the House PIFS committee today proves that our state is determined to ensure retirement security for our retired and active school employees.

TRTA supports raising the base funding for both the TRS pension plan the and TRS-Care health insurance program. TRTA also supports helping TRS retirees with a meaningful benefit increase this session.

The work being done this session must help our current retirees, as their health care premiums and other costs are going up. A lack of pension increases means many retirees can barely make ends meet. Texas can and should do more to help our retired school employees!

TRTA supports both SB 12 and HB 9 and is actively working with elected officials to help all TRS members. TRTA has expressed to the legislators that more needs to be done for retirees! TRTA is pushing for as large a benefit increase for retirees as possible.

House Budget Debate Tomorrow

Amendments will be made tomorrow, March 27, from the House floor as they debate the state budget bills. Here are some of the amendments TRTA is keeping its eyes on that impact retirees:

  • #116–by Munoz, Jr.: Reclassifies the TRS-Care Supplemental appropriation to base budget funding by the same value of the supplemental appropriation, except calculated as a percentage of payroll. Contingent on passage of HB 3887 (Capriglione) or similar legislation.
  • #150–by Flynn: Moves $29 million from ESF to TRS.
  • #223–by Howard: Creates an independent Ombudsman at TRS to investigate member complaints and other issues that may negatively impact TRS members.
  • #306–by Toth: Redirects $1 million from Article I to TRS-Care in Article III.

A link to the live webcast of the House floor debate will be available from this website at approximately 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.

Also Coming Up This Week

On Thursday, March 28 at 9:00 a.m., the Senate Finance Committee will meet to discuss the budget for Article III, where funds appropriated for TRS are determined. A live link to the meeting webcast will be available from this website on Thursday morning.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are fighting ardently 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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25 Mar
0

Senate Passes SB 12

  • Yes, this is TRTA’s third update of the day!
  • This is a very busy week in the Texas Legislature for TRTA and TRS-related issues!
  • Earlier today, Senate State Affairs passed a resolution urging Congress to repeal the GPO and WEP
  • Today, the full Senate body also passed the TRS actuarial soundness bill, SB 12
  • See Tim Lee’s statement about SB 12 in the body of this update!
  • Tomorrow (March 26) at 8:00 a.m., Pensions, Investments and Financial Services hears House Bill 9 (a link to the live webcast will be available online tomorrow morning from this link)
  • Don’t forget to invite your legislators to TRTA Day at the Capitol on April 3!

Today, March 25, the Texas Senate voted on SB 12, the bill filed by Senator Joan Huffman that would make the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) pension fund actuarially sound and provide retirees with a one-time supplemental payment.

Huffman’s bill proposes changes that would occur over several years, eventually increasing the state contribution from the current 6.8 percent to 8.25 percent by fiscal year 2024. This would incur an ongoing cost, but it would be shared among all contributors. The bill also proposes that the school district contribution rise from 1.5 percent to 2 percent by 2025 and the active employee contribution from 7.7 percent to 8.25 percent by 2024. At present, the bill’s proposed supplemental payment for retirees would be capped at $500.

When laying out the bill, Senator Huffman acknowledged that the Texas House is offering a similar bill, HB 9, that differs in a few ways, adding “but I believe the intent of both chambers is to pass a long-term, cost-efficient plan that fits within the confines of the state budget and works towards eliminating the unfunded liability.”

Senator Jose Menendez
commented on the bill, saying “retirees have not received an increase in benefits since 2013.” Menendez then asked bill author Huffman “with the increase in the allocations to the fund . . . if we put that in the Constitution…would that not allow then if we get approved by the voters to provide for a cost-of-living adjustment?” Huffman responded that funding a COLA can cost up to $6 billion. “For every one percent of COLAS for retirees, you need $1 billion to pay for it.”

Menendez said his concern is that retirees have gone so long without any increase, but their insurance rates keep rising, expressing his hope that more can be done for retirees because “they have been waiting patiently for so long.”

Huffman said HB 9 in the House does provide for a larger supplemental payment and said she will be advocating for the retired teachers and working within the parameters of what the budget allows. Menendez indicated he would like to be part of the conversation as the budget continues to be negotiated between the Senate and House.

Senator Jane Nelson
asked Huffman what would happen if the Legislature did nothing to address the pension fund, which presently has a funding period of 87 years. Huffman responded that “the fund would eventually run out of money and retirees would not receive their pensions.”

Huffman also added that TRS is “in the forever business . . . our investments are long-term . . .we have to look long-term how are we going to protect these individuals who choose that profession,” adding that educators “want some certainty” about their retirement benefits.

Senator Nelson added that the Senate is “committed to using money out of our Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF),” and that using these funds allows the Legislature to come up with a more permanent funding solution by bringing the pension fund to actuarial soundness immediately.

Huffman concurred adding that “we get to 29 years and we pay off totally by 2049,” meaning that passing the bill reduces the TRS pension fund’s funding period from 87 years to 29 years immediately and that all of the fund’s unfunded liability will be paid off by 2049. As our members may know, by state law, the Legislature cannot approve a cost-of-living increase for retirees unless the system can pay off its liabilities within 31 years or less.

Senator Nelson added that legislators “care about our retired teachers, we hear them, we get why they’re worried.”

SB 12 passed unanimously out of the Senate with a vote of 31 ayes and zero nays and will now be sent to the Texas House of Representatives for consideration.

More to Come on Making TRS Actuarially Sound

TRTA knows Senator Huffman has been working with Representative Greg Bonnen (R – League City) in the Texas House to introduce legislation that would shore up the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) pension fund and provide some kind of benefit increase to retirees.

Bonnen’s bill, HB 9, also proposes to make the TRS pension fund actuarially sound and provide a supplemental payment to retired educators. HB 9 is on the schedule tomorrow, March 26, at 8:00 a.m. for the House Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services Committee. A live webcast of the meeting will be available from this link tomorrow morning.

As many TRTA members know, legislation can be fluid during a legislative session, undergoing multiple versions before a final bill is passed. At the moment, SB 12 and HB 9 differ on a few elements, including the amount of the proposed one-time supplemental payment for retirees. However, both bills are working toward the vital and necessary step to make the pension fund sound enough to provide a much-needed benefit increase for retirees.

TRTA is committed to working through this process with both the Senate and House. The House version of pension funding reform puts more of that cost burden on the state and offers a larger supplemental payment to TRS retirees.

Statement from TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee

TRTA is very pleased to see the Texas Senate take action on a funding plan that ensures the long-term solvency of the TRS pension fund. SB 12 would immediately improve the TRS pension fund’s long-term sustainability by increasing funding to the system. It would also provide retirees some financial help.

TRS retirees really need a permanent boost in their pension benefits, but any permanent cost-of-living increase is only possible if the Legislature passes a comprehensive funding plan for TRS. The vote in the Senate today and the work being done in the Legislature this session proves that our state is determined to ensure retirement security for our retired and active school employees.

TRTA supports raising the base funding for both the TRS pension plan the and TRS-Care health insurance program. TRTA also supports helping TRS retirees with a meaningful benefit increase this session.

The work being done this session must help our current retirees, as their health care premiums and other costs are going up. A lack of pension increases means many retirees can barely make ends meet. Texas can and should do more to help our retired school employees!

TRTA supports both SB 12 and HB 9 and is actively working with elected officials to help all TRS members.

We will continue to keep you updated on this very busy week of legislative activity. All of the activity we are seeing is very positive and is moving your pension fund in a direction that provides long-term stability for all current and future TRS retirees.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are fighting ardently 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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