Friday, October 19, 2012

RH Jones: Where were ORTA & OEA-R?

From RH Jones, October 19, 2012
To all retired teachers:
Please open OPERS News below and you will see how OPERS retired members are better represented and rewarded than our older retired STRS members. Notice that they still have spousal HC/Rx and had no changes in their pension COLA. The OPERS knows that their retired members are "grandfathered".
While we had only a handful of CORE members objecting to the STRS cuts. Is it no wonder we retired teachers came up short? We had no one else to fight to retain our grandfathered benefits. For the first time in the history of our STRS, even through the Great Depression of the 1930s, did we ever have a loss in any of our benefits? No, never!
I strongly agree with Kathie Bracy. If you will click on to her Blog, you will see why both ORTA and OEA-R failed their membership

Report on October 2012 STRS board meeting

From STRS, Oct. 19, 2012
October Board News
Annual Actuarial Valuation Shows Decrease in Member Payroll Causes Slight Decline in STRS Ohio Funding
At its October meeting, the State Teachers Retirement Board received a report of the annual pension valuation results from its actuarial consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The report provides a "snapshot" of the actuarial position of the retirement funds as of July 1, 2012. This year's report shows the funding period for the pension fund increased slightly to 36.4 years, when calculated using the benefit changes resulting from the passage of Sub. S.B. 342. The funded ratio now stands at 64%.
A decrease in contributing payroll, caused primarily by the fact that there were nearly 5,000 fewer active members paying into STRS Ohio, led to the slight decline in overall funding progress. While fiscal year 2012 had a negative impact on STRS Ohio's funding, PwC's report noted that with the new benefit plan design in place, STRS Ohio should meet its 30-year amortization schedule within two years if actuarial assumptions — including a 7.75% investment return rate — are achieved.
Other notable items from this year's report include:
The system experienced a net gain in individual salary increases, since increases were smaller than expected.
The last phase of steep market losses from fiscal year 2009 was factored into this year's valuation. STRS Ohio uses a common accounting and actuarial technique called "smoothing" to spread investment market volatility over four-year periods. This method helps pension funds recognize investment returns for a given year over a four-year window rather than a one-year "spike." The pension fund has a net $1.7 billion in unrecognized gains being deferred to future years.
Retirements Approved
The Retirement Board approved 706 active members and 118 inactive members for service retirement benefits.
Other STRS Ohio News
Open Enrollment for the STRS Ohio Health Care Program Begins Nov. 1
The annual open-enrollment period for the STRS Ohio Health Care Program, including the dental and vision plans, for calendar year 2013 will be Nov. 1–20. Benefit recipients currently enrolled in an STRS Ohio health care plan will soon receive a personalized information packet about their 2013 plan options, monthly premiums and details about features of the hospital/medical and prescription drug coverage. During open enrollment, current enrollees may change plans and enroll dependents. Benefit recipients who do not currently participate in the program may enroll without a waiting period.
STRS Ohio is also offering its Health Care Highlights Meetings from Oct. 22–Nov. 12 at locations throughout Ohio to review health care plan information. The locations, dates and times of these meetings are available on the STRS Ohio website. Members can also view a presentation on the website that details open-enrollment options.
New TeleConference Enhances Member Experience, Improves Efficiency
STRS Ohio Benefits Counseling began conducting TeleConference sessions in September through the use of LiveLook software. The benefits counselor is able to produce the estimates during the session and then share the information on the counselor's monitor through the LiveLook website. The counselor provides a private access code to the member to view the estimates. The new process allows Member Benefits to conduct the TeleConference just like any other counseling appointment, with the member providing information in real time.
Annual Statement Printing and Mailing Completed
Members and reemployed retirees began receiving their Annual Statements around Oct. 1. This year, more than 2,000 members chose to receive an email notification that their statement is available on the Member Self Service (MSS) site. Regardless of whether a member received a paper statement, all members can view a PDF version of the June 30, 2012, statement in the MSS Secure Account. The secure site also provides up-to-date withdrawal values in the current statement of account.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

John J. Viall: A Visit to Romneyland

From John Curry, October 18, 2012
A Visit to Romneyland
By , October 17, 2012

The second presidential debate is over and in the town of Romneyland, Red State, USA, the birds are chirping (they always are), the sun is shining (it always is), the trees are just the right height and Fox News is playing in every living room.
Follow me and let's take a tour of the place Mitt Romney calls home. Look. There's the famous "Statue of the Man with the Bag Over His Head," depicting President George W. Bush, a person no one here in Romneyland really wants to remember.
"Okay, let's stop this ordinary citizen walking down the sidewalk and ask him about taxes. He has tea bags on his hat. Your name sir?"
"Grover Norquist."
"Mr. Norquist, what did you think last night when Mr. Romney mentioned that the top 5 percent of American taxpayers pay 60 percent of the income taxes?"
"It was heart-breaking, you know? I think it shows the top 5 percent are getting killed by Obama and his policies. I don't know how Bill Gates, with only $66 billion, gets up in the morning! And what about all those people struggling to get by? I'm thinking of job creators like Ron Perelman, who does leveraged buyouts, who has only $12 billion left after all the crippling taxes he's paying. I'm thinking of Rupert Murdoch? He's down to his last $9.4 billion. And the guys I really feel bad for are people like Paul Singer, who works so hard setting up hedge funds. All he has to show for it is a paltry $1.1 billion."
We talk to Grover a little longer..then we head for the unemployment office. After all, Governor Romney brings up those 23 million Americans he says can't find good jobs every chance he gets and talks repeatedly about the increasing number of people on food stamps since President Obama took office.
Mitt wants us to know how much he cares. He said last night he cares about 100% of the American people. He cares about the short ones, the tall ones, the kind ones, the fine ones, and all the fish in the sea. He cares about the 1%.
He really cares about the 1%!!!
He cares about the 3% who are gay, although not so much he thinks they should marry. He cares about the 47% who think they're victims. Mitt cares so much for that group he'd like them to learn to take responsibility for their own lives and stop seeing themselves as victims. Mitt cares for the 8% who are left-handed, the 11% who play fantasy football, the 28% who love cats more than dogs, the 31% who think Obama is a Muslim and the 52% who can name more characters on Jersey Shore than justices on the U. S. Supreme Court.
Mitt wants us to know he's going to give tax cuts to nearly everyone, even Snooki and Justice Scalia. He's going to increase defense spending, too, and bomb the crap out of Iran and still balance the budget!
Hmm...Mitt's not at the unemployment office...let's head over to the hospital. Here we go...wait... isn't that Todd Akin sitting in that chair? The fellow in the sweater vest...hey...Rick Santorum. They heard a young girl was brutally beaten and raped last night and they want to make sure she doesn't get an abortion.
Hear those sirens. An ambulance has pulled up to the emergency room. Doesn't look good. They're unloading a patient. They tell me it's Bob Washington, who lost his job at Senesta last year when Bain Capital bought the entire company and shipped most of the work to China. Now Bob has no health insurance and he's been skipping visits to the doctor even though he's been deathly ill. He had a heart atttack at his apartment fifteen minutes ago; but in Romneyland no one dies at home.
Toss 'em into the back of an ambulance and dump 'em off at the emergency room. And then pray. They pray a lot here in Romneyland, Red State, USA.
Speaking of sirens, there goes a cop car. There's a report of a kid at the high school who's in this country illegally. Juan's parents brought him to Romneyland when he was six and he's an honor roll student, eight months from graduation. This is the only country he really knows but Mitt said not long ago he would veto the Dream Act and make sure that Juan and everyone else like him was deported.
During the debate, though, a Latino women asked Mitt about his position on immigration and Mitt said he really cares now about people like Juan and he really, really hopes they will stay.
Here in Romneyland they don't call it a lie unless Fox News says it is.
(I think Romney said something last night about having a whole binder full of capable women and a scrapbook full of happy Latinos.)
Over there a new Wal-Mart is going in, which means dozens of small businesses are going to be squashed. Here in Romneyland, though, everyone blames President Obama for every business failure and job lost since Black Friday in 1929. Jim Walton is coming to town for the opening. Walton is worth $26.8 billion and he's voting for Romney. Otherwise, his taxes will go up 3% and if that should happen he'll never hit $27 billion.
Down the block, is that a crowd gathering? Are those Wal-Mart workers demanding better pay? In this town they don't stand for any workers joining unions. After all, if 10,000 employees won $5,000 raises, it would flat out destroy a healthy business environment. Here in Red State, folks understand economics. Only a communists would be crazy enough to think Jim Walton had an extra $50 million to just be throwing around.
Well, time is growing short and there's still so much to see: There's the new oil pipeline that runs through what used to be a national park. Screw those stupid animals. (Cough, cough) Sorry...all the smoke from the new coal plant is kind of stinging my eyes. 
(Click image to enlarge)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

ALEC is also (unfortunately) in the Buckeye State!

From John Curry, October 16, 2012
Paul Adair is a 21-year Germantown resident, retired scientist, writer, and lecturer.
Posted by Paul Adair on Oct. 15, 2012
The American Legislative Exchange Council has been in the news quite a bit lately. ALEC is an organization which brings together corporations and state legislators from around the country. The group writes template legislation favoring its corporate members. The legislators then push versions of these bills, often word for word, through their state legislatures, turning them into laws. Although ALEC is for all intents and purposes a lobbying organization, it calls itself a 501(c)(3) “educational” organization, allowing corporate contributions to be tax deductible. As such, it is theoretically prohibited from engaging in political activities.
Typical ALEC- authored bills advocate prison privatization, school profitization, and telecom deregulation. In addition to business-advocacy laws, many ALEC-written bills have recently been pushed through statehouses which have nothing to do with the interests of member corporations. These include voter suppression laws and the so-called “stand your ground “ law in Florida that resulted in the murder of 17 year-old Trevon Martin. Wanting nothing to do with the radical ALEC social agenda, 41 companies have left the organization, including such household names as Coca-Cola, GM, McDonald's, MillerCoors, Wal-Mart, Merck, Hewlett-Packard, Procter & Gamble, and Kraft Foods.
Wisconsin's strong ALEC connection goes back a long way. As a state legislator and governor, Tommy Thompson was an early ALEC supporter. At a 2002 ALEC conference, he stated, “ Myself, I always loved going to these meetings because I always found new ideas. Then I'd take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them up a bit, and declare that 'It's mine.' ”
According to Center for Media and Democracy's Sourcewatch, at least 13 current Wisconsin State Senators and 36 State Assembly officials have ALEC ties. Most of the Republican leadership of the Assembly and State Senate are members. So are our own elected officials, Senator Alberta Darling and Rep. Dan Knodl.
ALEC and its Wisconsin legislator members have been very active in our state for years. However, at the start of 2011, when the Republicans were temporarily in control of both houses and the governorship, ALEC had the keys to our state. The Wisconsin 2011-12 legislative session saw at least 32 bills and budget items that were based on ALEC model bills. Scott Walker is one of ALEC's best investments. As governor, he pushed at least six ALEC bills into consideration and signed many more.
Each year, ALEC holds several meetings in posh luxury hotels. Their next outing will be held November 28-30 at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. Of course, many state legislators cannot afford travel and lodging expenses for such extravagant lobbying education events. To accommodate these poor lawmakers, ALEC has set-up a “scholarship fund” to pick-up their travel and entertainment tab.
According to documents obtained by DB Press/CMD through the Wisconsin open records law, the Wisconsin ALEC “scholarship fund” in 2008 alone totaled $48,000 in corporate contributions and paid-out over $39,000 to Wisconsin legislators. The money goes from corporations directly into the “scholarship” account, where it is disbursed by the state ALEC Chairs. In addition to these expense payouts, there is always plenty of free food, liquor, and other freebies at the events.
Our state prides itself in clean government. Wisconsin law prohibiting gifts from lobbyists are some of the strongest in the country. According to WI Statute 19.45 (3): No person may offer or give to a state public official, directly or indirectly, ...anything of value if it could reasonably be expected to influence the state public official's vote... Similarly, Statute 13.625 states: No lobbyist may: (b) Furnish to any ... elective state official ... 1. Lodging. 2. Transportation. 3. Food, meals, beverages, money or any other thing of pecuniary value ....
According to state law, "Lobbying" is defined as “the practice of attempting to influence legislative or administrative action by oral or written communication with any elective state official....” Based on what ALEC is doing, they certainly sound like a lobbying organization. However, the ALEC lobbying educational organization and its Wisconsin members do not seem to believe that they are subject to these laws.
In March 2012, the Center for Media and Democracy filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board, saying that the ALEC “scholarship fund” indeed violates state lobbying laws. They also state that the free meals, drinks, and other benefits (such as free sporting event tickets) given at ALEC retreats violate state law. The GAB has yet to rule on this complaint.
Many of our state legislators are violating the Wisconsin spirit, if not the rules, of governmental transparency and ethics by their involvement with ALEC. They should avoid any question of impropriety in their dealings with lobbyists. The wholesale purchase of our elected officials by corporations and special interest groups needs to come to an end.

John Curry: A retired educator speaks to the OEA-R (retired) to explain why she won't vote.....and I don't blame her!

From Kathie Bracy, October 16, 2012
For Marilyn Allen:
I did receive my OEA-R ballot in the mail sometime in the past few days (while I was away for four days) and looked it over. While I have voted for delegates many times in the past, this time I decided to pitch my ballot into the recycle bin. All the candidates looked highly qualified and well intentioned, but I saw no evidence of what any of them have ever done or proposed to do to help retirees where they need it most: their pension and their healthcare.
Furthermore, I have attended nearly every STRS board meeting for the past nine years, but never once did I see any OEA-R leaders in attendance and fighting to preserve the level of healthcare we had come to expect, or to preserve our 3% COLA. Thanks, but no thanks, to apathetic organizations that pretend to stand up for retired educators, such as OEA-R and ORTA, our healthcare is pathetic, and our 3% COLA is history. Such organizations do not deserve our support, and voting for anybody would be a sham. Just what DO you stand for, anyway? Darned if I know.
Kathie Bracy 
From Marilyn Allen, October 12, 2012
OEA-R members, Have you gotten your ballot this week? If not, watch your mail for the ballot. I am on the ballot in 2 races. I am running for the At-Large Representative to the OEA-R Advisory Council. I am also running to be a delegate for the OEA Convention. I am first on the ballot for the Advisory Council At Large and fifth on the ballot for the OEA-Retired Delegate. I have appreciated your support in the past and would appreciate your vote for both the At Large Representative and OEA-Retired Delegate. Thank you so much.
Marilyn Allen

Molly Janczyk: A note of thanks to Greg Nickell

From Molly Janczyk, October 15, 2012
Subject: Greg Nickell:STRS

Dear Greg,

Thank you beyond measure for your personal contact with us regarding our concern. You have always been extremely open, compassionate and helpful regarding our medical needs. I know many others have received such attention as well. As Gary Russell pointed out, "What about all the ones who don't make their needs known?" Greg Nickell, Gary Russell, Gary Wilson, now gone from STRS, Sandy Knoesel, Joyce Baldwin and others in your departments have treated us with honesty and professionalism beyond expectations in time and efforts.

If in your powers, you act with expediency, efficiency seeking results to overcome crisis for membership. I can never thank you enough for your help in keeping John in good care and here with us. No exaggeration as you know from your understanding in hearing me regarding his health. Aetna still contacts John regularly to check on John's care after last winter's crisis with calls back and forth with Gary Russell up to several times a day until resolution over what turned out to be Fl Medicare laws while we were there.

Thank you one and all for your continual efforts. If you ever wonder if you make a difference.......You Do!

Most Sincerely,
Molly Janczyk
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