A Special Message from Dr. Lynn Stucky

"When I announced my candidacy for state representative, the political experts didn’t give me the time of day. There was no way that I could even be competitive in this race, much less win. Fortunately, elections aren’t decided by the odds makers and the insiders.

This race was about giving the people of our district an effective leader in the Texas House who can deliver real results and advance the conservative agenda. I’m humbled that my neighbors chose me as the best candidate to carry that torch, and I pledge to go to work every day with an enthusiasm that honors that trust.

I owe a debt of gratitude to everyone in Denton County who played a part in this victory. From my incredibly loyal veterinary clients to the small business owners to the retired teachers, the farmers and ranchers, the enthusiastic students and young people, and of course, to my amazing children, Lyndi, Malori, Evan and Courtney, and to my wife, Lori, my partner through thick and thin; my love and gratitude to you all is infinite.

I look forward to tackling the challenges we face as a state, and I ask everyone in Denton County for their support and prayers in the days ahead. God bless."

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Today Governor Abbott added TRS-Care to the Call for the special session. I have co-authored HB 20 by Chairman Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), which seeks to decrease health insurance premiums and deductibles for certain health benefit plans administered by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas Below is a press release from the Executive Director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association that discusses the initial bill that was passed to ensure solvency of the program. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: During the 85th Legislative Session, TRS-Care faced dire circumstances that resulted in painful cost increases for Texas public education retirees. As the Executive Director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), I have heard from thousands of retired school personnel about how the new health insurance plans, which go into effect in January 2018, will impact their fixed monthly annuities. This session was not the first time that TRS-Care faced funding problems. In 2015, a $768 million shortfall was paid for in full by the Legislature. This session the shortfall grew to more than $1 billion. A state budget deficit made it nearly impossible to fund the shortfall without structural changes. If nothing had been done to address TRS-Care, the shortfall would have reached $3 to $4 billion in two years. This unfortunate reality led lawmakers to study TRS-Care’s prospects for longevity. An interim study was conducted by members of the House and Senate in 2016. I heard disturbing testimony from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) that without legislative action, retiree premiums would skyrocket to as much as $1,500 per month. Knowing that no retiree could sustain such a high premium on an average monthly income of $2,000, TRS made clear that the program would close entirely before the next session. The choice to eliminate access to health care for retirees was not one that TRTA supported. One member of the Texas Legislature stepped up in a time of crisis. State Representative Trent Ashby has a unique appreciation for the service TRS retirees have provided, not only in his home district, but across the state. This became apparent through his steadfast determination to pass a good bill for teachers and his willingness to work with teacher groups throughout the legislative process. While some retirees may not like all changes agreed upon in House Bill 3976, without its passage, TRS-Care would have faltered and every retiree in the program would have faced a much bleaker, harsher reality. HB 3976 shares TRS-Care plan costs by increasing contributions from the state and school districts. Going forward, these permanent increases in funding will help ease some of the growing financial burden on retirees. Chairman Ashby and other Representatives also worked alongside TRTA and others to secure additional funding: $500 million from the Economic Stabilization Fund (the Rainy Day Fund). The House unanimously approved this plan, and TRTA considered this a comprehensive solution alongside the bill. Ultimately, the Senate did not agree with utilizing Rainy Day dollars to soften the blow and extend the solvency of TRS-Care. Still, funding for TRS-Care will continue to be an issue. I am concerned that retirees living on fixed incomes will lose access to healthcare due to ever-increasing medical costs. This is not the vision I have for our dedicated public education employees. A better solution with more funding can and should be found to ensure our retirees have access to quality, affordable health care. Retirees are scared and unsure of how to deal with changes of this magnitude. Many educators have difficulty understanding how TRS-Care fell into such grim circumstances. Some retirees have even raised concerns about their legislators not supporting them in the struggle to maintain the program. Most retirees, however, do not know how close TRS-Care came to failing. It took an amazing effort led by Chairman Ashby, dozens of legislators, and thousands of TRTA members to keep the unthinkable from happening. HB 3976 keeps TRS-Care alive and gives us the most valuable resource we need to truly solve this problem: Time. A better solution would be impossible to reach if the program collapsed. To see this issue resolved, retired educators should ask Governor Greg Abbott to make TRS-Care a top priority in the upcoming special session. With billions of dollars in the Rainy Day Fund, more should be done to help retirees. Tim Lee, Executive Director

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