Special session off to a quick start | TCTA
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Special session off to a quick start

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The first special session of the 87th Texas Legislature convened Thursday morning. Hearings on some legislation — including a 13th check for school retirees — have already been scheduled for Friday, July 9, and Monday, July 12.

The House Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee will hold a formal meeting Friday at 9:30 a.m. to consider HB 85, a 13th check bill by Rep. Glenn Rogers. At a formal meeting, the committee can take action without public testimony, and it is possible (though not certain) that the committee will vote out the bill during this meeting.

The Senate Finance Committee is holding a public hearing Friday afternoon at 1 to consider SB 7, a 13th check proposal by Sen. Joan Huffman.

HB 85 and SB 7 are similar, but not identical. Both would authorize TRS to issue a one-time supplemental check to retirees in the amount of their normal monthly check, but capped at $2,400, no later than January 2022. In general, retirees would be eligible for the supplemental payment if they were eligible to receive a standard annuity payment in the month prior to the issuance of the payment.

SB 7 specifies that TRS is only required to make the payment if the TRS Board of Trustees determines that the legislature appropriated sufficient funds to provide the payment; if the legislature did not appropriate sufficient funds, the system may not make the payment. (At this time, it is anticipated that lawmakers will fully fund the 13th check, if approved, at a cost of around $700 million.) HB 85 as filed does not include this provision.

TCTA is supporting the legislation, but will make clear to legislators that an ongoing cost-of-living adjustment for retirees is crucial and should be addressed in the very near future.

Hearings have also been set for other bills that are on the special session agenda. SB 10, which would restore funding for the Legislature, will be heard at the same Friday Senate Finance Committee meeting as SB 7. Absent passage of SB 10 or a similar bill, the Legislature would be defunded as of Sep. 1, 2021, due to a veto by Gov. Greg Abbott of the section of the state budget that appropriates funds for lawmakers, their staffs, and entities that support the Legislature.

On Monday, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee will hear two bills by Sen. Charles Perry regarding how transgender students may compete in school athletic competitions. SB 2 would require students in public and higher education to compete based on the biological sex of the student as recorded on the student's official birth certificate (except that a female student may participate in a male-designated activity if there is not a corresponding competition for females). SB 32 is similar but only addresses public schools, not higher education.