Texas Court of Appeals rules Prop B, firefighter pay parity plan, is constitutional

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Texas's 14th Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in favor of Houston firefighters in the long running 2018 Proposition B pay parity fight, saying that it is constitutional.

Prop B was approved by Houston voters in 2018 after a petition driven by firefighters prompted the item to be placed on the ballot.

The referendum called for the city to pay firefighters equivalent salaries and incentives to their equal ranking counterparts at the Houston Police Department.

"Houston firefighters, our families, and voters thank the appellate court for its careful and thorough review," said HPFFA President Patrick "Marty" Lancton. "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."

Mayor Sylvester Turner campaigned against the initiative and fought it in court once it was approved. The Houston Police Officers' Union did as well.

It is a significant court ruling in the battle, but far from the end.

The city announced they will appeal the decision.

Data provided to ABC13 by HPFFA from 2016 shows between a 24% and almost 32% discrepancy between HPD and HFD pay.

Turner recently gave firefighters an 18% raise over three years, but it was not designed to accomplish the same rules as Prop B.

In announcing the raise, Turner said it brought Houston firefighters in line with firefighters in other Texas cities.

There was no mention of equity pay with Houston police officers.

"Any attempt by the mayor back then to say that somehow using federal stimulus funds, one-time funding sources, for a pay increase is absolutely not anywhere close to a contract or what the firefighters are owed under the law," Lancton said. "The mayor knows this. It was a political trick."

The money owed to firefighters under Proposition B would be "financially devastating", according to the city.

A spokesperson told ABC13 that the burden would be passed on to Houstonians in the form of higher taxes.

City Attorney Arturo Michel issued a statement following the ruling, expressing disagreement with it:

"The City of Houston respectfully disagrees with today's Fourteenth Court of Appeals decision where, in a divided 2-1 vote, the majority reversed the trial court's determination that the firefighter pay parity charter amendment was unconstitutional. The net effect of what the Firefighter's Union is seeking would be financially devastating to the City. The City will seek review of the decision through either reconsideration by the entire Fourteenth Court of Appeals, the Texas Supreme Court, or both."

You can view the Court of Appeals ruling here.

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