SEN. ZAFFIRINI FILES BILL SUPPORTING LAREDO’S MUNICIPAL WORKERS

AUSTIN — Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, filed legislation on Wednesday (Jan. 17) to protect Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS) benefits for municipal retirees who return to work for municipalities that, due to administrative and organizational circumstances, rehire retirees of working age. Senate Bill 236 by Zaffirini will allow retirees enrolled in TMRS who become employees of the same municipality to re-enter the system without suspending their monthly benefit.

“This bill will help many Laredo municipal employees receive essential retirement benefits owed properly to them for years of dedicated service,” Senator Zaffirini said. “When the City of Laredo privatized its water utility systems in 2002 and resumed operation in 2005, many employees who transitioned from the city and then back were unable to receive their pension benefits and back pay. This bill will provide clear definition for reemploying municipalities and protect workers’ TMRS service benefits regardless of organizational transitions.”

SB 236 will define clearly a “reemploying municipality” as one with a municipally controlled service that is privatized and transitioned eventually to municipal control. Current law allows retirees to return to work for any city other than the reemploying municipality while continuing to receive the monthly retirement benefits from TMRS. Also under current law, workers who return to work for a reemploying municipality must suspend the monthly benefit until such time as the retiree again terminates employment with the municipality.

SB 236 also provides that a person who retires with a TMRS service benefit and becomes an employee of the reemploying municipality within one calendar month of retirement is not considered retired. TMRS will reinstate the worker’s membership in the system and allow for receipt of a monthly retirement benefit if the worker chooses to work for another municipality or becomes an employee of the same municipality at least one month after retirement.

“This bill closes a negative loophole in our state retirement system that, unfortunately, many municipal workers fall through,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Ensuring that workers continue to receive retirement benefits they earned and that they don’t lose them because of employment reorganization is a no-brainer. I look forward to passing this bill and championing the rights of workers in Senate District 21 and throughout Texas.”

DEWHURST RE-APPOINTS ZAFFIRINI HIGHER ED CHAIR, FINANCE VICE CHAIR

AUSTIN — Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst on Friday (Jan. 12) re-appointed Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, Chair of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee, Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the Senate’s Education and Health and Human Services Committees. He also newly appointed her to the Senate Committee on Administration.

The Vice Chair of Finance is a powerful and coveted position because that senator traditionally serves on both the Appropriations Conference Committee that writes the state’s final budget and on the Legislative Budget Board that, with the governor, has budget execution authority when the legislature is not in session.
Last May she sponsored and passed a bill that authorized $1.9 billion in tuition revenue bonds for 63 capital funding projects at 48 colleges and universities.

“I truly am delighted that Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst again named me to key leadership positions from which I can continue to make a difference for Texas families,” said Senator Zaffirini, the second-highest ranking senator and the highest-ranking senator for Bexar County and the border region.

She has served on the finance committee eight terms since 1991 and consecutive terms on the education committee since 1989. As Vice Chair of Finance during the 79th Legislative Session (2005), Senator Zaffirini was instrumental in drafting a balanced budget while championing education, public safety and health and human services. Last session’s budget allocated $139 billion to fund state programs.

As the former Chair of the Senate Health and Humans Services Committee, Senator Zaffirini will continue to serve on the committee of which she has been a member since 1987. She is known for her expertise in writing Article II, health and human services, of the state’s budget. When the 2003 legislature faced a $10 billion shortfall, she was credited with saving many essential services and programs that otherwise may have been eliminated or severely slashed.

Senator Zaffirini’s newest appointment, the Senate Committee on Administration, approves Senate committee budgets, major travel and purchases, and approves and processes legislation for the Local and Uncontested Calendar — approximately 75 percent of the bills passed by the Senate each session.

“These committee assignments reflect the areas that are most important for the families of Senate District 21 and will facilitate my addressing issues that are our highest legislative priorities,” Senator Zaffirini said. “I look forward to exchanging ideas and conducting dialogues with freshman and veteran members as we continue to champion those issues that will benefit all persons in Texas. I am confident that the 80th legislative session will be one of the most productive for Texas.”

Second in seniority in the 31-member Texas Senate, Senator Judith Zaffirini has served in the Texas Senate 20 years. She is the namesake of United ISD’s Senator Judith Zaffirini Elementary School, Laredo Community College’s Senator Judith Zaffirini Library, Lake Casa Blanca International State Park’s Senator Judith Zaffirini Road and the Judith Zaffirini Program in Edinburg that focuses on fighting drug addictions of men, women and children. SD 21 includes Atascosa, Bee, northeast Bexar, Dimmit, Duval, Frio, Jim Hogg, Karnes, LaSalle, Live Oak, McMullen, San Patricio, Starr, Webb, Wilson, Zapata and Zavala counties.

ZAFFIRINI BEGINS SESSION AS SECOND-HIGHEST RANKING SENATOR

AUSTIN — Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, became the second highest-ranking Texas state senator today (Tuesday) during Opening Day Ceremonies officially gaveling to order the 80th Texas Legislative Session. She returns as the highest-ranking senator for Bexar County and the border region.

“I truly am delighted to renew my unwavering support of all families in Senate District 21,” Senator Zaffirini said. “I especially look forward to prioritizing higher education, health and human services and ensuring the health and welfare of all persons living in my district and throughout our great state.”
First elected in 1986, Senator Zaffirini begins her 20th year in the Texas Senate. She has received more than 550 awards and honors for her legislative, public service and professional work, including 94 awarded for excellence in communications.

Senator Zaffirini’s legendary work ethic is reflected in her 100 percent perfect attendance and voting record in the Texas Senate since 1987. She has cast more than 34,000 consecutive votes and has sponsored and passed 515 bills and 51 substantive resolutions and co-sponsored and passed another 253 bills. Her most recent legislative successes include sponsoring and passing HB 153, which authorizes Texas universities to issue $1.9 billion in tuition revenue bonds for capital improvements. This was the largest single investment Texas has ever made for higher education. What’s more, in August, 2006, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst appointed Senator Zaffirini Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education.

“Higher education is my passion and my highest legislative priority,” Senator Zaffirini said. “I am grateful that Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst named me Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that higher education is made affordable, accessible and provided to all students with the utmost quality and assurance of excellence.”

Senator Zaffirini also will prioritize health and human services, early childhood education, finance and government efficiency. Access to quality health care for Texas communities is a top priority. She will work to expand statewide health services, support and enhance community health services and improve overall health and human services for every family living in Texas.

Senator Zaffirini pre-filed 25 bills before the session began, ranging from modifying State classification processes of colonias to creating tax-free periods for buying college textbooks.