Texas appellate court rules proposition related to Houston firefighter pay is constitutional

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HOUSTON – The Texas 14th Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the 2018 voter-approved Proposition B is constitutional. The embattled proposition allows for pay parity between Houston firefighters and Houston police officers of similar rank.

“Houston firefighters, our families, and voters thank the appellate court for its careful and thorough review,” said Patrick M. “Marty” Lancton, the president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association. “Houston voters approved pay parity for firefighters and now the courts have upheld that vote. Prop. B is the law, and it is time to sit down and get this issue resolved.”

The city of Houston went to court to stop pay parity from being implemented and released a statement saying, “The net effect of what the Firefighter’s Union is seeking would be financially devastating to the city.”

The city said it will seek reconsideration by the State Appeals Court or by the Texas Supreme Court.

In May of 2019, Harris County District Court Judge Tanya Garrison ruled Proposition B violates provisions of both the Texas Local Government Code and the Texas Constitution.

The Houston Police Officers’ Union released the following statement after the appellate court ruled in Houston firefighters’ favor: “We respectfully, but strongly disagree with today’s decision by the Court of Appeals panel. In a 2-1 split decision, the majority reversed the trial court’s determination that the pay-parity amendment was unconstitutional. We believe that the trial court’s decision, as well as the dissenting opinion in today’s decision, were well-reasoned and we will continue pursue all available appellate remedies in this case.”

In May, Mayor Sylvester Turner joined Houston Fire Chief Sam Pena to announce the proposed pay raise for Houston firefighters. Turner said because of the $670 million American Rescue Plan from President Joe Biden’s administration, the city will be able to use those funds to help raise firefighters’ pay. He said under the new pay, Houston firefighters will receive an 18% increase in pay over the next three fiscal years, which will be based on qualifications. Turner said the first pay increase of 6% will begin in July, another 6% in 2023 and 6% in 2024.

In all, the city of Houston will use $115.3 million of the American Rescue plan to help with the pay increase. Turner said firefighters making $17 an hour will see an increase to $21.35 an hour.

At the time of that announcement, Lancton thanked Mayor Turner for giving firefighters what he called a bonus through the federal stimulus. He said firefighters still wanted a collective bargaining contract and added: “The city is on the hook and the liability for hundreds of millions of dollars and for somebody to come in and to graze over that is like not paying your mortgage for five years and saying well, you know what, I’ll just start paying what I believe I should be paying moving forward. I’m not going to settle what I owe you for not paying my mortgage.”

Mayor Turner said the argument all along has been that firefighters in Houston have been making below the market rate. He said the pay raise addressed that.

As of Thursday afternoon, Turner’s office has not released a statement on the court of appeals ruling.


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