Lawyers for Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner filed a motion Friday afternoon seeking to declare Proposition B invalid, contending the voter-approved referendum supporting pay parity for firefighters violates Texas law.
The move is the latest in an extended legal battle between the city and firefighters over the November ballot measure requiring the city to pay firefighters the same as police of equal rank and seniority.
The city’s motion claims that Proposition B is illegal under the Texas Local Government Code and the Texas Constitution, an allegation the city previously made in December.
The filing is notable, though, because Turner has said he hopes to negotiate a plan with the fire union to phase in pay parity over a number of years, arguing the city cannot find the funds to do so immediately.
His efforts to again invalidate the charter amendment altogether appear to cast doubt on whether both sides can ultimately reach an agreement. Though Turner has said “those conversations are taking place,” neither side has indicated they have made any tangible progress since [firefighters union president Marty] Lancton and Turner met publicly in January.
The day before that meeting, the union sought a court order aiming to force the city to enact parity, a move Turner questioned at the time. Lancton, skeptical of Turner’s sincerity in offering the meeting, said the city’s inaction had forced the union’s hand, while Turner said the union should not have gone to the courthouse on the eve of the meeting.
Here’s the Mayor’s press release, which you can take however you want. I’m mostly noting this for the record, because as far as I can tell there’s no legal impediment at this time to proceeding with Prop B, a subject that I’m sure will continue to arise. The one thing I find surprising is that so far no individual voters have filed a lawsuit over the wording of the ballot referendum. It seems like every other one we’ve had in recent memory has faced litigation over that, some more credible than others, so it’s a little odd to me that this referendum hasn’t had that same experience. Just a though.