SB 51 by Nelson/Smithee - Relating to eligibility for coverage of, and payment of premiums for, certain individuals covered under certain group health benefit plans. Currently, most providers allow retroactive terminations when employment terminations are not processed through the system in a timely fashion. This bill would hold the group contract holder liable for an enrollee's premiums and claims for the entire time between the actual termination date and the end of the month in which the contract holder notifies the HMO or other group plan that the enrollee is no longer part of the group.
SB 132 by Nelson/Morrison - Relating to goals and strategies concerning the number of graduates from professional nursing education programs. This bill adds the following to the list of employment situations that are permitted for reemployed retirees without costing them their TRS annuities. Section 8: …as a faculty member, during the period beginning with the 2005 fall semester and ending on the last day of the 2015 spring semester, in an undergraduate professional nursing program or graduate professional nursing program, as defined by Section 54.221, Education
Code, provided that the retiree has been separated from service with any public schools for at least 12 months.
SB 1149 by Harris/Eiland - Relating to the regulation of electronic transmission of health benefit information between a health care insurer and a physician or health care provider. This bill creates a set of information that health insurers (HMO or PPO) are required to make available to providers, at no charge, either electronically or telephonically, at the time of the enrollee’s visit. Currently, a notable piece of information that is typically not being provided during coverage certification inquiries is the amount of deductible the individual has currently met.
SB 1176 by Armbrister/Eiland - Relating to systems and programs administered by the ERS. This ERS bill includes two issues relating to ORP participants. ORP participants are no longer eligible to reinstate previously withdrawn ERS service credit. Active ORP participants who elected ORP prior to December 31, 1998, and who have at least three years of legislative service credit in ERS prior to June 18, 1993, may make a one-time irrevocable election to return to ERS, but the ORP service credit will not be eligible under ERS.
SB 1345 by Van de Putte/Berman - Relating to the amount of emergency leave granted by state agencies to state employees on unpaid military leave. This changes the amount of military pay that is used to determine eligibility for and the amount of the pay differential (emergency leave) for those whose military pay is less than their state pay. Under this bill, military pay for these purposes does not include combat or hardship pay or any pay the employee receives for being separated from his/her family, all of which have previously been included. This will likely increase the number of employees receiving differential pay as well as the amount of differential pay that each eligible employee receives.
Although the change is effective June 17, 2005, the State Auditors Office has until December 1, 2005, to develop guidelines.
SB 1691 by Duncan/Eiland - Relating to certain retired school employees and the powers and duties of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. This bill makes significant changes to the early retirement, purchase of service credit and enrollment provisions of TRS.
- Grandfather provision – All current TRS participants who, before September 1, 2005, are age 50, meet the Rule of 70 (age and years of service equal at least 70) or have 25 years of service will be grandfathered under the current rules for items 2, 3 and 6 below. This provision covers approximately 1/3 of all current TRS members.
- Change from three-year average salary to five-year average salary – For all members, except those grandfathered above, the average salary used to determine the standard retirement annuity will be based on the average of their five highest annual salaries.
- Early Retirement Subsidy – For individuals enrolling in TRS on or after September 1, 2006, and current members who are not grandfathered, the pension subsidy currently provided to individuals who retire with 20 or more years of service, but have not reached the Rule of 80, is eliminated. For a participant who is age 55 with 20 years of service, this will increase the pension reduction factor from 10% to 53%.
- Retirement Eligibility – For individuals enrolling in TRS on or after September 1, 2007, their annuities will be reduced by 5% per year for each year of age they retire prior to age 60 even if they meet the Rule of 80 or have 30 years of service.
- 90-Day Waiting Period Eliminated – The 90-day waiting period for new participants in TRS will be eliminated effective September 1, 2005. Member and employer contributions to the retirement system will begin immediately upon employment. This will also apply to participation in the Optional Retirement Program.
- Partial Lump Sum Option – This provision requires a member to meet a Rule of 90 (age and years of service equal at least 90) in order to receive a partial lump sum distribution of their pension benefit at the time of retirement.
- Return to Work – Institutions will be required to pay TRS contributions equal to 12.4% of compensation for each TRS retiree who returns to employment. In addition, if the working retiree is a participant in the TRSCare health plan, institutions will be required to pay the difference between the retiree’s premium to TRSCare and the actual cost of the coverage as determined by TRS. This provision does not apply to retired employees who were reported to TRS as working for the employer in January 2005.
- Out-of-State Service Purchase – After January 1, 2006, members who had service at an educational institution in another state prior to joining TRS will pay the actuarial cost of each year of service rather than a fixed 12% per year if they wish to purchase service credit for that time. All individuals who are members of TRS by December 31, 2005, and have out-of state service prior to January 1, 2006, are grandfathered from this provision.
- Air Time Purchase Eliminated – After January 1, 2006, members will no longer be able to purchase up to three years of service credit at their discretion after completing seven years of service. Members have until December 31, 2005, to purchase this service or enter into an installment agreement for purchase of air time.
SB 1863 by Ogden/Pitts - Relating to certain fiscal matters affecting governmental entities; providing a penalty. This bill prohibits retirees who retired on or after June 1, 2005, and later return to work from receiving longevity pay and benefit replacement pay and allows only post-retirement service to count toward vacation accrual rates. Current longevity pay provisions are grandfathered for those who retired before June 1, 2005, and return to work before September 1, 2005. Those who retired before June 1, 2005, and return to work on or after September 1, 2005, are not eligible for longevity pay.
The bill also increases longevity pay to $20 per month for every two years of service, up to 42 years, and hazardous duty pay to $10 per month for every year of service, up to a maximum monthly payment of $300.
This bill also changes the length of a break in service that will cause a person to lose eligibility for benefit replacement pay (BRP) from 12 consecutive months to 30 consecutive days. Those who leave state employment before September 1, 2005, will retain their BRP if they return to state employment within 12 consecutive months of their dates of termination or September 30, 2005, whichever is earlier.
HB 481 by Hochberg/Zaffirini - Relating to the eligibility for unemployment benefits of certain persons with disabilities. This bill adds unemployment insurance benefit eligibility criteria for permanently disabled individuals who are receiving Social Security disability insurance benefits, are unable to work full-time, have worked part-time during their base period and are seeking part-time work.
HB 912 by Isett/Ellis - Relating to the maximum cost of certain awards presented to state agency employees for professional achievement or outstanding service. This bill increases the amount of appropriated money from $50 to $100 that may be used to purchase service, safety or similar awards to reward employees for professional achievement or outstanding service.
HB 2371 by King/Madla - Relating to the use of acupuncture as health care providers under certain health benefit plans. An insurer offering a Preferred Provider benefit plan or an HMO that includes acupuncture as a covered service may not refuse to provide reimbursement for the performance of a covered acupuncture service solely because the service is provided by an acupuncturist. Currently, plans including acupuncture as a covered service may require that the acupuncture be performed by an M.D.
HB 2604 by Guillen/Van de Putte - Relating to state-funded job training or employment-assistance programs, services and preferences available to veterans. This bill requires that veterans be given preference for selection for job training or employment assistance programs or services funded wholly or partly with state money. Veterans must meet the eligibility requirements for the program or service. Eligible veterans are those who served at least 90 days during a national emergency or were discharged due to a service-related disability, were honorably discharged and are competent. The bill also transfers veteran employment programs from the Texas Workforce Commission to the Texas Veterans Commission.
HB 2716 by Swinford/Eltife - Relating to equal employment opportunity reports. This is a basic “housekeeping” bill regarding the Texas Workforce Commission’s reporting of state agency EEO data. Previous references to the “Texas Commission on Human Rights” were changed to the “Civil Rights Division of the Texas Workforce Commission.” In addition, EEO data are to be reported by November 1 of each year, rather than January 1.
HB 2819 by Rose/Corte - Relating to accessible electronic and information technology for persons with disabilities. HB 2819 would bring Texas in line with federal Section 508 standards for accessibility to websites and telecommunications. Any federal agency purchasing electronic and information technology requires their vendors to ensure compliance with these standards. Several states have adopted the federal standards by reference. H.B. 2819 creates consistency by having the same accessibility standards as federal agencies, other states, and even within different Texas state agencies. The bill exempts compliance if an undue burden results.
HB 3169 by Crownover/Duncan - Relating to purchase of equivalent membership service credit in the TRS. This bill repeals a section added in September 2001 which allows a TRS member to purchase up to three years of TRS equivalent membership service credit if the member has at least seven years of actual TRS membership service.