DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – State Senator Royce West, D-Dallas, says he hopes to bring a bill to save the troubled Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund to the Senate State Affairs Committee Thursday.
He and State Senator Don Huffines, R-Dallas are now writing the bill after striking a conceptual agreement between Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and most of the city’s police and fire associations.
The Senators announced the agreement in principle late Thursday afternoon at the state Capitol after leading marathon negotiations all week.
Sen. West said, “Is everyone happy? No, which means we have a pretty good deal.”
Sen. Huffines said, “It’s important I wanna say that we get everyone in the same boat, and we’re all rowing the same direction.”
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings says it’s not a done deal yet, but he’s pleased seven of the city’s 11 police and fire associations are on board. “I’ve moved from being pessimistic to optimistic and very hopeful.”
The Dallas Fire Fighters Association is supportive so far, but its President, Jim McDade says they’re still concerned about how the pension will be funded long-term.
“So we have a sustainable pension that will sustain for our thousands of retirees and the thousands of guys out on the streets right now.”
He says he’s concerned that under the conceptual agreement it will take longer to fully fund the pension, about 46 years instead of 43 years as outlined in the bill that passed unanimously a week earlier in the Texas House.
State Representative Dan Flynn, R-Canton, the chairman of the House Pension Committee led the effort to draft a bill and get it through the House.
In a statement Thursday evening he said, “I appreciate Senator West and others working on some changes to the original bill and will give their proposed changes due consideration but the bottom line is that I remain committed to continue to support the 10,000 Police and Fire members and their families first and will not allow them to be bullied by the City.”
If and when the Senate passes its bill, the House will consider whether to approve it as is or negotiate with the Senate on a final bill.
Their legislative work must be completed by the end of their session at the end of the month.
Thomas Glover, President of the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas says his and three other associations are not on board yet.
He says his organization opposes the conceptual agreement because of two provisions. One centers on the governance of the new board.
Under the conceptual agreement, the city would select six of the eleven pension board members and the police and fire associations would select the remaining five.
Any major changes to the fund would require a two-thirds vote.
Glover says his association prefers having the city and the police and fire groups each selecting five board members and agreeing on an 11th person, such as a retired federal judge, cast a deciding vote in the event of a tie.
Glover says they also oppose the “claw back” provision, which leaves open the possibility that hundreds of retirees could be forced to return some of their money they already received from the fund.
CBS 11 asked Glover if they couldn’t agree to the Senate bill, if they would fight it and he responded,
“I think fight to make it better, fight to make it better.”
In a statement, Pete Bailey, the President of the Dallas Police Retired Officer’s Association said it shares concerns about the “clawback” provision. “The D.P.R.O.A. does not and will not agree to any legislation which contains language that will reduce, restate, or otherwise “Clawback” any benefit earned and or owed to a retiree.”
The conceptual agreement may or may not end months of animosity between the Mayor and police officers and firefighters.
CBS 11 asked the Mayor where this conceptual agreement leaves them now. “I think everyone wants to solve this problem. I haven;’t talked to anybody who doesn’t want to solve this problem.”