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09 Mar 2017
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Texas Senate Receives Testimony From Laura and John Arnold Foundation Vice-President, Josh McGee

The Texas Senate’s Committee on Nominations received testimony today from Josh McGee, who serves as the chair of the Pension Review Board (PRB).

McGee was appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to chair the board in November 2015, and has since been working in that role. The Committee on Nominations’ purpose is to decide whether or not to approve Abbott’s nominations to a variety of boards and commissions throughout the state.

McGee received many questions from the committee about his role as Vice-President of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation is a Houston-based nonprofit, which is primarily supported by former Enron executive and hedge fund manager, John Arnold. Chief among the Foundation’s goals is public pension reform, with an emphasis on converting public workers to defined contribution plans.

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) is a defined benefit plan, and changing it to a defined contribution plan could severely damage benefits for Texas public education retirees. DB plans promise a benefit for life, while the benefits available through DC plans can be outlived. Because 95 percent of Texas school employees do not pay into the federal Social Security program, the TRS DB plan is often their only form of financial security in retirement.

In his testimony to the Senate, McGee said he does not hold any preferences on pension plan design.

“Any type of plan can be designed well or designed poorly,” McGee said. “We want benefit plans that provide workers a secure retirement.”

However, McGee has written many op-eds for the Manhattan Institute, a public policy think-tank. In his op-eds, McGee has shown a strong, consistent preference for defined contribution plans.

Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) questioned McGee about his work and how it might impact his recommendations to the state. Birdwell expressed that many of his constituents, primarily retired teachers, police and firefighters, had a “distinct concern” about McGee’s appointment.

When asked about his ability to separate his work for the Manhattan Institute and the Pension Review Board McGee said, “The expertise I use is the same for both sides… My positions are consistent.”

TRS will be up for review from the Sunset Commission in 2019. The Sunset Commission is responsible for deciding whether to keep open Texas agencies or to combine them with other state agencies. The sunset review may provide the perfect time for defined contribution proponents to lay claim to changing TRS’s plan design.

TRTA and our members must stay vigilant in protecting the TRS defined benefit plan. Since its creation, TRS has never once missed a payment to its annuitants, and we need to keep it that way!

When McGee was announced as the appointment to the Pension Review Board, TRTA expressed its opposition. Based on today’s conversation, it is extremely likely that McGee will be approved as the nomination to the PRB.

We will continue to monitor and update McGee’s appointment as it continues to develop. We would also like to thank senators Joan Huffman (R-Houston), Kirk Watson (D-Austin), Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), and Borris Miles (D-Houston) for questioning Josh McGee about his position on sustaining defined benefit plans and his role on the PRB.

The March is On to the 64th Annual TRTA Convention

Members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) from all over the state will be visiting Austin March 27-28 for TRTA’s 64th Annual Convention.

Plans are being finalized for two fun-filled, productive days in Austin, where members will all work toward the same goal: Teamwork! This year’s convention theme, Teamwork is Key, is the perfect sentiment to match TRTA’s drive to succeed as we march forward during this challenging legislative session!

There is no better time to be in Austin! The Texas Legislature is 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.

The convention will be held at the Hilton on 500 E. 4th Street. Early registration for the convention is now closed. Late registration (on-site) will be available beginning Monday, March 27 at 10:00 a.m. The late registration fee is $45.

TRTA 64th Annual Convention Schedule

TRTA is pleased to release the convention’s schedule of events.

Monday, March 27, 2017

10 AM – 6 PM Delegate Certification/Registration • 6th Floor, Salon JK Foyer
10 AM – 6 PM Exhibits • 6th Floor, Salon JK
10 AM TRTA Officers Meeting • 4th Floor, Room 401
12 – 1 PM Texas Retired Teachers Foundation Trustees Meeting • 4th Floor, Room 400
12 – 1 PM Facilitators Meeting • 4th Floor, Room 402
2:30 – 3:30 PM TRTA Board of Directors Meeting • 4th Floor, Room 400
3:45 – 4:30 PM TRTA District Presidents Meeting • 4th Floor, Room 400
4:45 – 5:45 PM District Caucus Meetings • 4th Floor and 6th Floor, see page 5
5:30 – 6:30 PM Social Hour • 6th Floor, Salon G Foyer
6:30 PM Start Seating for Dinner • 6th Floor, Salon FGH
7 PM Welcome & Awards Dinner • 6th Floor, Salon FGH

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

8 AM – 12 PM Delegate Certification/Registration • 6th Floor, Salon JK Foyer
8 AM – 5 PM Exhibits • 6th Floor, Salon JK Foyer
8 – 9:15 AM Texas Retired Teachers Foundation Breakfast • 4th Floor, Salon ABC
9:30 – 10:30 AM Breakout Sessions I • 4th Floor and 6th Floor, see Breakout Sessions Schedule
10:45 – 11:45 AM Breakout Sessions II • 4th Floor and 6th Floor, see Breakout Sessions Schedule
12 – 1:30 PM Legislative Luncheon • 4th Floor, Governor’s Ballroom
2 PM – TBD House of Delegates • 6th Floor, Salon FGH
TBD Break (20 minutes) • 6th Floor, Salon FGH Foyer
TBD Legislative Session • 6th Floor, Salon FGH
TBD Treasurer Q & A • 6th Floor, Salon FGH
TBD TRTA Board of Directors Meeting • 6th Floor, Room 602
Dinner on your own

Below please see a list of all training and information sessions available on Tuesday, March 28:

BREAKOUT SESSIONS SCHEDULE

Session I • 9:30 – 10:30 AM

President • 4th Floor, Room 406

Second Vice-President/Public Relations • 4th Floor, Room 412
Historian • 6th Floor, Room 615 B
Local Unit Support • 4th Floor, Room 404
Informative and Protective Services • 4th Floor, Room 416 B
Local Unit Treasurer • 4th Floor, Room 410
Texas Retired Teachers Foundation • 6th Floor, Room 615 A
Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Information Session • 6th Floor, Room 602
Health and Human Services–Aging Service Coordination • 4th Floor, Room 408

Session II • 10:45 – 11:45 AM

First Vice–President/Membership • 4th Floor, Room 406
Secretary • 4th Floor, Room 404
District Treasurer • 6th Floor, Room 615 B
Retirement Education • 4th Floor, Room 410
Community Volunteer Service • 4th Floor, Room 408
Member Benefits • 4th Floor, Room 412
Health Care • 4th Floor, Room 416 B
Utilizing Google Drive Applications • 6th Floor, Room 615 A
Texas Retired School Administrators Annual Meeting • 6th Floor, Room 616 A
Atria: Better This Year • 6th Floor, Room 602

TBD (After House of Delegates)

*Legislative • 6th Floor, Salon FGH

*Treasurer Q & A • 6th Floor, Salon FGH

*Please note, at the conclusion of the House of Delegates on Tuesday, March 28, Legislative Committee Chairman Bill Barnes will host a legislative training session for all who wish to attend. This is a great opportunity to get updates on the 85th Legislative Session, learn the progress of any bills that have been filed, and learn techniques to help you advocate during TRTA’s Day at the Capitol event on March 29. Following the legislative training session will be a Q & A for district and local unit treasurers.

We look forward to seeing our members in Austin March 27-28 for convention, as well as for TRTA Day at the Capitol on March 29. TRTA will release more information about Day at the Capitol in tomorrow’s Inside Line.

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 read our comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions about TRS-Care here.

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

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08 Mar 2017
0

The March is On: TRS Board of Trustees Elections

Elections are now underway to fill two seats on the Board of Trustees for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). The members elected to the Board of Trustees of TRS represent your interests! There are two open trustee positions: a Retiree seat and an At-Large seat.

As a retiree you get to vote for one person for the retiree position and one person for the at-large position (active employees may only vote for the at-large seat).

PLEASE do not vote for more than one person per position on your ballot. Otherwise, it will be invalidated.

While TRTA will not tell you how to vote, we will tell you how vital it is that you vote! Are you a retiree who wants your voice represented on the TRS Board of Trustees? Then this conversation is about you!

TRTA members, this is an easy way to send a message that you care about what happens with your pension. Many times, these elections do not have a lot of voter participation. Can you imagine the wow-factor if more than 100,000 retirees voted in this election? It would be amazing!

According to the TRS March Newsletter, “one position will be appointed by the Governor from a list of the three candidates who receive the most votes after nomination and election by TRS retirees who are receiving benefits. The other position, a new at-large seat on the board, will be appointed by the Governor from a list of the three candidates who receive the most votes after nomination and election by both TRS retirees and active members. The at-large seat on the board was formerly reserved for a candidate from higher education. Both appointments will be for terms expiring on August 31, 2023.”

Learn About the Candidates

To read more about all of the candidates, click here! TRTA is honored to have two members running for the retiree position on the TRS Board of Trustees. James D. Nance and Fran Plemmons are both dedicated association volunteers and leaders. Please take some time to read the short biographies listed on the TRS website for all candidates.

How to Cast Your Vote

All TRS members should have received a copy of the TRS March Newsletter in the mail, or will receive it soon. Included with the newsletter is a paper ballot with voting instructions. There should also be a postage-paid return envelope included with the ballot. Eligible annuitants and active employees will have the opportunity to vote via the Internet as well. Instructions for both voting methods are included with the ballots.

Both eligible retirees and active members may now cast their ballots in the at-large election. In addition, eligible retirees may cast their ballots in the retiree election. Retirees may vote for one candidate in both of these elections. (Please note that active members of TRS (current employees) will receive a ballot containing only the names of the candidates seeking to be appointed to the at-large position on the board). Space on the ballots has also been provided for write-in candidates.

To be counted, ballots must be returned in envelopes received by TRS no later than May 5, 2017. This means your ballot must be in the TRS office by that date, not postmarked by that date. Be sure to send your ballot in the mail as soon as possible so that it is received in time!

If you prefer, you may cast your vote online following the instructions included with your ballot. Please note you may only use one voting method: mail or Internet. Internet votes must be cast by 5:00 p.m. (CDT) on May 5.

Names of the top three candidates, along with the number of votes they received in each election, will be submitted to the Governor. The Governor will then appoint one of the individuals in each election to fill a six-year term beginning as early as September 1, 2017.

Make your voice heard and cast your vote today!

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 read our comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions about TRS-Care here.

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07 Mar 2017
0

The March is On: Repealing the WEP Still On the Horizon

Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) leaders visited Washington, D.C. last week to meet with Texas congressional members about what the next steps are in repealing the unfair federal Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

Are your earned Social Security wages being taken away from you? Then this conversation is about you!

Congressman Kevin Brady filed legislation during the last congressional cycle to address the WEP. H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, proposed to provide a rebate to retirees who fall under the WEP. The bill received considerable support, including 100 Congressional cosponsors.

However, stakeholder groups could not come to a final agreement on the bill’s changes to the WEP. The bill was delayed in committee, with a promise from Brady to continue moving forward with even better resolutions to this unfair law in the next congressional cycle.

During TRTA’s visits in Washington, D.C. last week, Congressman Brady again affirmed that his top personal priority as a legislator is to pass WEP reform. However, due to major political issues such as tax reform and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) taking precedence in the early part of this new congressional cycle, a bill has not yet been filed to address the WEP. Brady, who chairs the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, said he would file new legislation as soon as he can. When filed, the bill will have a new name and number.

Brady felt that the bill may be filed by late summer, and vowed to continue working closely with all stakeholders, including TRTA, to make the legislation work for everyone. Members, we also want you to know that the Government Pension Offset (GPO) was a part of this conversation. It is possible that the GPO could be addressed in any upcoming legislation reforming the WEP as well.

What You Can Do Now to Support Repeal of the WEP and GPO

While there is not yet a bill number for reforming or repealing the WEP and GPO, members can still call their congressmen today and express their support for Congressman Brady’s efforts to change these unfair provisions. Let them know you want to see these unfair provisions reformed and you would like their support when Congressman Brady’s bill is filed later this year.

Find your U.S. Representative by clicking here.

Call your U.S. Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, using the phone numbers listed below:

John Cornyn: 202.224.2934        Ted Cruz: 202.224.5922

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 read our comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions about TRS-Care here.

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

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