Retiree Plus Newsletter: Pension bill with 13th check moves forward; return to work bill moves

Welcome!

Texas AFT Retiree Plus is the newest and fastest growing educator retiree group in Texas. We welcome our members aboard and encourage other retired educators to join us. Our organization is committed to protecting the TRS defined-benefit pension and health-care of our members.

TRS pension bill passes state House

Figuring out bill numbers at the Capitol takes a bit of getting used to. When we tell you that the new vehicle for shoring up our pension fund is Senate Bill 12–which now has passed the state House of Representatives in a form that is the former House bill 9–don’t worry about getting mixed up. Just think of it this way: House plan good. Senate plan, not as good.

And as it stands now the House plan just passed that chamber and would increase the state’s contribution rate to the pension fund from 6.8% to 8.8%. Additionally, it would provide funding for a one-time supplemental pension payment (a 13th check) equal to your monthly pension payment, but capped at $2,400.The Senate’s version also would raise state contributions, but would put the burden of additional contributions on active school employees and districts, and it would cap its 13th check at $500.

Neither plan will offer a true cost-of-living increase, but both would get the fund to “actuarially sound,” which hopefully would lead to that increase next legislative session.

Since the two plans differ, a conference committee made up of both House reps and senators will need to meet to hash out the differences for a final bill to be voted on by both chambers. There is no definite timeline set for this, but it should happen in the next two weeks. We will be wholeheartedly supporting the House plan, because the state needs to step up and pay its fair share, and active employees already are burdened–like their retiree counterparts–with low wages and high insurance premiums. So stay tuned and get ready to take action!

Retiree Plus members make a difference on pension bill!

The success of moving the TRS pension bill can be attributed to more than a year of work by our retirees, and their recent activism at the Capitol.


TRS return-to-work bill passes House

A Texas-AFT-supported bill, which would make it more attractive for TRS retirees return to school district work, passed the Texas House last week.

If passed by the Senate, HB 2227 would let anyone who retired before Aug. 31, 2018 return to work at a TRS-covered district without the penalty of loss of pension payments.  (Current law mandates that TRS retirees not work in districts for 12 consecutive months before they can return.) The bill also changes law to allow part-time TRS employees to work hours in excess of half-time for events–including weather events–beyond their control.


Past work and how we are fighting for retirees

Unfortunately, over the last decade, we saw retirees in Texas take huge hits with no cost of living adjustments coupled with staggering health care cost increases. Texas AFT knew that something different had to be done. In a way that only we know how—we mobilized retirees and demanded attention be paid to the pressing issues facing retired educators. We got busy doing the necessary work. Our presence at the TRS building, letters, requests and a visit to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s office, volunteering across the state in the November 2018 elections and actively being engaged this legislative session has made a huge difference. We greatly appreciate our members for helping turn the tide for retired educators in Texas.

In November 2019, we helped block the $600.00 per year TRS premium health care increase from being implemented. While deductibles are still too high and health care stills needs drastic attention, we are ready to take on that fight. During this 2019 legislative session, our leaders have testified in committee hearings and traveled to the Capitol in Austin. The results are positive. For the first time in years we are seeing the House and Senate offer competing bills that provide retirees a 13th check, a state increase in the financial contribution to TRS, and an effort to produce an actuarially sound pension system in order to provide a long overdue cost of living increase to the annuity.

We are making a difference thanks to our members and leaders of Texas AFT Retiree Plus!

Our leadership

Retiree Committee Chair Cheryl Anderson is a retired teacher from Houston ISD and member of the Houston Federation of Teachers. Aretta Runnels, a retired teacher and school administrator from Cypress-Fairbanks serves as the organization’s Secretary.

Chair, Cheryl Anderson – canderson@hft2415.org
Secretary, Aretta Runnels – arunnels2004@yahoo.com

Pass this on and get your friends to join!

Joining Texas AFT Retiree Plus is easy and low-cost. We want to keep in mind the financial needs of retirees. The dues are only $2.00 per month, with a voluntary option to donate to our PAC., which is called COPE (The Committee on Political Education). This allows us to lobby for a stronger TRS where all members benefit. Also, those members joining Texas AFT Retiree Plus who identify with a local Texas AFT affiliate, where perhaps you were once a member, will see dues dollars return to your local and region. However, membership is open to all retirees in Texas. It is for former Texas AFT members and any retired school employee who may have belonged to another employee association during their career. Help us spread the work and build this movement for retired educators!

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