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Judge Rules Proposition On Firefighter Raises Is Unconstitutional, Barges Removed From Houston Ship Channel, Hundreds Of TSA Agents Will Be Deployed At Border, And More

These are some of the stories Houston Public Media is covering.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Top afternoon stories:

Patrick ‘Marty’ Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association.

Judge Rules Proposition On Firefighter Raises Is Unconstitutional

In the latest court decision on voter-mandated firefighter pay raises, state district Judge Tanya Garrison ruled on Wednesday that Proposition B violates the Texas constitution.

State law gives firefighters the right to collective bargaining, but City Attorney Ron Lewis said it's unconstitutional to link firefighter pay to police officer pay.

"Firefighter pay must be based on private sector firefighter pay," Lewis said. "Prop B says firefighter pay must be based on Houston police officer pay. Houston police officer pay does not equal private sector firefighter pay. It's not the same thing."

The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association plans to appeal the decision.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said layoffs or demotions in the Fire Department won't be necessary now.

Two barges involved in a collision are removed from the Houston Ship Channel on May 15, 2019.

Barges Removed From Houston Ship Channel

The Unified Command responding to a spill of gasoline blend product that occurred last Friday in the Houston Ship Channel said on Wednesday afternoon it has successfully removed the two barges involved in the incident from the collision site.

The U.S. Coast Guard, the Texas General Land Office, Port of Houston Fire Department and the company Kirby Inland Marine form the unified command that's responding to the incident.

The spill happened after a 755-foot tanker crashed into a tugboat that was pushing two barges. The tanker struck one of the barges and the other one capsized.

The barges were taken to shipyards. The one that was damaged in the collision was transported to the Southwest Shipyard at Channelview. The other barge was taken to the Barbours Cut Turning Basin. There were no reports of release of product into the water as the barges were removed from the collision site.

Passengers at a TSA pre-check line.

Hundreds Of TSA Agents Will Be Deployed At Border

The Transportation Security Administration will be sending a few hundred employees to support federal agents at the U.S.-Mexico border, the agency confirmed in a statement to Houston Public Media.

"TSA, like all DHS [Department of Homeland Security] components, is supporting the DHS effort to address the humanitarian and security crisis at the southwest border. TSA is in the process of soliciting volunteers to support this effort while minimizing operational impact," said a TSA media spokesman in a written statement.

The TSA spokesman said agents will be sent on a voluntary basis and less than 1% of the agency's some 60,000 employees will be impacted.

Volunteers won't be working with Customs and Border Protection as customs officers, but will provide support in meal delivery, transportation, legal affairs and personal property management, according to a TSA official.

As of April last year, a total of 212,000 migrants had been apprehended so far in fiscal year 2018.

From left to right Edward James Priestley, 31; Lenishia Williams, 29; and Roy Battle 29.

3 Nabbed In Investigation Of Houston Area Drugstore Holdups

Authorities say three suspects have been arrested in the investigation of at least seven drugstore armed robberies this month in the Houston area.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday announced the arrests in a joint operation with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Officers arrested three suspects, Edward James Priestley, 31; Lenishia Williams, 29; and Roy Battle, 29, on Tuesday night after they robbed a Walgreens store in the 8400 block of Stella Link. The suspects face aggravated robbery charges.

The HCSO said in a statement the suspects had guns, masks, gloves and more than $3,000 in stolen cash.

Investigators say six other robberies, allegedly linked to the suspects, also involved Walgreens stores in crimes that began May 2.