Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fwd: TSEU Legislative Update 2-23-2011




Legislative Update


In this issue:

House Committees Assigned

TSEU testifies at the Capitol

Mini Lobby Days

Bills to Watch – Pension and Healthcare


House Committees Assigned

The Texas House has finally assigned committees and the Appropriations sub-committees began hearing on issues of the budget in the house last week. Below is a listing of members of some of the committees TSEU deals with the most.


House Appropriations Committee:

Jim Pitts, Chair

Sylvester Turner, Vice Chair

Jimmie Don Aycock

Angie Chen Button

Warren Chisum

Myra Crownover

Drew Darby

Dawnna Dukes

Craig Eiland

Helen Giddings

Lance Gooden

Scott Hochberg

Eric Johnson

Susan King

Dee Margo

Armando "Mando" Martinez

Ruth Jones McClendon

Doug Miller

Geanie Morrison

John Otto

Diane Patrick

Debbie Riddle

Charles Schwertner

Mark Shelton

Raul Torres

Mike Villarreal

John Zerwas


Calendars Committee:

Todd Hunter, Chair

Dennis Bonnen, Vice Chair

Dan Branch

Garnet Coleman

Byron Cook

Charlie Geren

James "Jim" Keffer

Tracy King

Lois Kolkhorst

Eddie Lucio, III

Allan Ritter

Eddie Rodriguez

Burt Solomons

Vicki Truitt

John Zerwas


Human Services:

Richard Pena Raymond, Chair

Geanie Morrison, Vice Chair

Naomi Gonzalez

Chuck Hopson

Bryan Hughes

Todd Hunter

Jodie Laubenberg

Elliott Naishtat

Van Taylor


Pensions and Investment:

Vicki Truitt, Chair

Rafael Anchia, Vice Chair

Charles "Doc" Anderson

Brandon Creighton

Ana Hernandez Luna

Ken Legler

Barbara Nash

Rob Orr

Marc Veasey


Higher Education:

Dan Branch, Chair

Joaquin Castro, Vice Chair

Roberto Alonzo

Dennis Bonnen

Fred Brown

Donna Howard

Eric Johnson

Tryon Lewis

Diane Patrick


Criminal Jurisprudence:

Pete Gallego, Chair

Will Hartnett, Vice Chair

Jose Aliseda

Cindy Burkett

Stefani Carter

Wayne Christian

Yvonne Davis

Eddie Rodriguez

Bill Zedler


TSEU testifies at the Capitol

Wednesday, February 16: House Appropriations Sub Committee on Human Services, DADS Hearing

TSEU member Edmundo Ruiz (El Paso State Center) and outreach coordinator Mimi Garcia testified at the House Appropriations Sub-committee on Article II hearings about the state supported living centers and the budget. "We employees with take our jobs very seriously and genuinely care about the clients we serve," Mr. Ruiz testified. "As staff members we develop relationships with parents and guardians. One of their biggest fears is that legislature will decide to close a center and their loved ones will be shipped across the state, making visits virtually impossible, especially for our older parents. Closures could have the inadvertent effect of breaking up families."

Ms. Garcia testified on behalf of TSEU, "Texas residents with developmental disabilities need and deserve top quality services. TSEU asks that the Texas legislature adopt policies and approve funding to support a full continuum of care system for all Texans who need services." TSEU also called on the committee to consider alternatives to cutting programs. "Texans deserve better than this, we cannot afford these cuts. We're asking you to use all of the Rainy Day Fund, find new revenue, maximize federal funding, and close wasteful tax exemptions and loopholes."

Throughout the public testimony, community members, owners of ICF/MRs and community services, and parents spoke against the funding and Medicaid cuts. Over 100 people were registered to testify.


Wednesday, February 16: House Appropriations Sub Committee on Human Services, DFPS Hearing

               Mimi Garcia, outreach Coordinator, testified on behalf of TSEU at the house hearing on the DFPS budget. In her testimony Ms. Garcia said, "Eliminating over 700 positions in CPS guarantees dangerously high caseloads. Impossibly high caseloads lead directly to worse outcomes for children and families. Ignoring these facts means that more children will be abused, and more children will be killed by their abusers because warning signs were missed. In the real world, child abuse doesn't go away when we close our eyes and ears, then pretend it won't be so bad for the kid in the future. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the proposed budget calls for."

                Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin), asked about the kind of impact the turnover rates has on case workers' ability to protect children. Rep. Craig Eisland (D-Galveston) responded to TSEU's call for using the Rainy Day Fund by saying "We will most likely use the fund. Whether we use all of it or only use half of it now still needs to be decided.  Unfortunately that's not going to fix all our problems."


Tuesday, February 22: House Committee on Pensions, Investments & Financial Services Hearing

                On Tuesday, February 22nd, TSEU Political Director, Derrick Osobase, testified before the House committee on Pensions, Investments & Financial Services. "We fully understand that legislators will have their hands full trying to balance the budget, and that the first inclination of some people will be to balance the budget by further eroding benefits for state employees. But let me remind you that state employees' pay continues to lag behind the standard of living by 28%, and due to the budget, legislators have said that there will be no pay increases in the upcoming session. This means state employee's pay will either stay stagnant or lose even more ground."

                Mr. Osobase went on to explain that structural changes to the pension fund will hurt lower paid employees and current retirees the hardest. Because ERS hasn't approved a cost of living adjustment of retirees or a 13th check for 10 years, all retirees are hurting. Furthermore, despite the recession, turnover in the state remains high (31% at State Supported Living Centers, 23% at TYC, 25% at CPS), cuts to state employee benefits like pension and healthcare will make it increasingly difficult for the state to attract and maintain qualified employees


Mini Lobby Days

February 9, 2011: University Caucus Mini Lobby Day

University union activists from all over Texas came to Austin to meet with their legislators at the capitol. They asked lawmakers to stop the cuts to higher education funding currently being discussed by the legislature. These proposed cuts would assuredly result in layoffs, furloughs, and cuts to employee benefits.  They would also further erode the quality and affordability of public higher education in Texas. 

Janie Pena (UTPA), Gloria Gilpatrick (UTPA), Blanca Aleman (UTPA), Joe Angulo (UTPA), Vicky Rodriguez (TTHSC – El Paso), Miguel Torres (TTHSC – Lubbock), Rose Garza (UTHSCSA), Jeanine Honohono (UT- MD Anderson), Judy Aronson (UTMB), A.J. Davis (U of H), Karen Charleston (Prairie View A&M), Kenyatta Jolivet (Prairie View A&M), Lee Demers (Prairie View A&M), William Blake (UT- Austin), Teri Adams (UT-Austin), Philip Mullins (UT-Austin), Jason Tasset (UT-Austin), Kathryn Kenefick (UT- Austin), Judy Holloway (UT- Austin) and Will Wise (UT- Austin) participated in the day. 

In all, 20 members met with 21 legislators and their staffers about the cuts and made a strong case about the need for more higher education funding, not less. In addition, members discussed plans for building a strong Lobby Day on April 6th, getting out the vote for Karen Charleston, Joe Angulo, and Julien Devereux's TRS campaigns, and talking to local and county government officials about joining TSEU's fight against the brutal budget cuts.

 For more information contact Ted Hooker at


February 16, 2011: State Supported Living Centers and State Hospitals Mini Lobby Day

The SSLC/State Hospital mini-lobby day went very well.  We had 18 in attendance with 10 facilities represented.  That was 8 DADS/SSLC's and 2 DSHS/MH facilities.  This was our first attempt at a joint caucus effort by the 24 hour care facilities after trying to do them separately based on agency lines created with the consolidation of HHSC agencies.  Activists have been expressing a desire to re-merge them for a while.

                On Feb. 16 our State Supported Living Center/State Hospital Caucus held its Mini-Lobby Day.  Showing up to fight threats of closure and privatization and a host of other threats to our clients/patients and to our jobs and benefits were:  Marta Garza, Lubbock SSLC; Diane Martinez and Edmundo Ruiz, El Paso SSLC; Carmen Duron, Corpus Christi SSLC; Robert Quinn, Rio Grande State Center;  Janet Cook, Austin SSLC; Yolanda White and Hazel Roden, Lufkin SSLC; Shawn Prather, San Antonio SSLC; Arthur Valdez, San Antonio State Hospital; Marina Galvan, San Angelo SSLC; Sherri Gilliard, Pauline Darcus and Debra Coleman, Brenham SSLC.

                Edmundo Ruiz delivered well received testimony on behalf of the Union to the House Appropriation Committee hearing on DADS.  Five teams of members spread out through the capital and delivered the union's message to 32 Representatives and Senators.  1. Our clients and patients need the care they receive at the SSLC's and State Hospitals, the cuts are unnecessary.  2. We have a plan: A. Use the rainy day fund B. Fix the loopholes in the property tax fiasco, C. Maximize use of available federal money.

For more information contact Jim Branson at


Bills to Watch – Pension and Healthcare



HB 60, by Rep. "Mando" Martinez

Relating to a cost of living increase applicable to benefits paid by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

Mandates a COLA for TRS retirees under certain economic conditions

Bill Status: Referred to Pensions, Investment and Financial Services Committee


HB 731, by Chuck Hopson

Relating to the state contribution to, and certain annuities under, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

Allows greater contribution to TRS funds from the state.

Bill Status: Referred to Pensions, Investment and Financial Services Committee


HB 832, by Jose Lozano

Relating to a cost of living increase applicable to benefits paid by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

Recommends a COLA for TRS retirees

Bill Status: Referred to Pensions, Investment and Financial Services Committee


HB 917, by Alma Allen

Relating to benefits paid by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

Recommends COLA for TRS retirees

Bill Status: Filed




HB 762, by Jose Lozano

Relating to establishing a pill splitting program to reduce health plan costs for certain public employees.

Establishes voluntary program where doctors can proscribe larger does to members of certain medications and members would split pills for the right dose.

Bill Status: Filed


HB 1003, by Chuck Hopson

Relating to a deferred retirement option for certain members of the Employees Retirement System of Texas.

Bill Status: Filed


HB 1362, by Jodie Laubenberg

Relating to the creation of a voluntary consumer-directed health plan for certain individuals eligible to participate in the insurance coverage provided under the Texas Employees Group Benefits Act and their qualified dependents.

Essentially establishes program similar to a defined contribution health plan with high deductibles and limited care. Plan could also damage other state employees' health insurance pool by removing younger, healthier members from the insurance pool.

Bill Status: Filed




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