By George Slaughter
State Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Houston, said he voted for a controversial Houston city pension reform bill because he didn’t want to see two of the city’s three pensions go broke.
Schofield shared his views in a town hall meeting Thursday night at Katy City Hall, 901 Avenue C. Schofield’s district includes the portion of the City of Katy that falls within Harris County.
Schofield said Houston has pension plans for firefighters, police, and other municipal employees. The firefighter pension, he said, was one of the best-managed pension funds in the state. The other two pensions had issues and were underfunded.
Schofield told Thursday’s audience to think of it a matter of three neighbors, one representing each of the pension plans. Through multiple Houston city administrations over a period of about 20 years, he said, the municipal and police pension plans were underfunded.
Texas state law covers Houston’s fire, municipal, and police benefits, so the state legislature had responsibility for considering and making these changes.
Schofield described the bill that passed as essentially taking from the firefighters’ pension to ensure that the municipal and police pensions would remain solvent. He said that the legislature was given two bad options, and he voted for the bill because he “couldn’t let them (the Houston municipal and police pensions) go broke.”
Schofield said he was “livid” that such a bill had to come up, and said he didn’t want to visit with Turner when Turner sought a meeting to discuss the issue. Schofield rhetorically asked Thursday’s audience why the issue couldn’t have been resolved when Turner was a long-time state representative before his election as Houston mayor in 2015.
Houston’s pension plan issues received much attention at Thursday’s meeting, as did questions on rising health care costs and teacher pension plans.
On other issues raised in the question and answer session, Schofield said there was little interest in the legislature in making marijuana legal as has been the case in California and Colorado. This led to one attendee expressing dismay
He said a bill to defund Planned Parenthood was on the special session agenda, and that he supports that bill.
The question and answer session followed a presentation where Schofield summarized the accomplishments of the regular legislative session held earlier this year. He summarized the seven proposed state constitutional amendments voters will decide on in the November 7 election.
Schofield expanded his discussion on one of the amendments that he is co-sponsoring with Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. If ratified by voters, state courts must inform the attorney general of a legal challenge to the constitutionality of a state law.
He also summarized the 20 issues that Gov. Greg Abbott has put on the agenda for the upcoming state legislative session, which begins July 18 in Austin.