The Texas House of Representatives on Monday approved Houston’s pension reform bill, which was also passed by the Senate last week. The bill received more than two thirds of the vote in each chamber.
As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter, the City’s three pension systems are underfunded by billions. The Houston Municipal Employees Pension System (HMEPS) is underfunded by approximately $3.2 billion, Police Officers Pension System (HPOPS) by approximately $3.4 billion, and Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund (HFRRF) by approximately $1.5 billion – a total of $8.1 billion.
The reform plan the City sent to the legislature will reduce that unfunded liability by $2.6 billion by making changes to benefits and increasing employee contributions. The plan also calls for the issuance of $1 billion in bonds to infuse cash into the two pension systems (HPOPS and HMEPS) with the lowest funding ratios. The City already owes that $1 billion in unfunded pension liability, so we wouldn’t be taking on new debt by issuing the bonds.
The City’s pension solution plan has gained the support of police and municipal employees retirement systems, as well as the business community and pension experts. The plan will NOT increase your property taxes, and city employees, police officers, and firefighters who have already retired will not see a decrease in their checks.
Now that it has passed both chambers, the bill will go to conference committee to iron out differences between the House and Senate version. Once reconciled, the bill will be sent back to both chambers for an up or down vote. I join the mayor in urging our legislature to adopt Houston’s pension solution bill without delay or detrimental changes.
Houston Council Member
City Prohibits Encampments, Obstructive Panhandling; Launches Initiative to Encourage Giving to Charities
City Council adopted two new ordinances in April that prohibit encampments, and obstructive panhandling. Councilman Robert Gallegos submitted amendments to prohibit panhandlers from obstructing the sidewalk, and prohibit individuals from blocking the doorway of commercial or residential buildings. Both of those amendments were incorporated into the ordinances adopted by the City Council:
- The Ch. 40 ordinance prohibits individuals from impeding the use of a roadway, blocking a sidewalk, or blocking the doorway to a building.
- The Ch. 21 ordinance prohibits encampments in public places (rights-of-way, parks, streets, sidewalks, hike/bike trails, underpasses, parking lots, and bus stops/shelters).
In addition, the City has launched a robust plan in partnership with health, social service providers and shelters to assist individuals in need by connecting them to more shelters, as well as short-term and more permanent supportive housing.
The City also kicked off “Meaningful Change – Not Spare Change”, a community led, public awareness campaign encouraging giving to homeless organizations instead of panhandlers. For more information, visit www.MeaningfulChange.org.
Coucilman Gallegos, Mayor Recognize April 15-May 15 as Tejano History Month
Councilman Robert Gallegos was joined by Mayor Turner and City Council in recognizing April 15 through May 15, 2017, as Tejano History Month in the City. The councilman presented a Mayoral Proclamation to Albert Seguin Gonzales, third great-grandson to Col. Juan Seguin to mark the occasion.
“Tejanos have been present in this region since the 16th century and participated in every major event leading to the formation of this great state and nation,” said Councilman Gallegos during the presentation. He noted that Texas history rightfully recognizes revolutionary heroes like Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, William Travis, and others (who were born outside of Texas), but much of the history taught in schools fails to recognize Texas-born heroes such as Juan Seguin, José Francisco Ruiz, José Antonio Navarro, José Antonio Menchaca and others.
The recognition of Tejano history month encompassed the 181st anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, which is celebrated on April 21. “I couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to recognize and celebrate those Texan-born heroes like Colonel Juan Seguin, Captain Salvador Flores, and other Texans who fought bravely alongside General Houston at the Battle of San Jacinton and elsewhere and helped create the Texas we all call home today,” Gallegos added.
Summer Job Fairs for Youth
Know of a young person who will be looking for a job this summer? The City of Houston has partnered with a number of organizations and companies to offer summer jobs to thousands of young people in our community. There are three job fairs coming up: May 20, June 3, and June 10.
The program will provide young people ages 16 to 24 with a 7 week summer job, earning a minimum of $8 an hour. Most opportunities will begin June 19, 2017 and end in August.
For more information visit www.houstontx.gov/summerjobs or call 832-393-6148.
Immigration Forum in District I – May 18
Basketball Court Improvements Completed
Residents may have noticed that the basketball courts at two District I parks were recently refreshed. Councilman Robert Gallegos allocated District Service Funds to improve the basketball courts at Charlton and Clinton parks. The work began in April and was completed this month.
“These courts are highly utilized by our residents, especially young people,” said Councilman Gallegos. “With the summer break around the corner, I want to make sure the courts and other amenities are in good shape and ready to be enjoyed by everyone.”
Improvements included resurfacing and re-striping the basketball courts and repairing the basketball goals and nets. In addition to Clinton and Charlton, Councilman Gallegos is working with the Parks Department to repair the goals and nets at the basketball court at DeZavala Park.
Know your Rights Meeting – May 16