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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Looking at a Florida tolls contract ... Luxury tax on non-resident apartments in New York ... A tree falls in Los Angeles.
Greetings. A fight over Houston firefighter pay leads Route Fifty’s state and local government news roundup but scroll down for more from places like New York City, Los Angeles and Indianapolis, Indiana. … ALSO ON ROUTE FIFTY … Counting Jobs in the Marijuana Industry… Government Needs An ‘Ethical Framework’ to Tackle Emerging Technology… Port San Antonio’s Redevelopment Enters New Territory … Talking Border Security with a Border-Town Mayor … and Sharing as a Solution in Cities with Limited Resources
FIREFIGHTERS | Faced with a mandate to raise pay for the city’s fire department, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warned City Council members about a plan to lay off as many as 400 firefighters. Houston needs to raise the pay after voters last fall approved an amendment to the city charter that gave firefighters pay parity with police officers. The layoff notices could go out within weeks and include 68 fire cadets, the Houston Chronicle reported. City officials and the fire department union have been locked in a disagreement over the timeframe for implementing the pay increases—the city wants a five-year phase-in, while union officials called for three years. There are about 4,000 firefighters in Houston, KHOU reported. The head of the fire union, Marty Lancton, blasted the mayor’s layoff proposal to the TV station, saying, “This mayor will stop at nothing to attack firefighters and their families — and now apparently put citizens lives at risk. The blood will be on the mayor's hands.” Turner responded that layoffs are a necessary result of the ballot initiative, which didn’t lay out a funding plan. Council member Dwight Boykins has proposed a monthly fee on trash collection to help pay for the pay increases, but the mayor has criticized that proposal as too costly for residents. [Houston Chronicle; KHOU]
HIGHWAY TOLLS | A Florida state senator is calling for the state transportation department to explain why it paid $3.6 million to a company challenging a bid award for the state’s “SunPass” system. The vender that won the award has been criticized for overbilling and backlogs of unpaid tolls. [Miami Herald]
SCHOOL FUNDING | Texas senators released their plan to rework the state’s school financing, including merit-based teacher raises and “outcome-based funding.” [Dallas Morning News; Texas Tribune] In Indiana, teachers held a rally at the state capitol on Saturday, calling on lawmakers to raise pay. Gov. Eric Holcomb said finding a way to get more money to schools and fix pension shortfalls is a priority, although the legislature doesn’t currently have a proposal specifically to give pay hikes. [Indianapolis Star] The Wall Street Journal noted that after strikes across the country last year, state lawmakers have taken notice of teacher pay issues, counting pay increase proposals in at least 25 states. [The Wall Street Journal]
TRANSIT FIX | As part of a plan to find money to pay for needed fixes to New York City’s ailing public transit system, the state and city are looking at a special tax on the owners of luxury apartments who don’t live in them full-time. [Bloomberg]
FALLEN TREE | One of four Moreton Bay fig trees at the plaza where Los Angeles was founded in 1875 dramatically toppled during a Chinese lantern festival earlier this month. Arborists have examined the surviving three trees, each more than 140 years old, and found they are healthy. [Los Angeles Times]
Laura Maggi is Managing Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.