Police Layoffs Likely in Houston After Judge’s Pay-Parity Ruling


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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Oklahoma’s unaccredited teachers … Connecticut’s new budget chief … and New Mexico’s backlog in unpaid film incentives.

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. Police and firefighter pay leads Route Fifty’s state and local government news roundup but scroll down for more news from places like Chico, California; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Toledo, Ohio. … ALSO ON ROUTE FIFTYAuto loan delinquencies are higher in southern statesCrime and murder rates drop in nearly all big U.S. citiesLocal health department warns “jolly” residents of an “unwanted present” ... and Code for America’s 2019 summit call for proposals.

Let’s get to it …

WORKFORCE | A judge has ordered the city of Houston to implement the voter-approved Proposition B, a measure that would make the firefighter pay the same as police officers. Harris County District Judge Randy Wilson acknowledged that pay parity likely will cost more than $100 million a year and lead to police layoffs. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and police leaders had opposed the pay-parity proposition and argued it violated state law, something the judge disagreed with. “We have done everything in our power to stop the catastrophic effects of Prop B,” the Houston Police Officers’ Union said in a statement. “Fire union leaders have said the Mayor is only bluffing and the layoffs are a scare tactic. We shall see.” [Houston Public Media; KTRK]

PUBLIC EDUCATION | The number of unaccredited teachers working in Oklahoma public schools under emergency certifications is now nearly 2,900. In the 2011-12 school year, the number of unaccredited teachers working in Oklahoma public schools with the state’s blessing was just 32. The high number this school year “is one of the strongest indicators that the statewide teacher shortage has not yet reached bottom.” [Tulsa World]

DISASTER RECOVERY | Following the Camp Fire, displaced residents from Paradise, California and neighboring communities have had significant challenges finding housing nearby. The rental vacancy rate is essentially zero; there are no hotel or motel rooms available; and there are few homes for sale. "Chico can't absorb 30,000 people," David Bronson, president of Sierra North Valley Realtors, said of the neighboring city. "We barely had the capacity to absorb what we were getting." That means many have ended up in RVs. There are also 500 people who are “still sleeping on cots laid out in rows at evacuation shelters.” [Marketplace / Capital Public Radio]


ECONOMIC INCENTIVES | A state economist said this week that New Mexico’s backlog in unpaid incentives for the film industry could hit $250 million by summer and reach $700 million in four years.” [Albuquerque Journal]

LAW ENFORCEMENT | Body camera video recovered from an area near railroad tracks on Chicago’s Far South Side shows that two police officers were talking to each other up until the point they were struck by a passing train, giving no indication they were aware of the train while on foot investigating reports of shots fired in the area. [WMAQ / NBC Chicago] … Don’t drink and drive. Just ask the sheriff of Midland County, Michigan, who was pulled over in another county and recorded a preliminary breath test that put him in the state’s “super drunk” range. [MLive.com]

ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATION | In a 33-12 vote on Tuesday, the GOP-controlled North Carolina Senate decided to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of new state Voter ID rules, which require photo identification to cast a ballot. State House lawmakers are anticipated to follow suit on Wednesday. [@NCCaptiol / WRAL]

“The Genius of Connecticut” in the Rotunda of the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford (Shutterstock)

STATE BUDGETS | The task for Connecticut’s new state budget director, Melissa McCaw: “Help Gov.-elect Ned Lamont craft a solution to Connecticut’s long-term fiscal crisis, a problem developed over seven decades.” [CTMirror] … In Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the state House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Stan Saylor, said that since the commonwealth is on track to have a budget surplus, he plans to “hold the line” on new taxes or fees. Both Saylor and Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said they doubt revenue projections from Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office, saying they’re too pessimistic. [WITF via Keystone Crossroads / WHYY]

ALCOHOL REGULATION | Liquor-seeking Texans looking to purchase booze around the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays will be navigating decades old alcohol regulations that ban liquor sales on “New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. And if New Year's Day or Christmas falls on a Sunday, when liquor sales are prohibited? They're also (oddly) banned the following Monday.” [Dallas Morning News]

PARKS AND RECREATION | In Toledo, Ohio, members of the City Council approved a plan to spend $850,000 in leftover capital improvement funds on local parks, including “new signs at 136 parks, along with new or improved picnic tables, benches, and grills.” [Toledo Blade]

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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