SENATE APPROVES RETIRED TEACHER BENEFIT INCREASE, BAN ON GENDER CARE FOR MINORS
(AUSTIN) — Retired Texas teachers will get a long-awaited cost of living adjustment from a bill approved by the Senate Wednesday. SB 10 will give beneficiaries of the Teachers' Retirement System of Texas who retired prior to 2013 a four percent increase to their annuity and those who retired between 2013 and 2021 a two percent bump. Though Finance Committee chair and Houston Senator Joan Huffman carried the measure, she said it represented the work and intentions of the entire body. "I know that we are all thrilled to be able to present this to the TRS retirees, we are all incredibly grateful for their long support and work in our public schools and what they do for Texas," said Huffman. All 31 members of the Senate signed on as co-authors on the bill, and it has been a top priority for Senate leadership. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who assigned this bill a low number to indicate its importance, said it's the perfect way to use some of the state's record-breaking $32 billion surplus. "It's a real, great demonstration of us taking $4.7 billion out of our surplus that we would not normally be able to do, and return it to, I think, some of those who deserve it the most: our teachers," he said. "This is a really great day for retired teachers."
Houston Senator Joan Huffman carried the bill, SB 10, that would grant a cost of living increase to pension annuities to Texas retired teachers, but she said that all 31 members co-authored the measure.
The bill also includes a special $7,500 annual stipend for retired teachers aged 75 or older in order to bring them into parity with more recent retirees "In this bill we want to true up their retirement pension because that number's really not that great based on their salary while they were working, so we need to keep up with inflation for our 75-and-above retired teachers," said Galveston Senator Mayes Middleton. Huffman added that this group has been out of the workforce longer and is less likely to have a secondary source of income.
Also Wednesday, the Senate gave initial approval to a bill that would ban gender therapy for minors in Texas. SB 14, by New Braunfels Senator Donna Campbell, would prohibit people under the age of 18 from receiving hormone therapy, puberty blockers, or surgery for the purposes of transitioning from one gender to another. Campbell says that data doesn't bear out claims that such gender affirming care improves mental health outcomes when compared to those who don't receive this care. She said there's a lack of good scientific data on what happens to minors who take hormones or puberty blockers for long periods of time. "We just don't know what awaits the child, except a lifelong patient as they live in a hormone-changed body that they were never expected to have," said Campbell. The bill would also prohibit state or Medicaid funds from paying for these therapies and doctors who continue to provide gender care to minors would face the loss of their medical license.
Members opposed to the bill worried that this is an attack on people who are just trying to live a life that is true to themselves. San Antonio Senator José Menéndez pointed out that the dozens of transgender individuals who testified during the committee hearing on the bill that getting this treatment as youth was something they were glad to have received. "We heard from many people who had known their whole lives that they were trans, and they had remained that way and were happy to be that way," he said. "They felt that bills like this and others that we've entertained or heard here in this body, were in essence excluding the reality of who they are." He offered a compromise amendment that would only ban sex reassignment surgery and allow doctors to continue to prescribe medications for gender therapy, but it failed to garner enough support. Campbell amended the bill to add a grandfather clause that would permit minors who have been receiving gender affirming care for 90 days prior to the enaction of the law on September 1st to continue to receive those therapies. The bill will need to face another, final vote before it is sent to the House for consideration.
The Senate will reconvene Thursday, March 30 at 11 a.m.