The 85th Texas Legislature – UPDATE and RECAP

During the last legislative session, TSEU members made our presence known at the capitol! Whether it was participating in an agency caucus ‘mini’ Lobby Day or our ‘BIG’ Lobby Day; sending a post card or making a call to a state rep or senator; coming to the capitol to testify for or against certain legislation or meeting with elected officials and staff in their capitol offices; union members were on the front lines during the 85th Texas Legislature.  Additionally, TSEU members participated in numerous educational union meetings and other actions held throughout the session; we educated our co-workers and the public about important state employee issues as certain legislation came to light.


2017 Legislative UPDATE

Many observers are calling this last session the worst in modern times, but despite the incredibly tough environment, union members won some major victories. And we haven’t given up on the issues we didn’t win this session. TSEU members participated in 300 legislative meetings, testified on various bills, and made countless phone calls to legislators’ offices. WE MADE OUR VOICES HEARD!
Here are the victories and ongoing fights affecting TSEU members and state services:
  • The adopted State budget of $217 billion funds State government for the next biennium. Funding is 1% more than last session, but the budget is actually 8% below what is needed to maintain services at current levels. No across-the-board raise for state workers was included despite a major push from TSEU members.
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  • Pension and health care benefits are fully funded with no cuts to benefits, but there will be no retiree COLA. (Note that monthly contributions for dependent coverage will likely increase once ERS, UT, and A&M negotiate new terms with health care network providers in the Fall.)
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  • Lawmakers passed TSEU’s proposal to allow employees/retirees to access health care services at state-run health care institutions at reduced costs.
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  • Bettencourt’s bill to enroll new state employees into 401-k plans was defeated. 
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  • Gov. Abbott imposed a seven-month hiring freeze just as the session began. TSEU lead the fight against this, and the freeze was lifted from direct care positions in SSLC’s and State Hospitals. TSEU also stopped the freeze from being extended to 2019. The freeze is set to end September 1st, 2019. PARTIAL VICTORY
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  • Child Protective Services received $508.5 million additional funding and green light to hire more staff. However, while increasing funding, lawmakers passed a privatization rollout plan called Community Based Care that privatizes CPS case management and family based services. A total of 421 positions could be eliminated by 2019! (This fight is not over!)
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  • State budget allocates $300 million from the Rainy Day Fund to replace or repair State Hospitals. The budget prohibits privatization of State Hospitals while a study is done to improve employee retention. 
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  • A bill to establish a commission to close SSLC’s was defeated by a coalition of TSEU members and client family groups. The budget provides funds to repair SSLC’s and study the creation of a career ladder to improve employee retention. 
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  • A TSEU-backed bill that allows SSLC’s to offer services to the broader community passed. This will increase usage and revenue that might prevent further closures. 
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  • Initially, University funding would have taken a big hit in the budget, with some universities set to lose 50% of their total state funding. But after TSEU members mobilized against the cuts, lawmakers reversed course on the most severe cuts. In the final budget, overall state spending for all universities increased by 1% over the previous budget. Additionally, university tuition set-asides that help low income students were not cut; instead the Legislature increased funding for financial aid for low-income students by $71 million. Keeping higher education affordable has been a major TSEU priority throughout the session. PARTIAL VICTORY
We have a more in-depth analysis of the last legislative session on the MEMBERS ONLY PAGES (a password is required to access this information).

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Governor Abbott calls Special Session – Dues Payroll Deduction Back on Chopping Block

In June, Governor Greg Abbott set a Special Session of the Legislature to begin July 18th that is likely to cost the State about $1 million. Bowing to pressure from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Empower Texans and the “Freedom Caucus” group of Tea Party Legislators, Abbott opened the door to reconsideration of the Bathroom Bill and 19 other agenda items.
On that list of agenda items, Abbott included a call for legislation to take away public employees and retirees’ rights to payroll deduction of dues for union membership. There is only one reason Abbott and Patrick want this legislation to pass – to kill unions that represent state employees, school teachers, county employees and others. We fought it off during the 2015 and 2017 regular sessions, but Abbott’s special session agenda brings it back up for debate and increases the likelihood that it will pass.

So, now we have to get to work!
First, we’ll continue to oppose bills to end payroll deduction during the special session. At the same time, we are taking two steps:

  1. New members will be signing a form that puts them on bank draft, not payroll deduction.
  2. Members on payroll deduction need to sign a form that affirms they will switch to bank draft, once legislation goes into effect in September. If you haven’t signed a form with your banking information, address and phone, please do it now. A form is available online HERE

KEEP TSEU UNBREAKABLE
sign the form to convert your dues from payroll deduction to bank draft today!