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Effort to Repeal Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance is Slow-Going

It’s taking longer than expected to verify petition to repeal HERO ordinance.

Opponents of the city’s equal rights ordinance submitted some 50,000 signatures to repeal the anti-discrimination policy. That works out to 5,199 pages of signatures. City Attorney David Feldman thought  they would have the signatures verified this week, but the tedious process is taking longer. He told councilmembers he expects to have final results as to the validity of the petition no later than August 4.

“Assuming that the petition is deemed valid, it would be the intention of the administration to present to council an election order setting the matter for election this November 2014,” Feldman said.

While the petition is under review, the effects of the equal rights ordinance are suspended. Anyone who wants  to file a complaint about discrimination with the city is unable to do so because Feldman says the city cannot enforce the policy as long as there is a pending request to repeal it.

“Once the petition was filed on July 3, I gave instructions to the Inspector General to not accept any complaints at that point in time because we could not enforce the ordinance,” Feldman said.

In the mean time, a group of people who support the ordinance want to negate the petition. Noel Freeman is a City of Houston employee, but is independently volunteering with others to comb through the signatures looking for flaws.

“We really do think that it could be close. We’re finding some things that appear to be inconsistent with state law using the same criteria that the city attorney has set forth. You’ve got to look at whether the statement at the bottom is legally valid and complies with the charter, and we’re finding some that just aren’t valid,” Freeman said.

Despite that assertion, it’s up to the city secretary and city attorney to determine the legality of the petition, regardless of any outside conclusions.

 

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Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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