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Retired educators hear legislative update during meeting in McDuffie County

Now that they've retired, they joined forces so they won't have to start a new profession. Close to 40 members of the Tri-County Retired Educators Association met last Thursday for the first meeting of their business year.

The featured speaker at the meeting was Carlos Lankford, the Georgia Retired Educators Association Legislative Co-Chair, who gave members an update on legislative issues affecting retirees.

"I'd like to say I appreciate the GREA being the hawk watching the legislators for me. It's well worth my membership," said Ann Sutherland, a local retiree. "I'm not a politician, and I don't want to be one."

Mr. Lankford is a retired educator of 32 years, first as a math teacher, then as an administrator in Coffee, Emanuel, Toombs and Long counties. He still resides in Douglas, Ga., and is active not only in the GREA, but also in the American Association of Retired Persons.

The first issue Mr. Lankford spoke on was changes to the state health insurance coverage. He said keeping insurance coverage after retirement is difficult because the local school systems no longer cover a portion of the premium and teachers in many Georgia counties, such as McDuffie and Richmond, do not pay into Social Security, making them ineligible for Medicare.

"Retirees take a lot of medicine, they have a lot of pains and they have a lot of doctor visits," the speaker quipped. "So, the insurance companies don't like us."

Mr. Lankford recommended a representative from the Tri-County REA attend the health care coverage meetings when they are held. He also stated that the more members the REA has, the better their voice can be heard.

"Last year there was half the number in this room as there is today," he said. "That makes me feel good that this organization is growing."

Mr. Lankford also gave an update on the venture capital project that was passed by the Senate but tabled by the House last year. The proposed project will invest public retirement funds into real estate ventures that could fail or not show a return for many years.

"It's a way for slick operators to make a whole lot of money at my expense," Mr. Lankford said.

Other discussion included raising the percentage of retirement pay, eliminating state income tax and property tax compared with regressive taxes, Social Security taxes and pork spending.

"I've criticized our legislators a great deal in my comments today, but I'm thankful for them," Mr. Lankford said. "They listen to you if you talk to them. But we've got to talk to them."

The next meeting for the Tri-County REA is at 10:30 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 4, at White Columns Inn. For more information, contact Anne Poss at 706-595-2613.

Web posted on Thursday, September 13, 2007

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