Houston’s pension reform overhaul crossed the finish line yesterday as the Texas House voted to adopt the final version in a 103 to 43 vote.

The plan has been years in the making and is intended to significantly reduce the $8 billion (conservative estimate) unfunded liabilities of Houston’s three pension systems. State Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van) and State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) carried the bills for their former colleague Mayor Sylvester Turner and ushered through their passage.

When initially introduced this session, Flynn’s version of the bill differed from Huffman’s. After pushback from conservatives, the senate version was improved. Flynn then adopted the other chamber’s version, SB 2190,  and introduced it in the House.

Both passed, but not without amendments and contention, and a conference committee met to hash out the differences. The committee struck three of four House amendments, mostly pertaining to firefighters, and both chambers passed the new conference committee report.

Although Houston’s firefighters are not in favor of the new deal, during his celebratory press conference Turner seemed willing to include them moving forward. Calling the reform historic, he said he’s hoping that the administration and the unions can move forward as one large family, although it doesn’t seem that the emotions will settle for the foreseeable future.

While the bill does require a vote on pension obligation bonds, it’s to be determined if Turner and city council will wait until the bill goes into effect to issue the bonds or will do so this summer.

The bill will now head to Gov. Greg Abbott to be signed into law.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.