6:00 p.m.     The House and Senate met briefly Thursday, and have adjourned until next Tuesday.    


TCTA attended a conference held by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, and listened to a panel discussion of pension issues. The panel included Sen. Robert Duncan and Rep. Vicki Truitt, who in 2009 were the chairs of the Senate and House committees that deal with public pension issues. Some of the discussion centered on the possibility of converting TRS to a defined contribution plan (similar to a 401k or 403b plan, which guarantees the amount of contributions but not the level of benefits). Both legislators, though willing to consider any proposal on the table, appeared to be very supportive of retaining the current structure.  Duncan noted that the benefit reductions adopted in 2005 helped preserve the system's relatively healthy financial condition. In a separate session at the same conference, Rep. Craig Eiland predicted that the state would lower the state's TRS contribution rate to the constitutional minimum of 6.0% (down from the current 6.644%), noting that unless current law were also changed, this would require lowering employee contributions to 6.0% as well.  


The committee of the TRS Board of Trustees conducting the search for a new TRS executive director met today to narrow down the field of candidates, concluding with a recommendation that three finalists be interviewed. The candidates are Ashley Smith (former Texas legislator, currently with Stewart Information Services Corp.), Brian Patrick White (CEO, San Diego County Retirement Association), and Brian Guthrie (Deputy Director, Texas TRS). The Board will meet in February to interview the candidates, and hopes to make a selection at that time.    UPDATE: On 1/14, Ashley Smith withdrew his name from consideration.


US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) announced today that she will not seek re-election. Such a decision is likely to set off a chain reaction among top Texas leaders who may run to fill the open seat and other vacancies created by attempts to move up the political ladder.