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22 Apr
0

TRTA Working with Texas State Senators on Legislation

Yesterday, the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) provided an update about some of the work being done to help public education retirees this session. Great solutions are developing for the TRS-Care funding shortfall, and many legislators are looking at ways to provide possible benefit increases to annuitants of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS).

Many devoted TRTA members are responding and inquiring about the Texas Senate’s actions that are aimed at increasing retirees’ benefits.

TRTA members who attended our Day at the Capitol event on April 8 will recall the motivating and encouraging words of Sen. Jose Menendez (D – San Antonio). Senator Menendez has been a steadfast supporter of the TRTA legislative agenda, dedicated to meeting with the local units in his district. Senator Menendez is an outspoken proponent of helping retirees receive additional benefit support.

Senator Menendez filed Senate Bill 1991. If passed, the bill would provide a pension increase to over 100,000 TRS retirees. The bill would provide a 3 percent cost-of-living increase (capped at $100 per month) to those retirees who did not receive one last session as a result of Senate Bill 1458. Like its House companion bill mentioned in yesterday’s update, SB 1991 would affect annuitants who retired between September 2004 and August 2013. Menendez has also filed a bill (Senate Bill 1833) that would provide a thirteenth check to TRS annuitants. TRTA fully supports this legislation and looks forward to working with Senator Menendez and his Senate colleagues.

The Chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee, Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston), and her colleagues are exploring long-term solutions to fund TRS-Care. TRTA greatly appreciates this work, and we have many friends in the Texas Legislature who are making TRS-Care a top priority this session.

TRTA is truly grateful for the support we receive from our legislators. Both the House and the Senate are working with us to resolve TRS-Care’s challenges and ensure our pension fund is protected from groups wanting to diminish the value of our TRS defined benefit plan.

As recently as April 20 during a House Pensions Committee hearing, various anti-pension interests testified that defined benefit pension plans are not sustainable and should be terminated! Even with the passage of SB 1458 in 2013 and an actuarially sound and robust TRS pension fund, defined benefit opponents continue to press legislators to eliminate these valuable and necessary retirement plans!

TRTA continues to be a powerful voice reinforcing the value of our TRS defined benefit plan and its strong actuarial condition! We are making progress in resolving the TRS-Care situation, with an eye on a future that ensures our retirees have access to reasonable health care benefits at an affordable cost.

We cannot do this without the support of our members and the friends we have in the Texas Legislature! This week and the weeks to come will be busy, as TRTA continues to advance your issues and our legislative agenda.

Ten Facts Every TRTA Member Should Know

  • TRTA is represented in the Texas Legislature by a professional lobbyist, Vicki Truitt, who served many years in the Texas House of Representatives and was Chairman of the Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee for several sessions.
  • During FY 2014, TRS earned $19.4 billion in investment earnings for your pension fund.
  • Every $1 in benefits paid by TRS generates $2.34 in economic activity.
  • Over $892 million in state revenues and $342 million in local government revenues were generated by TRS retirement benefit payments in 2014.
  • 1 out of every 20 Texans is a member of TRS.
  • TRS currently has more than 1.4 million participants, growing from 38,000 in 1937.
  • Every legislator in Texas knows someone who is an educator! Our voice is powerful, and best of all, meaningful to those who represent us. Be sure to stay in contact with your elected officials throughout the 84th Legislative Session!
  • TRTA provides a toll-free Legislative Hotline that allows you to call your legislator’s Capitol offices: 1.888.674.3788. Every day is a good day to call and say, “Thank you for your support!”
  • TRTA members gave from their hearts more than 5,585,260 hours of volunteer service in 2014, equivalent to a value of more than $130 million.
  • Retired educators volunteer in schools and promote lifelong learning by providing more than 700,000 books to children through the Children’s Book Project, including 139,438 books last year alone!
  • You are the most important factor in TRTA’s success in the Texas Legislature! Your dedication and motivation to provide quality retirement benefits for your fellow retirees and pre-retirees is what matters the most!

Thank You!

Membership matters! In fact, it is critical! TRTA needs your involvement to protect over 300,000 retirees and 1,000,000 pre-retirees.

Our membership renewal period is now underway. If you have not yet renewed your dues with the only association in Texas that works exclusively to protect and improve retirement benefits for TRS annuitants, you may do so today! Give us a call at 1.800.880.1650 to pay by phone.

Please be sure to stay tuned into the Inside Line throughout the 84th Legislative Session, as we will be bringing you all the latest updates on our broad legislative agenda, including any bills concerning TRS-Care, the continued funding of the TRS pension trust fund, pension increases for all TRS retirees, and also congressional issues such as the WEP and GPO.

Thank you for your membership in the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA). If you are not a member of TRTA and want more information about joining, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650. Follow us on Facebook! Visit our YouTube channel for regular video updates.

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21 Apr
0

Final Action on TRS-Care Funding Still Pending

Two weeks ago, members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) were excited to hear about the Texas Senate’s intention to fully fund the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program shortfall. As you may know, the shortfall is expected to reach nearly $770 million.

The Texas House of Representatives passed its version of the budget, which included appropriations for funding the shortfall, via House Bill 2 a few weeks ago. Over 1,000 public education retirees attended the TRTA Day at the Capitol event on Wednesday, April 8 and filled the Senate gallery and chamber with loud cheers over the announcement from Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Senator Jane Nelson that the Senate plans to do the same. Watch a great video showcasing public education retirees from TRTA Day at the Capitol!

The Senate continues to finalize its version of the supplemental funding bill, which is where funds for the TRS-Care shortfall will be included. TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee, Legislative Coordinator Bill Barnes and Retirement Consultant Ronnie Jung are visiting with legislators daily in the Texas Capitol to ensure that our members’ health care program is protected!

Once the Senate concludes its budget process, it is likely that a conference committee of both Senators and Representatives will be appointed to finalize a budget that both houses can agree upon.

Additionally, the House Pensions Committee, led by Chairman Dan Flynn, is discussing a variety of bills, including those impacting the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). TRTA is meeting with key leaders in the Texas House to encourage hearings for several bills supported by our membership, including House Bill 1967 (Keffer), which would provide for a supplemental payment (known as a 13th check) for retirees. TRTA is also supporting House Bill 3541 (Darby), which if passed would give a permanent raise to annuitants who retired between September 2004 and August 2013.

As the 84th Legislative Session proceeds, we ask our members to remain vigilant, as action on any of these items could be pending any day! We will need your help to contact legislators and keep the momentum going!

TRTA is walking the halls of the Capitol every day, attending one-on-one meetings with committee chairmen and working with active teacher groups on issues that affect stakeholders in every aspect of education. We appreciate your hard work and positive energy as we strive to make this session a successful one for all of our retired school personnel!

Thank You!

Please be sure to stay tuned into the Inside Line throughout the 84th Legislative Session, as we will be bringing you all the latest updates on our broad legislative agenda, including any bills concerning TRS-Care, the continued funding of the TRS pension trust fund, pension increases for all TRS retirees, and also congressional issues such as the WEP and GPO.

Thank you for your membership in the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA). If you are not a member of TRTA and want more information about joining, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650. Follow us on Facebook! Visit our YouTube channel for regular video updates.

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15 Apr
0

TRTA Convention and Day at the Capitol Wrap-Up

ACTION ALERT: Thank your legislator here!

Last week, the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) held its 62nd Annual Convention in Austin, Texas on April 6-7, followed by an exciting Day at the Capitol event on April 8.

Nearly 1,000 members joined us for the Convention, held at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin. Convention attendees and hundreds of additional local TRTA members joined forces at the Texas Capitol last Wednesday for TRTA’s Day at the Capitol. The membership group gathered to meet with legislators, be honored in both the Texas Senate and House and enjoy an old-fashioned ice cream social.

During Convention, TRTA members attended numerous training and informational sessions, learning how to effectively perform the duties of district and local unit officers. All 2015-2016 Resource Guides are available for download from the TRTA website by clicking here.

Dora Scott-Nichols holds her E.L. Galyean award with Tim Lee (left) and Fran Plemmons (right).
Dora Scott-Nichols holds her E.L. Galyean award with
Tim Lee (left) and Fran Plemmons (right).

Members also enjoyed a welcome dinner, wherein longtime member and former TRTA State President Dora H. Scott-Nichols was honored with the E.L. Galyean Service Award, TRTA’s highest honor.

Although the length of the Convention was truncated, members focused on the business of each day efficiently, participating in District caucuses and attending the House of Delegates. No bylaws amendments were passed this year, though a resolution to promote membership in TRTA local units was passed.

During the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) breakfast on April 7, districts, local units and individual members donated an astounding $10,400! To see a list of donors, please click here. Tom Pritchard and Mike Lehr were also honored during the breakfast for their years of service, leadership and dedication.

Several legislators spoke with TRTA members during Day at the Capitol on the east lawn and encouraged the protection and improvement of the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program.

Rep. Roberto Alonzo meets with TRTA leadership.
Rep. Roberto Alonzo meets with TRTA leadership.

A special thank you to those who came out to speak with us, including Sen. Jose Menendez (D – San Antonio), Rep. Jim Keffer (R – Eastland), Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D – Dallas), Rep. Ron Reynolds (D – Missouri City) and Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R – Odessa).

During its resolution honoring public education retirees in Texas, the Senate announced its intention to fund the TRS-Care shortfall in the amount of $770 million. The announcement was met with cheers of joy that were acknowledged by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.

In fact, the Austin American-Statesman’s Quote of the Day for April 8, 2015 was, “We do not usually allow applause in the Senate gallery, but we’re making an exception,” as stated by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick when a large group of visiting retired teachers frequently interrupted a series of floor speeches singing the praises of their profession with long, loud cheers.

Bill Barnes is interviewed by KVUE reporter Amber Downing.
Bill Barnes is interviewed by KVUE reporter Amber Downing.

Local television station KVUE featured a great story about TRTA Day at the Capitol, including several interviews with retired school personnel. You can view the video here.

Thank you to all of our members and friends who attended the TRTA Convention and Day at the Capitol, as well as to the members who reached out to legislators via phone calls and email on April 8. TRTA was definitely heard and felt on April 8!

We will continue to work hard throughout the remainder of the Legislative Session to ensure that funding for TRS-Care is finalized in conference committee, and will work with our legislators on other pending legislation, such as supplemental payments and cost-of-living increases.

Thank You!

Please be sure to stay tuned into the Inside Line throughout the 84th Legislative Session, as we will be bringing you all the latest updates on our broad legislative agenda, including any bills concerning TRS-Care, the continued funding of the TRS pension trust fund, pension increases for all TRS retirees, and also congressional issues such as the WEP and GPO.

Thank you for your membership in the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA). If you are not a member of TRTA and want more information about joining, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650. Follow us on Facebook! Visit our YouTube channel for regular video updates.

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