NCRGEA continues its work to advance, promote, and protect the benefits, interests, and well-being of North Carolina’s retired state and local public servants in the Lake Case. Click the video at left to hear a report from ABC11 News in Raleigh.
As Executive Director Tim O’Connell explains in this video: “To take care of them in the retirement years, based upon a contractual promise, is being a good steward for North Carolina.”
Representing our state’s more than 357,000 state and local retirees, your NCRGEA board of directors, executive director, and government relations team create a series of legislative goals that best addresses the quality of life for North Carolina’s government retirees. These goals are developed to align with the legislative biennium, a two-year session consisting of one long and one short session, beginning in each odd-number year.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit our country, there was a dramatic shift in the quality of life for everyone, including our members and all in retirement. NCRGEA worked to address this with more holistic and expansive legislative goals focusing on healthcare, telehealth, and broadband.
Our focus to keep our state’s pension system healthy and productive for you and generations of retirees remains steadfast. In this new age, job vacancies in all industries have increased substantially. This is especially true in government, where roughly 30 percent of public sector openings remain unfilled. Why does this matter to you? All public sector employees contribute to their respective pension systems. When vacancies are high, less employee and employer revenue is contributed to the pension systems.
Here’s a status report of 2023-2024 biennium legislative goals:
Advocate for annual cost of living adjustments for all government retirees. While the budget remains unfinished at press time, your NCRGEA government relations team has tirelessly pursued additional money for state and local retirees. Local retirees can only receive a bonus or COLA with approval by the Local Government Retirement System Board of Trustees. Such a vote will likely occur in January 2024. On our website, you can learn more about the Local Government Trustees and statutes relating to Local Government COLA processes. For state government retirees and retired teachers, bonus or COLA money is expected in the final state budget. We will send a legislative update to all members by email when the biennium budget is approved.
Strengthen the state’s defined benefit plan to attract and retain the best and brightest public servants. Efforts to increase salaries for teachers and state government professionals are well underway, and such raises will be released when the state house and senate agree on a tax package as well as salary pay for active employees.
Ensure the State of North Carolina will continue to fulfill its constitutional requirement to fully fund North Carolina Retirement Systems and the State Health Plan. The State of North Carolina is bound by the North Carolina Constitution and case law to guarantee pensioners’ benefits. The state will fully fund both the pension system and State Health Plan this biennium.
Increase in-person and telehealth access, improving health outcomes for retirees. Healthcare for all North Carolinians has been a battleground in the General Assembly. The largest has been a shift in legislative opinion regarding Medicaid expansion. At the same time, significant legislation on how hospitals are approved and managed, along with bills focused on improving health outcomes for the elderly and children, have been debated.
Expand first, middle, and last-mile broadband opportunities to provide increased, dependable, affordable access to broadband. Six broadband bills were introduced for the 2023 long session, many including expanded access in rural areas. An existing effort, the GREAT grant act, has included stepped-up funding since the pandemic.
Expand the Bailey tax exemption for state and local retirees and pursue other tax exemption opportunities. Tax exemption bills for government retirees were filed in both the House and Senate. It appears future discussion of this type of legislation may roll into next year’s short session.
More details on the status of bills related to NCRGEA legislative’s agenda can be found on NCRGEA’s FastDemocracy Bill Tracker, that is available to you on our website.
Open Enrollment is October 9th-27th. Learn more about your 2024 health plan options to help you make the best choice for 2024! Plan to attend one of the State Health Plan’s Medicare Outreach events. Register by visiting the State Health Plan’s website at www.shpnc.org/upcoming-events.
Tuesday night, legislative leadership from both the House and Senate chambers announced that they had reached a $30 billion budget agreement after a weeks-long stalemate between the two chambers. The budget includes a 4 percent bonus for retired teachers and state government employees. This 4 percent bonus will be distributed in November 2023. Retirees may receive an additional bonus or a cost-of-living adjustment next year in the 2024 legislative short session. The 2020-2022 biennium budget included bonuses totaling 6 percent for state employees, including the additional 4% awarded in the legislature’s short session last year.
The executive leadership and board of NCRGEA wish to thank the legislature for its work to provide inflation-negating money for our state’s deserving retirees. We also want to thank the many legislative champions who fought determinedly on behalf of more than 250,000 state retirees who taught, served, or protected the people of North Carolina and continue to contribute to society and their local economies in meaningful ways. While it looks like this chapter is successfully ending, our work for local government retirees continues in conjunction with the Local Government Employees’ Trustees Board and related organizations. We will never cease to strongly advocate for all government retirees in North Carolina.
Hello North Carolina local government and state retirees! North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees’ Association’s in-person Local Outreach Meetings took a short break in July and August— but we’re coming back in September stronger than ever.
NCRGEA is back on the road with seven in-person meetings in September and October. We are fortunate to have our good friends from the NC Department of Insurance’s Senior Health Information Insurance Program [SHIIP] and Humana to advise on your open enrollment processes. Our representatives from AMBA will offer information on supplemental dental and vision programs. These meetings will be a great opportunity to get your questions answered by subject matter experts. Mark your calendars!
Today, I write to you as our state prepares for the advent of Hurricane Idalia. We North Carolinians are not strangers to such events. Many of our NCRGEA members played significant past roles in developing emergency preparedness plans, participating in rescue operations and frequently working through long and stressful recovery efforts in their communities — even when their own residences and families were impacted. Our thoughts are with all the current public service employees charged with these responsibilities in North Carolina and beyond with this pending weather event.
I encourage you to monitor the tracking of #HurricaneIdalia through your preferred weather information source and review the information provide by the State of North Carolina at www.readync.gov.
Wishing everyone the most positive outcome, and once again express our gratitude to the public service staff who will be working on behalf of us all with Hurricane Idalia’s projected path toward North Carolina.
In order to participate, you only need to meet the following requirements:
1. Must be at least 65 years of age. 2. Live in Forsyth County. 3. Must get free tickets from Break Time Billiards or Shepherd’s Center. 4. Must take ticket to Break Time Billiard’s counter to receive your free lessons and to play pool. Sign in sheet is at the counter.
Once you have your ticket, you can play during program hours:
Monday–Thursday from 4–6:00pm Friday from 12–6:00pm
NCRGEA member and District 3 Community Advisory Board (CAB) member, Robin Kelly, is a certified pool instructor and he is there to greet you. To schedule lessons, call Robin at: 336-466-0683. He instructs during program times and is excited to work with you and teach a sport he loves.
For additional information regarding the program, please contact Shepherd’s Center at 336-748-0217.
No doubt, this is a great opportunity to stay active and engaged! We are hoping that you will take advantage and enjoy mingling with others around this sport! NCRGEA membership is not required, so please include your retired friends. Robin may ask you to pose for a picture for our newsletter.
The info flyer is available here, and as always, if you have any questions, please email deryl@NCRGEA.com or phone 919.834.4652 or 1.800.356.1190.
(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today won judgments shutting down robocallers who made illegal health care-related robocalls. Because of this win, Scott Shapiro, Michael Theron Smith, Jr., and Health Advisors of America can no longer make robocalls or work for or with companies that make robocalls in North Carolina.
“I know how harmful and frustrating these robocalls are – that’s why North Carolina has taken the lead in shutting down these scam callers,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “I’m pleased that we were able to win back some peace of mind for North Carolinians with this win. We’ll continue our fight to cut down on robocallers.”
Attorney General Stein sued the robocallers as part of a bigger case that begin in 2020 against John Caldwell Spiller II and his business partner Jakob Mears, the owners of Texas-based Rising Eagle Capital Group LLC and JSquared Telecom LLC, as well as Rising Eagle Capital Group–Cayman. The lawsuit against all of the defendants alleged violations of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule, and various state consumer protection laws.
The complaint alleged that Shapiro and Smith worked with Mears and Spiller to make illegal robocalls targeting people who never asked to be contacted by Health Advisors. In addition to the permanent robocall bans, the defendants are also banned for 10 years from engaging in telemarketing, lead generation, providing or selling telephone numbers, or calling numbers on the federal or North Carolina Do Not Call lists. Shapiro is further banned for two years from engaging in these activities nationwide. The court ordered monetary judgements totaling $146,153,860 for Shapiro, Smith, and Health Advisors combined, though payments will be largely suspended in favor of the operational bans as long as the defendants continue to abide by the terms of the judgment.
The defendants are also required to present a copy of the judgment to all businesses and new customers with which they conduct business for the next 10 years. These judgments resolve all ongoing litigation in this case.
Attorney General Stein is joined in these judgments by the Attorneys General of Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, and Texas.
North Carolina’s strength, beauty, language, and allure come from its land as much as the people who reside in its 100 counties and 552 distinct municipalities. It’s no wonder that our great state has held the distinction of having more dialects than any other state in the United States, driven by its diverse geography from the mountains to sea and the people who have inhabited it from the past to the present. From the lush 221 square miles of Clay County in the far western corner of our state to the expansive Dare County in the east with its 1,562 square miles — we have something special.
The governance of these distinct and unique areas of the state consisting of cities, towns, and villages is consequentially complex, due to the variety of needs dependent on population, geography, and economic factors. The General Assembly grants charter authority for each entity to operate as a governing body under the state statutes and constitution. Hyde County’s three residents per square mile require fewer government services than Mecklenburg County’s 2,055 residents per square mile, though each scenario brings its own challenges to the citizens, county managers, and commissioners. Services offered to residents — and even the benefits offered to local government employees — can vary fairly dramatically. A prime example of this difference in benefits is participation in the Local Government Employees Retirement System (LGERS), which is an optional benefit that may or may not be offered by county our municipality.
LGERS is administered by the Office of the Treasurer and relies on its Board of Trustees to act as the decision-making body regarding its policies and operations. The LGERS Board of Trustees is comprised of 13 members with some serving on the TSERS Board as well. Among the Trustees are its two ex-officio members, the State Treasurer (who chairs the Board), and the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Two appointments are made by the General Assembly, and the Governor appoints eight members representing local government in these areas:
A mayor or member of a governing body in a city or town
A city manager
A county manager
A county commissioner
A law enforcement employee
A local government employee
A retired government employee
An active or retired member of the Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund
Prior to 2006, the General Assembly provided cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to LGERS participants as part of its budget legislation process. Since 2006, it has delegated responsibility to the LGERS Trustees, but within the framework of these existing legislative restrictions:
Currently allows them to provide up to 4% as long it does not exceed the Consumer Price Index.
Only allows a COLA to be paid based on record of investment gains and losses during the preceding three-year period.
As the chart below shows, investment losses with the 2008 Great Recession set a course for the widest historical disparity between retirement disbursements and inflation. What is not reflected on this chart, from 2021 to present, is an additional 16% increase in the CPI-U (inflation rate).
To put context to these roughly 30 months, is the reduction in buying power is nearly the same as what occurred in the decade between 2010-2020 (17.6 %). The current reality brings stagnated cost-of-living adjustments for retirees, with contributing factors being changes in the legislative administration of LGERS, rising costs to the counties and municipalities to level up the fund, and the actuarial lowering of return expectations for the fund.
I share this information with NCRGEA members, with the general public, and with any of our elected leaders so that, together, a dialogue can begin on finding opportunities to begin moving forward — away from the current state of “no COLA” for government retirees. TSERS and LGERS participants have significant shared histories and outcomes in regard to COLA. But some unique components of LGERS compared to other pensions managed by the Office of the Treasurer will require broader partner collaborations to resolve these COLA challenges. Casting the vision for a prosperous North Carolina will require a vision for the significant portion of its citizens who work and retire from public service, or North Carolina will fall short of its full potential.
In closing, I leave you with a quote by Albert Einstein that “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” In context of this message on LGERS, the forces that brought us to this point are to be noted but cannot tether new and innovative ways to improve the lives of governmental retirees, maintain a talented and loyal public service workforce, and encourage the broader economic prosperity of North Carolina.