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The ASRTE (Association of State Retired Teacher Executives) Conference this August was held at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. The Grand Hotel is really “Grand”. I had been on the island probably 45 years ago and just for the day. You take a ferry to get to the Island which has a Michigan State Park. What’s unique about Mackinac Island is there’s no automobile traffic. You get around by foot, bicycle, horse or carriage. There is an ambulance, fire truck, police car but that’s it. I do remember seeing the Grand Hotel with its white rocking chairs on the 500 foot porch. At that time they charged $5.00 to go into the Hotel and I wasn’t going to pay that much. Today, it’s $10.00 if you are not staying in the Hotel. After 6:30 p.m. one must have a coat, jacket and tie for the men, while women have to be dressed up with a dress, pantsuit or skirt and blouse if you are on the outside deck or in the dining room or main floor.

Before leaving home at 5:30 a.m. I had my suit ready to go in my suit bag, but it got left in the closet. I didn’t realize my mistake until arriving at St. Ignace which is next to the Mackinac Bridge which connects the Upper Peninsula to the rest of Michigan. Both St. Ignace and Mackinaw City which is on the other side of the Mackinac Bridge have no men’s clothing store, so I called the front desk at the Grand Hotel. They have jackets, ties and pants which they let guests use, at no charge, while at the Hotel. I guess I’m not the only one who has forgotten his dress clothes.

At the Conference we heard about the update of the NRTA Handbook which had last been updated in 1989. Lonnie Duberstein’s name appeared on the small committee updating the NRTA Handbook. We also heard about Advocacy Action Plans with Ken Nickell from AARP, Minnesota’s bill on Elder Abuse and Licensing of Assisted Living Facilities, and how AARP helped with that campaign and the passage of that bill in 2019.

There are four States: Alaska, Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginia who have switched their Defined Benefit Pensions to Defined Contribution Pensions (Cash Balance Plans) for their new hired educators. A Defined Benefit Plan is what we have in Minnesota. A Defined Contribution Plan would cut an educator’s pension in half. Those States who have switched are finding that this change is affecting teacher recruitment. New case studies find increased taxpayer costs when states move employees out of Defined Benefit Plans to Defined Contribution Plans according to the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS). We in Minnesota need to be diligent in monitoring our State Legislature so our Pensions remain Defined Benefit Plans.

The 2019 Legislative Session did not have much new on Public Pensions. That’s good news for Retired Educators! It took three years to get agreement on the Pension Bill in 2018. There are individuals and organizations all over the United States that want to change all Public Pensions from Defined Benefit to Defined Contribution.

Defined Benefit is what you have with a steady pension check each month with a COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment) each year which increases your check each year. At present that COLA doesn’t keep up with inflation, but perhaps some time in the future with improvement to the Pension Fund that COLA could increase. Defined Contribution is really a savings account usually in the Stock Market which would reduce your monthly check by 42% to 50%. These individuals and organizations want to make money on your pension, and because these organizations and individuals will continue to fight to get rid of our Defined Benefit Plan, REAM needs to be continually monitoring and working with the Minnesota Legislature. Pensions benefit every county in the state of Minnesota.

In early August ASRTE (Association of Retired Teacher Executives) meets in Northern Michigan on Mackinaw Island. Last year the organization met here in Bloomington, Minnesota. At these meetings we hear what’s happening around the country and it’s not always good. We do hear how some states have been able to stop a change from Defined Benefit to Defined Contribution, but we also hear where changes have been made. Changes are being made so individuals and companies can make money off your retirement funds. Also, the individual state doesn’t have to provide you a pension in retirement which frees up state money to be used for other things.

It would be great to see you at the REAM Fall Conference at Prairie’s Edge Casino Resort at Granite Falls! Registration Form and Hotel Information are in this issue and will be on the REAM Website.

What a 2019 winter! I’m sure you can remember worse winters, but they were in the “old days.” Last Fall the meteorologists were forecasting a warmer winter with less than average snowfall. An “El Nino” Winter was forecast for 2018-2019. It looks like the forecasters were wrong.

REAM is sponsoring a trip to Southern California in February 2020. That’s for those who were in Minnesota in early 2019 for the polar vortex and lots of snow! Also, there’s a trip to Costa Rica in February and New Orleans in March. Look elsewhere in the REAM NEWS for more information.

There’s an update on our REAM Website coming in May. It will give us some ways to reach many of you who like emails. Also, you will be able to renew your membership online as well as register for our Annual REAM Conference online. Regular mail isn’t going away. You will still be able to send in your membership renewal by mail and register for the Annual REAM Conference by mail.

The 2019 Minnesota Legislature is in the final push to finish by May 20. The budget this year is the big one. It looks like we may have another special session, too, unless there’s some very hard negotiating by the big three – Governor, Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader. Governor Walz should have a little more power this year than former Governor Dayton because the Speaker of the House is of the same political party as the Governor. Time will tell.

The 2019 Legislature began its long session on January 8 and is scheduled to conclude on May 20. The Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement (LCPR) has been named for 2019-2020. The House gets to name the Chair for the next two years. Representative Mary Murphy from Hermantown will probably be the Chair. She is a retired Duluth educator. I don’t anticipate any big legislative changes coming out of the LCPR but you never know what will happen when the Legislature is in session.

With a former teacher as Governor and a DFL majority in the House new money for K-12 Education should be coming. Active educators should see some nice salary increases in the next two years. Their salaries have not kept up with inflation and the greater costs of health care have probably lowered their take home pay.

I’m sure you can remember winters worse than this one. We didn’t close school because of the temperature. We didn’t have wind chill temperatures or polarvortex’s.

The temperatures and wind chills were just as bad as today if not worse. We missed the last polar vortex on our cruise which didn’t bother me. We’ve come back to plenty of snow, however. Last fall the winter forecast called for warmer than average temperatures and below average snowfall. El Nino was going to cause this mild winter. Have you heard anyone talking about El Nino now?

On our cruise we visited Morocco, the Canary Islands and the island of Madeira which is part of Portugal. The highlight of the cruise for me was in Madeira where we had a toboggan ride. Madeira is built on the side of a mountain. People used to ride down the street on these two seater baskets with two young men guiding the basket down the steep hill. Riders would do their shopping and have to walk back up the hill to their home. The baskets had to be carried back up to the top by the young men. Today the men are a little older and a truck takes the baskets or toboggans back up the hill. The ride is a little scary as the road is shiny and there is cross traffic on the way down. It’s over a mile down this hill. I had seen this on CNN this past year. We enjoyed the ride.

Here’s hoping you enjoyed the Holidays!

The 2019 Legislature begins on Tuesday, January 8 and is scheduled to end on Monday, May 20.

This is the long session, and it is the Budget Year for this Biennium.  The new Speaker of the House is Melissa Hortman.  She and the House Majority Leader will select Committee Chairs and also the Chair of the LCPR.  That’s the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement. The Chair of the LCPR will be from The House for the next biennium and will be a Democrat.  There will be five Democrats and two Republicans on the LCPR from the House.  The Senate will have five Republicans and two Democrats on the LCPR. The Senate is controlled by the Republicans and the Senate Majority Leader will appoint the Senate Members to the LCPR.  Since the big Omnibus Pension Bill was passed by the 2018 Legislature with five minutes to spare on the last day, I don’t think you will see any big changes in any 2019 Pension Bill.

The new Governor, Tim Walz, is a former teacher from Mankato.  That should put public education at a high priority.  Hopefully, there will be more money going to local school districts and perhaps some needed raises for our public educators.

REAM has a new five year Contract with AMBA (Association Member Benefits Advisors).  If you would like to help your local members become more informed about the AMBA Benefits they are entitled to, contact Kevin Slattery (651) 403-0554.  His Email:  kevin.6.slattery@gmail.com.  Kevin lives right here in Minnesota and would like to come and speak to your local members.

REAM’s Board of Directors is in need of a new Treasurer, Secretary, Representative from the Duluth Area and a person to serve on the Board and see that our Membership Letter gets through all the hoops during the summer and early fall.  If you or someone you know would be interested in any of these positions please let me know.  My email:  cchellie@charter.net and my phone number:  507-301-3609.

Hopefully, many of you will have some time this winter for some days in a warmer climate.  It’s a nice break from the long winter in Minnesota.  Anita and I plan to be in the Canary Islands on a cruise ship for several days.  I didn’t even know the Canary Islands are located off Africa and the Canary Islands are warm all year round.  We’re looking forward to this break from winter.

In early August I have attended the REAM Executive Directors’ Conference for the last six years. These meetings have been in some pretty warm climates like Las Vegas, Savannah and San Antonio where temperatures were well over 100 degrees. I decided to invite the organization to Minnesota in 2018. Our temperatures were in the 80’s and serving as the host, we met in Bloomington near the Mall of America. Several had not been to the Mall. Since we have over 10,000 lakes in Minnesota I hosted a trip to Wayzata for lunch and a cruise on Lake Minnetonka. To end the conference Joe Schmit from KSTP-TV presented “Silent Impact”. He also has a book with this same title. This was a wonderful way to end the conference. Joe ended our 2017 REAM Conference at Grand Casino Hinckley. I’m sure those in attendance at Hinckley remember his presentation. We never know where and when we will impact someone.

This has been a very busy summer. In mid-June I was a delegate to the Sons of Norway District 1 Convention in Rochester. Also, in June, the highlight for the summer for Anita and me, was celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary at Ruttger’s Resort on Lake Bemidji with our two sons, their wives and our four grandsons. In late June I was a delegate to the NEA Retired Annual Meeting in St. Paul, and in early July I served as a delegate to the NEA Representative Assembly in Minneapolis.

In August we were invited to attend the Kenyon High School’s Class of 1968’s 50th Class Reunion. We both were teachers there and it was wonderful to see students we taught 50 years ago as well as other teachers who were in attendance. As a teacher you don’t realize who you influenced while teaching. If you have a chance to attend a class reunion where you taught, please do so!

Not so good this past summer was attending six funerals including my younger brother John’s funeral. He was a teacher and coach in Pierz, Minnesota for 31 years.

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you at Jackpot Junction in Morton in late September. We have some good break-out sessions and speakers lined up.

Several REAM members this Legislative Session spent much time at the Legislative Commissions on Pensions (LCPR) and at the House and Senate Committee Hearings to get S.F. 2620 (the Omnibus Pension Bill) passed in the 2018 Legislature. Thank you to all of you who helped. All of you need to thank your Minnesota State Representative and State Senator for passing this bill unanimously in the last five minutes of the Legislative Session. This bill will provide needed stability to Minnesota’s State Pension Systems. Everybody gave up something to get this passed. Yes, retirees gave up more than others. However, there are several other states that are in worse shape than Minnesota. Kansas retired educators haven’t had a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in 12 years. Pennsylvania hasn’t given retired educators a COLA since 2000. These states along with others must go to their state legislatures every year to get a COLA. Of course, most years they’re denied a COLA. There’s not enough money; especially, when it’s not considered until the very end of the legislative session.

In mid-June I attended the Sons of Norway District 1 Convention in Rochester. The Registration Fee was $240. The Convention was two and a half days. The Registration Fee for our Conference at Jackpot Junction in September is $90.00. It would be wonderful to see you at the September Annual Conference this year!

Judy Resler served as our REAM membership chair for many years. Elsewhere in the REAM News she was presented a Life Membership in REAM and a plaque for her service to REAM. She said to me she loves to travel and asked me about a trip to the Copper Canyon in Mexico. We had taken it about eight years ago with my college roommate and his wife. They were wintering in Green Valley, Arizona which is south of Tuscan and not far from the Mexican border at Nogales. We traveled by coach bus and then a train ride right along the Copper Canyon. Our hotel room looked right over the Canyon and our room had a deck which was sticking right out over the Canyon. It was a little scary. Our country wouldn’t permit a hotel room to sit like that over the Grand Canyon.

REAM offers a trip to the Grand Canyon called “Great Trains & Grand Canyons”. You stay five nights in the same hotel in Sedona, Arizona and take a train up to the Grand Canyon. We offered the trip in March this year and it filled up immediately. We are offering the trip again September 16. I sent out a questionnaire on all our trips. Here’s one from the past March trip. “This was a wonderful trip. We enjoyed everything. Things were so well organized. Our Hotel was great. We saw a lot and did a lot in a short time, but it was well paced. We had spacious rooms with outdoor space. Breakfasts were delicious.”

In January Anita, my wife, Bev, my college roommate’s wife, and I traveled to Croatia and Slovenia. Dubrovnik, Croatia is on the Adriatic and is a walled city. In the summer months there are thousands of tourists there every day with six tourist ships anchored in the harbor. I am not a fan of big crowds of tourists so we went in January. The weather was warmer than it was in Minnesota, and we enjoyed some sunny days. Our hotel room in Dubrovnik looked out over the Adriatic where we viewd some spectacular sunsets. We also spent time along the Dalmatian Coast in Split, Croatia. Here, in the Old Town, we visited the 4th century retirement Palace of Diocletian, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Diocletian grew up near Split and later served as an Emperor in Rome. On the Istrian Peninsula we visited Pula where we toured one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters.

In Slovenia we spent time in the Capital City of Ljubiljana and Bled. Ljubiljana has 60,000 college students in a city of 120,000! Bled is a beautiful community. Our Hotel looked right out over a lake with one island and a church on the island. We met a St. Olaf College student from Slovenia before we left for our trip. We had her over for dinner when we returned to Minnesota. Her home was only twenty minutes from Bled in the foot of the Alps. We shared lots of chit chat about her country. We’re hoping to have her visit us again.

The Association Member Benefits Advisors (AMBA) offers a wide variety of benefits to REAM members. Have you checked them out? Are you paying more for benefits than you would have to pay with AMBA? Maybe it’s time to look into these benefits.

The final expense whole life and guaranteed acceptance life insurance is a real value. REAM members can have peace of mind knowing that their premiums are guaranteed never to increase and their coverage is guaranteed never to decrease.

If you travel a great deal, you may be interested in Medical Air Service Association. MASA is dedicated to providing life-saving emergency assistance from or while traveling. The coverage is designed to protect members against catastrophic financial loss when emergencies arise.

Freedom to use any dentist and no network is required in the dental coverage provided by Ameritas for REAM members through AMBA. Routine cleanings and exams are part of the plan and there are no referrals required for specialty care. Vision Service Plan (VSP) is the largest national quality eye care company. VSP offers one-stop shopping and discounts for your eye care needs.

For more information on these plans as well as many more benefits you can call two representatives of AMBA here in Minnesota. One is Kevin Slattery at 651-403-0554 or email: kevin.6.slattery@gmail.com. Also Jimmy Clark at 507-995-9005 or email:
jimmy.clark@amba.info. You can call AMBA at 800-258-7041 or go to: myambabenefits.info. AMBA benefits can also be found on the REAM website at: mnream.org.

REAM also offers auto/home owners insurance through AAA (American Auto Association). You can get a quote from the Wheeler Agency, Inc. which handles AAA insurance here in Minnesota. REAM members can get a 10% deduction on our AAA Basic Membership. Their number: 888-299-7717 or 651-765-0935 from 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Happy 2018! I hope you really enjoyed your 2017 Holidays! Do enjoy your 2% COLA increase from TRA!

Here are some dates for your 2018 calendar. Tuesday, February 6 is precinct caucus night. With an open governor’s race in November, caucuses are the beginning of endorsements by the political parties for this key office. The election of a new governor in 2018 will be very important for our pensions in 2019 and beyond. Tuesday, February 20 the state legislature begins their short session in St. Paul. The legislature could make some changes to pensions in this session. Wednesday, March 7 is the tentative date for the Education Minnesota Retired Legislative Conference in Osseo. REAM and Education Minnesota Retired alternate years in hosting the Legislative Conference.

Our Membership Chair, Merrie Zakaras, reported that we have 11,086 members at the end of 2017. I believe that is a record. In the 1990’s REAM had over 10,000+ members, but in the early 2000’s we were down to 7,650 members for quite a long period of time. We need your membership in dealing with legislators at the state capitol. Numbers speak.

In early November, Lonnie Duberstein, Anita and I attended AMBA’s Roundup in Austin, Texas. AMBA stands for Association Member Benefits Advisors which is based in Austin, Texas. AMBA was sold to two former employees of Horace Mann Insurance. They have some great ideas for moving AMBA forward. We shared ideas for attracting younger members to our organizations and we listened to speakers Jim Craig, 1980 goalie for the USA “Miracle on Ice” Hockey Team which was coached by Herb Brooks; Jan Hargrave, body language expert; and Keith Brainerd from NASRA (National Association of State Retirement Administrators). AMBA provides REAM members with 19 benefits. These benefits were explained by Ryan Motola.

If you want to help your local members become more informed about the AMBA Benefits they have access to, contact:

Kevin Slattery
(651) 403-0554
kevin.6.slattery@gmail.com

OR
Jimmy Clark
(507) 995-9009
jimmy.clark@amba.info

to speak to your local group. AMBA Benefits could be a good tool for recruiting new members.

Thanks to all who helped with this year’s REAM Conference at Grand Casino Hinckley and thanks to all 107 of you who took the time and effort to attend. I have attended and been a part of 17 REAM Conventions/Conferences and the 2017 one was one of the best, if not the best. We had wonderful and informative speakers and entertainment. Joe Schmit’s address was outstanding and worth hearing again. Some commented that it is great to get together with former educators and meet new retired educators. Next September we are at Jackpot Junction in Morton and attendees will not have to face any smoke as the hotel and conference areas are smoke-free. Jackpot Junction will provide one $10 Free Play Coupon for each attendee. You do have to become an Express Club Member which costs nothing to join. Some of you joined the Express Club back in 2010 when we met at Jackpot Junction.

Lonnie Duberstein, Anita and I will be heading to Austin, Texas in early November at the invitation of the Association Member Benefits Advisors (AMBA). They call it “The AMBA Roundup”. It’s educational (we learn about all the AMBA benefits), social (we meet Presidents and Executive Directors from other states, and visit interesting spots in Austin), and at no cost to REAM. AMBA pays for their guests. AMBA provides benefits in 35 states. It’s also about how great Texas is as a state. The guest speaker is Jim Craig who played on the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team that earned the Gold Medal. I believe Minnesota had several players on that team and the head coach was from Minnesota.

In February the Minnesota Legislature will be back in session. During the past two years no new public pension bill became law in Minnesota. There’s a good chance that will be true in 2018. The people who rate bonds could lower Minnesota’s bond rating if no action is taken in 2018. That may force some movement. Enjoy your 2% Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase from TRA and 1% COLA from PERA in January along with a 2% increase in Social Security.

There are not too many days until the REAM Annual Conference which, this year, is at Grand Casino Hinckley on September 25 and 26. We haven’t had the Annual Conference at a casino in four years, but we know we have REAM members who especially like to attend when we are at a casino. I believe we were last at Grand Casino Hinckley in 2008. So, we hope to see many of you in Hinckley!

We just had our Association of State Retired Teacher Executives (ASRTE) Conference in Las Vegas. Next year we are meeting in Minnesota. This conference is for executive directors and they come from Alaska to Massachusetts to Alabama to California. It’s great visiting with people who are doing the same kind of job that I do. Some of the executive directors are volunteers with only 500 members such as in the state of Wyoming. Then, there’s Texas with 70,000 members and Tim Lee who is a full time executive director with a staff of ten. Tim earns his salary as his job is not easy. Texas now has Josh McGee as chair of the Texas Pension Review Board. McGee was appointed by the Texas Governor. Josh McGee is a vice president at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. John Arnold wants all public pension systems in the United States to switch from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans. There are folks in our state who would like our plan changed to a defined contribution. We must continually be on the watch and educating folks about the negative effects of such a change in their pensions. John and Laurie’s Foundation has been spending millions for several years to bring about these changes, and they have been successful in a few states. John Arnold was with Enron and left just before Enron collapsed. Enron employees and investors lost a lot of money. We need to be able to articulate why defined benefit plans are superior to defined contribution plans. Taking the same amount of money defined benefit plans are at least 42% more efficient than a defined contribution plan. Which would you rather have?

Our trip to Sweden and Norway that I mentioned in the July issue, turned out to be better than we expected. I found a historian in Norway who has the same great-great grandfather as I do. This great-great grandfather signed the Norwegian Constitution, and his farm is now a museum. Anita spoke to a fellow who saw us studying our papers in the cemetery at one of the churches we visited. He walked over and asked if he could help us. He looked over her list of relatives, and put her in touch with a relative of her mother’s. Anita and her Swedish relative are now on the computer and sharing family information. Much different from the long trips that brought folks here by boat and the long letters home.


 

Please note the 2017 REAM Annual Conference this year is at Grand Casino Hinckley. The Registration form is in this REAM News with deadlines for Hotel Reservations of September 3 and Conference Registration of September 10.

It looks like you will get your same COLA on January 1, 2018 as you received in 2017. The legislature voted to lower the COLA, increase the employee and employer contributions at the same rate and refused to put in the Governor’s budget increase for public pensions. The Governor vetoed the bill.

My wife, Anita and I, spent the last two weeks of May in Norway and Sweden visiting where our grandparents and great grandparents lived before immigrating to the U.S.

We visited where my great-great grandfather signed the Norwegian Constitution in 1814 and also his farm which is now a museum. We enjoy geneology and travel.

The REAM Action Committee (RAC) has been working hard for a little over a year. Their goals have been to increase the REAM membership and also to reactivate some REAM units. They have increased the REAM membership by nearly two thousand members by contacting former members who had not renewed their membership. REAM has a membership of 9,500 members. Our goal is 10,000+. Our local units number 34, but in the last two years we have lost nine local units – Mankato, Crow River (Dassel), Agassiz Area (Fertile), Crookston Area, Detroit Lakes, Northland Area (Thief River), Iron Range Area, Tri County and Forest Lake. The REAM Action Committee is working to resurrect Mankato and hopes to renew some others in the near future. Your help is needed. It is important to get retired teachers together to discuss the issues in education and how it affects us in our retirement—especially our pensions. Folks need help in understanding how the system works or isn’t working as the case may be. Getting together and discussing the talking points helps folks understand the issues at stake so they can have good information to discuss with their legislator.

Hats off to the REAM Action Committee (RAC) led by Paul Ehrhard. Other Committee members include Karna Brewer, Don Zwach, John Fisher and Lonnie Duberstein.

Here in Northfield we are working on starting a new REAM unit. We have met twice with retired educators and twice with a steering committee. Hopefully, we will be organized by next year.

The next month or so will have some tense times in St. Paul at the Minnesota Capitol. With a Republican House and Senate and a Democratic Governor the odds of a special session are very great. Negotiations will probably still be going on in June. Keep posted on the website for further information. Talk to your legislator. Pensions are important. Every county in the State of Minnesota benefits from public pensions.

The REAM Legislative Conference on February 8 at the Maple Grove Community Center was well attended by both REAM and Education Minnesota Retired Members. Thanks to Tim Moynihan, Henry Carbone, Lonnie Duberstein, John Fisher and Don Leathers for taking care of all the details. They pulled it together for a very successful event. They are also working hard representing you at the TRA Board Meetings, LCPR (Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement), SBI (State Bureau of Investment) and the Minnesota Legislature.

Be sure to vote for the election of the Retired TRA Board Representative. There are only three candidates running in this year’s election. REAM did not screen the candidates this time around. You should be receiving your ballot very soon if you have not already received your ballot in the mail.

Here’s some very recent facts on Minnesota retired teachers.

  • 62% are female, 38% male. ¾ of active teachers are female.
  • About 2/3 of current retirees retired after 2000 and did not receive the large COLAs given during the 1990s.
  • Members who retired during the years immediately preceding the COLA freeze of 2011-2012 were hit the hardest because it took longer for their pension income to catch up to inflation.
  • The COLA freeze in 2011-2012 resulted in pensions not keeping pace with inflation. Example: For a summer 2001 retiree, their TRA benefit has increased by 32% since retirement. Actual inflation has increased by 35%.
  • In 30 years TRA’s proposal produces a benefit that is 10% lower than what the current law of 2% COLA would have provided. If a teacher initially retires with a $2,000 a month benefit, the lower COLA under the TRA proposal translates into a reduction of $573 a month by the 30th year. A 1% COLA for all years reduces the benefit by 25%, which translates into a monthly benefit reduction of $927 a month.
  • Pensions help retired teachers remain self-sufficient in retirement and keeps the state’s retirees of public assistance.

Here’s hoping you were able to enjoy the Holidays! If you are healthy, that’s a wonderful blessing!

By the time you read this, our Minnesota Legislature will be in Session. Traditionally, this session begins in early January, but not too much happens. The LCPR (Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement) quite often has not formed until March. Members are appointed by their party’s leadership. The 14 Commission members are appointed by the caucus leaders. There are 7 Senators and 7 Representatives. Since the Republicans control both the Senate and the House there will be 4 or 5 Republican Senators appointed to the LCPR and 4 or 5 Republican Representatives appointed. Democratic Senators and Representatives will fill out the other two or three positions. The LCPR chair will come from the Republican Senators on the Commission. We hope the 2017 Legislature will put some of the surplus revenue into the TRA and PERA Funds. However, many legislators may want to see how big a refund can be returned to the taxpayers.

REAM has a Legislative Conference on Wednesday, February 8th at the Maple Grove Community Center. There’s more information and registration elsewhere in the REAM News. Your participation in this Legislative Session may well decide your future pension colas and the stability of the TRA and PERA Pension Funds. Get involved!

The last quarter of 2016 found quite a few REAM members taking REAM sponsored trips. There are some who are taking their third REAM sponsored trip and can’t figure out why more of the 9,300+ REAM members don’t take advantage of these trips. We offer the trips simply because we know retired educators like to travel. One does not have to be a REAM member to take advantage of these trips. Of course one has to find out about the trips and one can find out about them from our REAM NEWS or our REAM website: mnream.org.

Stay warm or perhaps go someplace warm for a break from winter!

REAM Conference

The REAM Conference in September was a success. A special thank you to all of you who willingly volunteered your time and talents to help make our two days together worth our trip and time to the Alexandria Conference. The evaluations pointed out three points of interests that almost all of you agreed on. Two days instead of three, even though the schedule was tight, seemed to be a plus. Lots of you really enjoyed the Lakes Area Tour led by Ellsworth Holm. Finally, hearing Janelle Kendall speak on the Jacob Wetterling Case was definitely a highlight. You could hear a pin drop during that hour.

It is always worth attending just to hear Laurie Hacking from TRA and Doug Anderson from PERA address the Conference with information about our pensions.

The 2017 Conference will be Monday and Tuesday, September 25 and 26 at Grand Casino Hinckley. We have not been at a casino since 2013. Many of you have indicated that you enjoy going to a casino. Mark your calendars!

Trips

Fourteen REAM members took the REAM Trip to Cape Cod this fall. Here’s an email from David and Judy Schlief, St. Paul, on their trip to Cape Cod. “Hi Chuck, just to let you know we had a great trip with Premier Travel to Cape Cod. Everything went smoothly. We covered the surrounding areas with ample time. Mike Cassant was a very helpful tour director and our motor coach driver was outstanding. We especially liked the trip allowing us to stay at the same hotel all week. We will no doubt try another REAM Travel experience before long.” REAM is offering this same trip to Cape Cod departing MSP on October 1, 2017. Already, I have two reservations for that trip. This trip is hot! If you are interested in going, don’t wait. Last fall I was asked if five people should reserve now or wait until May, 2016. I told them to send in the reservation now! The Cape Cod trip sold out in April this past year.

Go Next, a travel agency based in Minneapolis, is offering REAM members the Alaska Charms Trip. It’s a 7 night cruise aboard the 684 passenger Regatta. This cruise includes the Inside Passage, Tracy Arm Fjord, the Outside Passage with day stops in Wrangell and Sitka, Alaska and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada. Cost includes airfare from MSP starting at $1,999. That is a good value!

One of the first trips REAM sponsored was to California. REAM is offering the same trip again. I send out evaluations after each trip and I do remember one comment from that California trip. There’s a wine train trip through the Napa Valley. They served wine on
the train, but the train never stopped at a Napa Valley winery. Now the train trip does stop at a winery in the Napa Valley. Premier World Travel does listen to people’s comments.

By the time you read this article, Anita and I will have returned from a trip to Spain. It’s a similar trip to the one Collette Travel is offering March 4 – 11. Our trip is an Art and Wine Tour of Spain. It features art museums with paintings by Spanish artists El Greco, Dali and Picasso and some wineries. Collette’s trip is Spain’s Classics and includes more cities than our trip did.

Benefit Recipients of Four MN Retirement Funds

There are 87 counties in Minnesota. Each county has retired public employees living in the county who receive a pension payment each month from either TRA, PERA, MSRS or SPTRFA. These retirees live in the county and spend their pension income mostly in that county. This pension money is an economic benefit to every county in Minnesota. Page one shows the state map and information for each county and the second page gives a break down by each Minnesota Retirement Fund. Click here to find the benefit for your county!

REAM (Retired Educators Association of Minnesota) is affiliated with NRTA (National Retired Teachers Association) and NRTA is a part of AARP. During August 1- 4, I attended the annual ASRTE (Association of State Retired Teacher Executives) Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We:

  • identified key issues in each State,
  • worked on leadership development,
  • had NRTA Staff updates,
  • heard about Digital Marketing,
  • were taught how to respond to pension attacks,
  • heard comments on the U.S. Presidential Race and
  • had round table discussions. Exchanges with other Executive Directors is always helpful.

The week before I was in Albuquerque, AARP Representatives attended an ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) Conference in Indianapolis (July 25-28). ALEC invites state legislators to their conferences and provides them with legislative bills that ALEC would like introduced and passed in each State. Some of those bills propose changing all public pension plans from DB (Defined Benefit) Plans to DC (Defined Contribution) Plans. DC Pension Plans are like savings accounts. REAM does not look favorably on ALEC, the Koch brothers, or John and Linda Arnold who all are working to change public pension plans to DC Plans throughout the United States. They all are billionaires and are using their money to change public policy.

At the ASRTE Conference, I asked the NRTA leaders in attendance why AARP is going to ALEC Conferences? They stated that AARP is not endorsing ALEC. AARP is still in favor of Defined Benefit Public Pension Plans, and AARP is not endorsing ALEC Policies, either. AARP did pay a fee of $5,000 to attend the ALEC Conference and did pay a sponsorship amount as well. AARP’s reasoning is that they want to engage ALEC. They want access to legislators (especially Republican legislators). One has to “Pay to Play”. “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu”. AARP gives much more financial support to NCSL (National Council on State Legislatures) which met August 8 – 11, and NIRS (National Institute on Retirement Security). AARP is non-partisan.

Dara Dan, the Vice President of NRTA called me yesterday stating that AARP has withdrawn from ALEC. Many of us at REAM are relieved!

From May 2nd to May 5th, President-Elect Lonnie Duberstein and I were in Chicago at an NRTA (National Retired Teachers Association) Leadership Training Program. Much of the training was in Engaging Younger Members. Participants were from Alaska to Arizona, Mississippi to Virginia and Washington, D.C. to Rhode Island and New Hampshire and even Maine. Our meetings were in The Auditorium, a downtown Chicago office tower where one had to get a visitor’s pass after showing your driver’s license. With the pass a person at the elevators directed you to the correct elevator. There seemed to be more security than in previous NRTA Programs that I have attended in Chicago. Lonnie will be returning to Chicago for a follow-up Program in September.

Look for the Hotel Registration and Conference Registration in this issue of the REAM News. The 2016 Conference is at the Alexandria Holiday Inn which is right off I-94 just to the south of the Alexandria Exit. Your local unit should consider sending someone as a delegate to report back to your local unit. Some units do help that person with reimbursement for registration, lodging and or mileage.

REAM has a new Logo and now a new REAM polo shirt with the new REAM Logo. Paul Ehrhard is pictured with the new REAM polo shirt elsewhere in the REAM News. Contact your REAM Director or myself if you are interested in having a REAM polo shirt.

We just returned from a family reunion north of Grand Forks – Alvarado, Minnesota, where my wife grew up. We received a tour of the house she grew up in. The house is being well maintained and some nice improvements as well. We stayed in Grand Forks at a new La Quinta Inns & Suites. This was the nicest La Quinta we have stayed in. We saved $20 per night using our AMBA Discount. We registered on line and when you get to the “Promo Code” you put in “AMBA” and then you see what you save. I plan to use “La Quinta” again this August in New Mexico. Minnesota has 9 La Quinta Inns & Suites.
Four are located in Minneapolis, two in Bloomington, and one each in Brooklyn Park, Minnetonka and Rochester. REAM members can save using AMBA!

Please note REAM has a “Conference” instead of “Convention” with this year’s “Conference” being Monday & Tuesday, September 26 & 27 at the Alexandria Holiday Inn. Some local units send a representative paying some of their expenses like registration fee and/or hotel. The representative reports back to the local unit. I would encourage each local unit to send a representative. REAM also asks each local unit to send a door prize, too.

REAM President-Elect Lonnie Duberstein and I will be attending a NRTA (National Retired Teacher Association) Conference in Chicago May 2 – May 5. This Conference will be for volunteer state organizations and will not include states like Texas, Maryland and Illinois which have several fulltime employees in their associations.

REAM is affiliated with NRTA which is affiliated with AARP. The NRTA founded AARP many years ago. Today, NRTA is a Division of AARP. One out of seven Minnesotans belong to AARP. If you belong to AARP check your AARP Membership Card. Under your name, “valid thru” and “membership number” does the card say “NRTA Division”? If your card doesn’t have “NRTA Division”, AARP doesn’t know you are a retired educator. NRTA receives funding from AARP depending upon the “NRTA Division” on our AARP Membership Cards. You can have the “NRTA Division” designation on your AARP Card simply by calling the phone number on the back of your Membership Card (1-888-687-2277) and asking to have “NRTA Division” placed on your new Membership Card. There’s no cost to you.

August 1 – 4 ASRTE (Association of State Retired Teacher Executives) meets in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I will be attending this annual meeting which gives information on national trends. It’s also a chance to get ideas from other Executive Directors from around the United States.

Some of you know I’m on the Board of Directors for Education Minnesota Retired. I was elected to attend the NEA (National Education Association) Retired Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. June 29 & June 30 followed by the NEA Representative Assembly July 2 – July 7. I’ve done this several times and at the NEA Retired I quite often get to lead the retirees in singing the National Anthem which is an honor for myself and recognition for Minnesota.

When one also has a college class reunion and a couple of family reunions to attend this will be one of my busiest summers!

The Legislative session this year is a short one beginning March 8 and running about two months. Since both the House members and Senate Members are up for re-election in November they usually cut the session short so they can get out and campaign. Look for a big bonding bill, a transportation bill and the lowering of your TRA Pension’s Cola from 2% to 1% effective January 1, 2017. The 1% Cola will be in effect for several years. Employers of TRA members will pay 1% more to 8.5% from 7.5%. Active educators will remain paying 7.5% of salary to TRA.

Anita & I just returned from a two week trip to Thailand. It was a great trip with a nice variety of scenery and activities. Bangkok has over ten million people and has a typical big city feel to it. There’s lots of tall buildings, too. We spent time in Chang Rai which is to the far north in Thailand. We spent some time in Myanmar (Burma) and Laos and the Golden Triangle area. This area used to have lots of drug trafficking and illegal activity. Poppies were grown and they were made into opium and from opium comes heroin. Instead of poppies they grow beautiful flowers and much fruit.

We also visited Chang Mai which is also in the northern part of Thailand. I rode an elephant near Chang Mai, we saw elephants painting pictures, paying soccer and braking balloons with darts. The elephant eats 300 pounds of food per day.

The temperatures were in the high 80’s and low 90’s but we managed. Minnesota was having 10 to 12 inches of snow in the metro and some schools were closed. Thailand was a nice break for us.