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Mar 04.15

March 2015 Newsletter

Representative Greg Bonnen Joins Lawmakers to Pass Stronger Border, Safer Texas Act

Legislation Strengthens Border Security, Toughens Penalties for Smugglers, and Gives DPS New Tools to Crack Down on Crime Syndicates Statewide

Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood) and a bipartisan group of Texas House members today called for passage of House Bill 11, the Stronger Border, Safer Texas Act.  The bill is designed to strengthen border security and help law enforcement stop border-related crime wherever it occurs in the state.

“The federal government has failed to fulfill its responsibility to secure the border,” said Bonnen. “The Stronger Border, Safer Texas Act will permanently bolster the Department of Public Safety's presence on the border, disrupt cartel supply lines, and establish a special border investigations team that will aide law enforcement in shutting down international crime syndicates that operate throughout the trans-national region.”

Key provisions of House Bill 11, co-authored by Dr. Bonnen, include:

  • Hiring of certified police officers at the DPS Trooper II level and authorizing 10 hour work days for DPS Troopers serving in the border region, ending the current practice of periodically shifting officers from other parts of the state.
  • Creating a DPS Officer Reserve Corps of retired officers who will assist police statewide with background investigations, sex offender compliance checks and other duties.
  • Imposing tougher penalties for smugglers, and classifying human smuggling as organized crime.
  • Cutting the cartels’ supply lines with new southbound checkpoints within 250 yards of the border to curb the flow of stolen vehicles, guns and money from being smuggled into Mexico.
  • Establishing a multiagency border crime information center in the Rio Grande Valley led by local law enforcement with assistance from DPS.
  • Requiring law enforcement entities to adopt the National Incident Based Reporting System to ensure the transparency and uniformity of crime data throughout the state.


Funding TRS Care

Beginning in fiscal year 2012, total expenditures exceeded total revenue for TRS-Care, resulting in a declining fund balance. The fund is projected to be insolvent in fiscal year 2016, resulting in a shortfall of $746.3 million.

TRS-Care funding sources include:  a contribution from the state of 1.0% of public education covered payroll, Active TRS members contribute 0.65% of employee salary, school districts contribute 0.55% of employee salary.  The retiree premium structure is based on years of service and Medicare status for Care 2 and 3 coverage and dependent coverage.  Retirees also pay substantial amounts for premiums, deductibles, co-pays, medical co-insurance and Medicare Part B premiums.  They currently cover approximately 38.7% of costs. 

Total expenditures have outpaced total revenue growth primarily because healthcare expenditures have increased at a faster rate than the combined contributions from the state, active participants, and school districts—which are tied to the historically slower growing public education payroll. From fiscal years 2012 to 2017, total revenue is projected to increase by an average annual rate of 1.6 percent, primarily due to payroll growth. Total expenditures, which are affected by healthcare cost trends and retiree enrollment growth, are projected to increase by an average annual rate of 9.4 percent.

The major cost drivers for TRS-Care are an aging population, increased utilization of prescription drugs and compound drugs, and increases in the number of non-Medicare eligible retirees.  Medical and prescription drug costs typically increase 8-10% per year.  Retirees who are non-Medicare eligible are the most costly.

Last week, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee John Otto, committed to the Legislature and public school retirees our intention to fully fund TRS-Care and make the fund financially sound.  The process of shoring up the account is in full progress, and the Appropriations Committee will deliver on its promise when the budget is presented to the full House later in the month.  

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