Since its approval in November 2018, Prop B has been caught up in legal limbo after the city of Houston and the Houston Police Officers' Union challenged its constitutionality in court, arguing that it could not be enforced under existing state laws that govern collective bargaining and preempt local measures.
City officials, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, have warned that Prop B, if enforced, would be "financially devastating to the city," potentially to the tune of $100 million per year. In a March 31 tweet, Turner celebrated the Supreme Court ruling.
"This is a huge victory for the entire city of Houston and its financial stability," he said.
The dispute between the city and the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association—the organization that represents firefighters in collective bargaining talks—dates back at least to 2017, when the two groups reached an impasse in contract negotiations.
In a separate March 31 ruling, the Texas Supreme Court also upheld the state's collective bargaining law that requires cities to pay firefighters at a rate that is "substantially equal" to firefighters in the private sector.
Officials with the HPFFA said they viewed the second ruling as a victory, one that "compels the city to negotiate a contract with Houston firefighters who have been working without a contract for six years," according to a March 31 statement. The HPFFA has alleged the city has failed to pay them according to the private sector standard in state law.
“This is a historic ruling," HPFFA President Marty Lancton said. “Never before has a local government refused to honor the will of the voters. The treatment our firefighters have endured over the last six years is unforgivable. They have stood strong and courageous in the face of overwhelming political odds. We remain grateful to the court and the voters for continuing to stand by us through this fight.”
In its ruling, the Supreme Court remanded the case back to trial court, instructing it to determine whether the city has complied with compensation standards and, if it has not, to set "appropriate firefighter compensation."