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City of Houston

Houston Enacts Firefighter Pay Parity, Immediately Mounts Legal Challenge

Mayor Sylvester Turner argued the charter amendment violates state law. Opponents on City Council said the potential lawsuit amounts to defying the will of the voters.

Fire trucks
Andrew Schneider/Houston Public Media
Photo, taken across the street from Houston City Hall, August 8, 2018

Pay parity between firefighters and police is now officially part of Houston's city charter. The city council adopted the amendment today, following voters' approval of Proposition B earlier this month. But Mayor Sylvester Turner is pressing ahead with a potential legal challenge, arguing the measure violates state law.

The council authorized hiring Norton Rose Fulbright to represent the city in any litigation. Still, the 9-to-7 vote showed the narrow support for the mayor's position. Council Member Dwight Boykins, who voted no, said Turner should sit down with the firefighters' union and figure out how to phase in the pay raises, in order to limit the blow to the city's finances.

"The voters said, ‘Look, we're going to pass this thing. I expect you guys who we voted for to go in and try to work this thing out, not undo the will of the voters,' especially when it was two-to-one, Mayor," Boykins said.

Turner said Proposition B requires the city to enact pay parity immediately, and the only way to afford it will be to lay off hundreds of city employees. But he's holding off cutting jobs pending a court ruling.

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