Appeals Court Refuses to Block Vote on Firefighter Charter Amendments

The Fourth Texas Court of Appeals in San Antonio has refused a motion from the Secure San Antonio's Future Political Action Committee to remove the three firefighter union petitions from the November ballot, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The court declined without comment to reverse a decision from State District Court Judge Cathleen Stryker, who ruled earlier this month that the vote could go ahead, despite allegations by the PAC that the signatures that called for the election were obtained illegally.

In the trial court arguments, PAC lawyers argued that the Buda firm which was paid to gather the signatures was paid with more than $500,000 from the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association union dues fund, which they said is in violation of state law, and also in violation of a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling that bars the use of union dues money for political activity.

The SAPFFA argued that the dues money was not used for a political campaign or to support or oppose a candidate, but for union activities, which is allowed.

Judge Stryker indicated during the hearing that she was uncomfortable disenfranchising citizens who signed the petitions and want the issues to be on the ballot, regardless of the technical way the petition drive was conducted.

The three proposals, which have been labeled as an 'existential danger to the city's future' by several city and business leaders, would make it far easier for citizens to petition for a vote to overturn City Council votes, or to place other items on the ballot, essentially a 'California style' initiative and referendum law. 

The other would cap the salary and term in office of future city managers.

The PAC is expected to appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court, but it is seen as unlikely that a ruling would come before the November election.

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