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Right-wing groups sue over public safety contracts

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 by Jo Clifton

Two conservative think tanks have sued the city of Austin for paying leaders of public safety unions to do union business on city time. The Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin and the Goldwater Institute, based in Phoenix, joined by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, will seek a summary judgment in their favor in Travis County District Court on Wednesday. They argue that the city’s agreement with the Austin Firefighters Association violates the Texas Constitution. By extension, that argument would apply to leaders of the Austin Police Association and the Austin-Travis County EMS Association. The Goldwater Institute tried unsuccessfully to stop Phoenix law enforcement officers and other public safety union representatives from receiving payment for their union work. However, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the “release time” provisions in their collective bargaining agreements were not a violation of that state’s constitution. In Texas, the plaintiffs are retired attorney Mark Pulliam and Jay Wiley, who made an unsuccessful bid for the District 47 House seat and for City Council District 6. Craig Deats, who represents the Austin Firefighters Association, noted that any decision made Wednesday will ultimately wind up at the Texas Supreme Court.

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