Living Power Poised to Be Bigger and Better

LivingPower November/December 2023

Army General James Van Fleet once said, “I’m always willing to accept change, as long as it isn’t change for the sake of change. If that change will result in a better way of doing things, then I’m all for it.” NCRGEA feels confident he would have agreed with the changes coming to Living Power.

Starting in January, Living Power has a completely new look and feel with a different publishing schedule — in its new quarterly magazine format. While continuing to keep members informed on matters that are important to them, Living Power will have more in-depth articles, more photographs, and a more user-friendly layout.

“The new magazine will provide us with a great format for telling the story of the positive impact that those who have worked in local and state government continue to have on North Carolina and our economy,” said Tim O’Connell, NCRGEA Executive Director. “It will allow us to better inform our members, recent retirees, and lawmakers on the ins and outs of pensions and healthcare plans.”

He added, “In addition, the magazine will allow us to present information in a more visually appealing format and provide content that complements our digital communications.”

In her role as Community Liaison at NCRGEA, Deryl Davis-Fulmer focuses on the many ways NCRGEA members are active in their local communities and in state-wide organizations. Regarding the new magazine, she is excited about the opportunity it provides to “shine a light on their accomplishments and maybe inspire others to get involved with their communities.”

Current feature columns along with new content enabled by the expanded format include:

  • NCRGEA Executive Director and Board of Directors President columns
  • State Treasurer’s column
  • Contributions from various Council of State members
  • NCRGEA member profiles
  • District Community Connections column
  • Calendar of upcoming NCRGEA events
  • Puzzles and games that will provide opportunities to engage and win prizes

To complement the new quarterly schedule of the magazine, other communications channels including social media, email, and the NCRGEA website, will be used to provide late-breaking news and timely information to members. The magazine will be available in both print and digital formats, so look for the print version to arrive in the mail and sign up for the digital version if you have not already done so. The digital magazine can be accessed via email or on our website.

Look for these exciting changes to Living Power coming in January and be sure to read to stay informed about all the ways that NCRGEA is advocating for and informing you. Get ready for change — not for the sake of change, but for a better way of doing things!

2023 Legislative Goals Update

LivingPower September/October 2023

District 94 Representative Jeffrey Elmore, right, and NCRGEA’s Executive Director, Tim O’Connell, discuss the importance of a defined benefits plan for retirees and its value in attracting and retaining our current public service workforce. Elmore serves as a member of the House’s Pensions and Retirement Committee and also happens to be a public-school teacher. Meetings like these with legislators are just one of the ways NCRGEA advocates for state and local government retirees.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.