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Domestic Partnership Insurance Coverage Update

Dear Team AISD,

As you know, on March 26, 2013, Austin ISD announced its intentions to expand its insurance coverage to include domestic partnerships. We did so because our employees and students represent a diverse population, and expanding coverage was about offering competitive and quality benefits for all employees, which also can help with recruiting and retaining great talent.

Subsequently, on April 29, 2013, the Texas Attorney General (AG) issued an opinion regarding the provision of health benefits to domestic partnerships. In the opinion, the AG stated that a school district would violate the Texas Constitution if the health plan is determined to create or recognize a legal status that is similar to marriage. Additionally, a bill was filed in the 83rd Texas Legislative Session seeking to cut funding to school districts offering insurance benefits to domestic partnerships—legislation that, if approved, could have cost the district an estimated $22 million. The legislation was also expanded to give the Texas Education Commissioner the ability to revoke the accreditation of a school district and order the closure of the district entirely.

Because of these events, AISD sought the opinion of external legal counsel, who advised the district to wait until the Supreme Court issued rulings on two cases before making a final decision on extending health coverage to domestic partnerships.

In order to set the district’s 2013-14 insurance rates, finalize the design of the district’s benefits plan, and begin communicating information to employees two months before mandatory open enrollment begins on July 1, (which has been the district’s procedure for years), AISD had to make a decision on whether to extend coverage to domestic partnerships by April 30, 2013. Thus, based on the advice of legal counsel, AISD believed it had no choice but to maintain its current benefits practice until the Supreme Court’s rulings were issued and the Texas Legislative session ended.

Now that the Supreme Court rulings have been issued, and subject to extensive due diligence that must occur, it is possible that something may change over the next few months and allow the district to return to its original intent of offering domestic partnerships coverage.

AISD will continue discussions and consultation with the district’s joint insurance committee and our employee association representatives on this matter.

Thank you for all that you do to move our district forward, and have a restful break.

Sincerely,

Michael Houser
Chief Human Capital Officer 

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