Blog

23 May
0

HB 3976 Passes the Senate, TRTA Facebook Live Event May 23

HB 3976, the TRS-Care reform bill authored by Chairman Trent Ashby(R-Lufkin) and sponsored by Chairman Joan Huffman (R-Houston), passed the Senate on Sunday, May 21 with a vote of 31-0. As members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) know, the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program is facing a shortfall of more than $1 billion this coming biennium. If no legislation is passed to address the shortfall, TRS-Care will enter a financial “death spiral,” leaving public education retirees in Texas without access to a TRS health benefit.

HB 3976, in combination with SB 1 (the state budget), will help keep TRS-Care from certain death. Over the weekend, the conference committee met to finalize the details of SB 1. The final amount of funding approved by conferees for TRS-Care is approximately $480 million. The budget must still be voted on by the full bodies in both the Senate and the House of the Texas Legislature, and HB 3976 will now return to the Texas House for final approval.

During Sunday’s Senate floor debate about HB 3976, Senators Kirk Watson (D-Austin) and Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) posed several questions to Senate bill sponsor Joan Huffman, verifying details about how the bill will work and how retirees may be impacted as the program continues into the future. Their queries were very helpful, and TRTA appreciates their support.

Senator Huffman, who served on the interim committee to study solutions to TRS-Care’s perpetual funding problems, authored SB 788 earlier in the session. SB 788 was removed from the Senate intent calendar, while Ashby’s HB 3976 continued moving through the legislative process. HB 3976 also improved upon the bill by providing additional permanent funding for the program. Once HB 3976 made its way to the Senate State Affairs committee for a hearing, Huffman improved the bill by adding $20 million for prescription coverage for participants under the age of 65. You can read more about the amendment here.

TRTA Facebook Live Event: May 23 at 6 P.M.

Members, please join us tomorrow evening, Tuesday, May 23 at 6:00 p.m. for a TRTA Facebook Live event, when TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee and TRTA Legislative Coordinator Bill Barnes review the details of both HB 3976 and SB 1 and tell retirees what to expect next for TRS-Care in the legislative process. You will be able to watch the event on TRTA’s Facebook page.

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.

This is TRTA’s most challenging moment. The TRS-Care plan would be significantly worse without your advocacy! We can and will make a difference in affecting positive change for TRS-Care legislation.

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

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20 May
0

Budget Conferees Allocate Approximately $480 Million Towards TRS-Care Shortfall

Tonight, the Texas Legislature’s budget conferees adopted a strategy that will allocate approximately $480 million towards TRS-Care. This budget will still need to be approved in both the House and Senate. CSHB 3976, the bill that would prevent TRS-Care from entering “a death spiral,” is still awaiting a vote in the Texas Senate. TRTA will keep you updated as these stories continue to develop.

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.

This is TRTA’s most challenging moment. The TRS-Care plan would be significantly worse without your advocacy! We can and will make a difference in affecting positive change for TRS-Care legislation.

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

Read More
19 May
0

CSHB 3976 Placed on Senate Intent Calendar, Budget Still Pending

Earlier this week, CSHB 3976, the TRS-Care retiree health insurance reform bill proposed by Chairman Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) and Chairman Joan Huffman (R-Houston), passed out of the Senate State Affairs committee. As our members may recall, during the committee meeting on Monday, May 15, Senator Huffman added a committee substitute to the bill calling for additional funding in the amount of $20 million to support some prescription drug coverage for participants under the age of 65.

While the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) has not learned any new information at this time about the prescription benefit, we want to report that the bill continues to move forward in the legislative process.

The next step for CSHB 3976 is to be heard on the Senate floor. As of this writing, a date for that has not yet been set. However, the bill can be read and voted upon at any time! You can watch the Senate broadcast here. We ask our members to stay tuned to the Inside Line, as well as Facebook and Twitter, for the latest information about when the bill will be heard.

The state budget, which is now in the hands of budget conferees from both the Senate and the House, is still being developed as well. The plan’s most critical piece to keep TRS-Care from entering a death spiral and closing within two years is to ensure that the most money possible from the budget is dedicated to the health care program.

Both Ashby and Huffman serve on the conference committee. During the Senate State Affairs meeting on May 15, Huffman said that she believed it is “not the majority will of the Senate to use the Rainy Day Fund.” The House budget proposal includes $500 million from the Economic Stabilization Fund for TRS-Care.

While there are many differences between the Senate and House budget that must be worked out before the legislative session ends on Monday, May 29, Huffman stated that she will advocate for the money to ensure that the CSHB 3976 plan structure is used, including adding the free prescription benefit.

Huffman indicated that she will also advocate for enough money to use the proposed House deductible of $3,000 for participants under the age of 65 (the Senate proposal deductible was $4,000), and the proposed House premiums (these are about $50 less expensive than what was proposed in an alternate version of the bill earlier in session). Huffman also supports increasing the school district contribution to TRS-Care from .55 percent to .75 percent and increasing the state contribution from 1 percent to 1.25 percent (percentages based on active teacher payroll).

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified at Monday’s hearing, saying “please hear our outcry…we need as much money as possible in order for our retirees to be able to afford this program.”

Today, TRTA legislative team members, including Tim Lee, are visiting with State Senators one-on-one to answer their questions about the bill and keep the momentum going. There still may be changes to the bill, as it can be amended on the Senate floor.

While this bill is not a perfect solution, it is best option on the table, and it will prevent TRS-Care’s collapse. Funding is what makes a difference. Over the next several days, TRTA will work with legislators to get the most money possible for TRS-Care. The more money provided by the Legislature, the better the plan will be for retirees!

We encourage our members to reach out to their Senators using our toll-free legislator hotline (1.888.674.3788) asking for their support of the most funding possible for this vital retiree health care program!

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.

This is TRTA’s most challenging moment. The TRS-Care plan would be significantly worse without your advocacy! We can and will make a difference in affecting positive change for TRS-Care legislation.

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

Read More