Legislative Report…Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

Just a quick California Legislature update: You will be happy to know that bills SB1150 (Mortgages and Deeds of Trust, Leno) and SB1234 (Secure Choice Retirement Savings Plan, DeLeon) have passed both houses and have been chaptered, that is, made into statutes. Our writing campaign has paid off! And we can breathe a little easier, knowing that a) our houses can’t be sold out from under our surviving spouse, and b) our money is just a little safer.

And now for the bad news: Congress is only giving us a 0.3% increase in our Social Security benefits next year. The announcement came in September from the Social Security Administration. This is the smallest cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) since automatic raises began in the mid-1970s. And it comes after recipients received no bump up in benefits for 2016 because inflation was so low. For retired workers the average monthly benefit in January will go up $5 to $1,360. But beneficiaries will likely find this small sum eaten up by higher premiums for Medicare Part B, which covers doctor and outpatient hospital visits, experts say.

Social Security announced other changes. Beginning next year, the amount of earnings subject to Social Security tax will go up from $118,500 to $127,200. This change will affect about 12 million of the 173 million workers who pay into the system.

The COLA also will have an impact on Medicare Part B premiums. Premiums for 2017 haven’t been announced yet, but the Social Security Administration warned: “For some beneficiaries, their Social Security increase may be partially or completely offset by increases in Medicare premiums.” AARP and other groups last month wrote to lawmakers asking them to protect Medicare beneficiaries from potentially steep premium increases again next year. Let’s hope it works. You can help too, by writing your Congressman.

And on that note, all I have left to say at this point is: Please Vote!! If you don’t like the current lineup in Congress, change it! Remember: November 8th is Election Day. Make a difference! (And if you don’t vote, you can’t complain!)