Judge rules Proposition B 'unconstitutional and void'

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A judge has ruled that Propositon B, giving Houston firefighters pay parity with police, is “unconstitutional and void in its entirety”.

According to court documents, the ruling by State District Judge Tonya Garrison declared that:

  1. Proposition B, which amends and adds Section 24 to Article IX of the Houston City Charter, is preempted in its entirety by Chapter 174 of the Texas Local Government Code.
  2. Proposition B, which amends and adds Section 24 to Article IX of the Houston City Charter, is unconstitutional and void in its entirety because it violates article XI, section 5 of the Texas Constitution.

Voters approved Proposition B last November. The implementation of it has been controversial leading to debate between Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, the City Council, and the Firefighters’ Union.

Layoffs were ordered at the Houston Fire Department that were supposed to go into effect in June.

After the ruling, Mayor Turner wrote on Twitter, "Prop B being ruled unconstitutional means there will be no layoffs of city workers and no demotions in HFD. I have always said firefighters are deserving of a pay raise. I look forward to working with them on a pay raise within the city's budget."

The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association released a statement about the judge's ruling saying:

The court’s Prop B ruling is a disappointment, but our fight for what’s right is far from over. Two courts have ruled on the constitutionality of Prop B – one for, one against. We certainly will appeal this ruling. We will continue to strive to force Sylvester Turner to respect the will of 290,000 Prop B voters who sent a strong message that Houston should equally value its police and fire personnel. The mayor’s vindictive, taxpayer funded campaign against Houston firefighter families continues. While this fight goes on, we will continue to deliver excellent service, be good stewards of city resources, and give back to the communities we serve.

The Houston Police Officers' Union released a statement saying:

We are certainly pleased with Judge Garrison’s decision today to rule that Proposition B is invalid and illegal. It was the HPOU’s position that the existing law governing how Houston Fire Fighters negotiate their pay was in complete conflict with Prop B and the Judge agreed. Unfortunately, case law did not allow our lawsuit to be filed prior to the election, but thankfully the law finally prevailed.

This gives us all an opportunity to put this unfortunate, yet avoidable, chapter in Houston’s history behind us. We have an opportunity to stop the costly lawsuits, stop the litigation, stop the rhetoric and work out a deal, because ultimately this is what our community wants.

We can only hope that the Fire Union will sit down with Mayor Turner and negotiate a reasonable pay raise that brings them in line with their market counterparts, but does not push the City to the precipice of bankruptcy.

Finally, we are thankful. Thankful that Judge Garrison has ruled in our favor and has saved the jobs of over 285 firefighters and nearly 50 municipal employees. Thankful that over 330 families who are part of the very fabric of our community will not have to worry where or when their next paycheck is coming from.