Press Releases

The Houston Firefighters' Relief & Retirement Fund occasionally shares its media information with the public and these press releases are shown below. If you would like to view a release, press activity.

05/31/2017 - Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund File Suit to Retain Constitutional Authority over Pension Fund

NEWS FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact Joe Gimenez, 713.478.8034

Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund File Suit to Retain Constitutional Authority over Pension Fund

HOUSTON (May 31, 2017) – On Tuesday May 30, the Houston Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund filed suit in Harris County District Court against the City of Houston seeking declaratory judgment challenging the constitutionality of provisions of recently passed Senate Bill 2190 that purport to legalize the City's underfunding of HFFRRF.

The bill, which was crafted by the City of Houston, directs HFRRF to use particular fundamental financial assumptions.  HFRRF’s Board maintains in the suit that it has sole constitutional discretion over determining actuarial assumptions for the Fund moving forward.  

HFRRF filed suit because SB 2190 directs the pension fund as to some assumptions and takes away its sole discretion as to others. Use of some of these assumptions and processes must occur before the bill even takes effect on July 1, 2017. The City wanted these provisions so that it could reduce its contribution rate for firefighters’ pensions in its 2018 budget, which also is set to take effect on July 1.

In his testimony to the Senate State Affairs Committee on March 20 and the House Pensions Committee on March 27, the firefighters’ pension fund Board chairman David Keller advised that, based on the opinions of constitutional lawyers, these portions of the bills they were carrying for the City of Houston are unconstitutional.  Keller offered the following comments with regards to the lawsuit:

  • We filed suit because our Board is already being asked to knowingly violate its duty to the Texas Constitution through provisions contained in SB 2190.  We will not collude in an act we believe to be illegal based on sound legal analysis.
  • The City’s proposed budget allocates about half the amount it owes to firefighters’ pensions under the current statute. The City thereby would fail to adequately pay its share, in addition to the much greater amount of Fund endowment and member contributions that goes to fund the system. The City’s lesser amount will severely underfund the system, once the Texas Constitution is heeded.
  • We also filed this suit in recognition that the bill takes effect on July 1, 2017.  However, by its very terms, SB 2190 purports to require us to take actions even before this effective date.
  • We warned everyone from the beginning that SB 2190 is unconstitutional. And yet the headlong rush for a solution for a pension issue for which HFRRF was not part of the problem, as the best funded in the state among large systems, is causing yet more of a City problem as the City attempts to proceed on an unsound foundation. It did not have to come to this. HFRRF recommended fair benefit adjustments to the legislature, but leaving out the unconstitutional parts, which would have still been a very appreciable cost savings to the City.   The Mayor, however, positioned matters so that the only reform that the legislature could approve was the one designed by the Mayor.

The suit itself addresses conflicts between the newly passed SB 2190 and the clear dictates of the Texas Constitution. The 1975 constitutional amendment approved by statewide vote vests the pension board with exclusive authority to “administer the system or program of benefits.” The lawsuit states the “Texas Constitution vests in the Fund the sole authority and discretion to ‘select legal counsel and an actuary and adopt sound actuarial assumptions to be used by the system or program.’ Despite this clear constitutional directive, the Texas Legislature has passed Senate Bill 2190 (“SB 2190”) by a margin in each house sufficient for it to take effect on July 1, 2017.”

The lawsuit goes on to detail how SB 2190, in clear violation of the State Constitution, sets an assumed rate of return and purports to grant authority in part to the City and the City’s actuary to determine other actuarial assumptions, including future assumed rates of return. These determinations are central to pension fund management and belong solely to the HFRRF Board of Trustees.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/houston-firefighters-relief-and-retirement-fund/houston-firefighters-relief-and-retirement-fund-file-suit-to-retain-constitution/1190975874346921/

05/25/2017 - Statement to Members on House passage of Senate Bill 2190 (85R)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |
Statement to Members on House passage of
Senate Bill 2190 (85R)


Yesterday, in front of a gallery full of retired and active members the Legislature spoke. Now we wait to see what the Governor is going to do.

The Texas House voted yesterday 103-43 to take more than $950 million in future retirement benefits away from active and retired Houston firefighters. Their vote enacted the City's corridor provision to make automatic future cuts should some assumption be even slightly short of actual experience, with the City being given heavy influence over those very assumptions. It was not a good day.

Our system was established in state law in 1937 so that the Legislature could serve as a protector of our retirement benefits and protect our system against raids by the City. It did not function that way Wednesday.

So where are we today? Legal experts opine the corridor provision is unconstitutional. It takes away control over aspects of our system which the Texas Constitution clearly assigns to our pension board. On the other hand, some experts say that statutes are presumed to be constitutional, and the question about constitutionality would take a long time to resolve.

From the outset we knew this was going to be an uphill battle. The City wanted to pre-file this bill in November. But as the City's bill versions moved further from the original terms, we were forced to signal concerns and objections over the City's uncompromising "non-negotiable" departures. While the City Attorney unilaterally changed the terms and told us to ignore the term sheet, the Mayor insisted on it as though we had agreed to all his increasing demands. Once the City decided to pursue its punitive all-or-nothing bill, our opposition became loud and clear to everyone. We were within five days of sine die, the last day of the legislative session.

We were so successful in this opposition effort that some legislators took special aim at our pension board - and me - on the House floor. Of course they counted on the fact that I could not respond there and then, but I do take exception to their statements. In particular, Representative Dan Huberty called me out by name and he mischaracterized just about everything regarding his amendment, the actuarial data, and the letter that he handed to me. It was completely misleading. One of our brethren, although against House rules, even yelled out "LIES" during the session. Don't believe anything you heard about our board having been given five days from the introduction of the Huberty amendment on the House floor or other stories that tried to place blame for this miscarriage on firefighters themselves. This speech makes no sense. Amendments that are not yet adopted into statute do not have the force of law. There was no expectation that we should have complied with the amendment unless it remained in the bill and the bill became law. If you have any question whatsoever, please come to me directly. 


In coming days, we are putting together summaries of how this pension bill will affect you. We will start publishing those summaries and talking about them with you. Look for more soon.

I want to let you know how much I appreciate your continuing support. The lies, smears, and mischaracterizations are very unsettling to me, as you might imagine. Your support means everything to me.

Faithfully,

David L. Keller, Jr.
Chair

05/10/2017 - Houston Firefighters’ Pension Fund Questions Mayor’s Claims on Data

News for Immediate Release

Houston Firefighters’ Pension Fund Questions Mayor’s Claims on Data 

HOUSTON (May 10, 2017) – The Chairman of the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund questioned   City Hall’s near instantaneous analysis of a legislative amendment passed Monday even while saying it doesn’t have enough data from the pension fund to verify previous proposals.

10/27/2016 - Houston Firefighters Pension again Ranks In Top 10 Nationwide in Private Equity

The Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund (HFRRF) for the 4th year in a row was recognized in the American Investment Council (AIC, fka Private Equity Growth Capital Council)’s annual ranking of large public pension funds’ private equity returns.  With an annualized net ten-year return of 14.7%, HFRRF’s private equity portfolio was ranked in 5th place nationallyThe study’s results revealed which of the 155 public pension funds included in the study, generated the highest rate of return from their private equity portfolios and which ones invested the most in private equity.   Click here for Press Release. 

 

10/24/2016 - PRESS RELEASE Pension Reform Proposal Terms and Conditions Oct 24 2016

 

After multiple discussion sessions and communications between a Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund team and Mayor Sylvester Turner and his team, the Fund has agreed to move forward on working on the specifics of pension reform legislation with the City of Houston. Click here to read the release.

10/18/2016 - Proposed Benefit Revisions Houston Firefighters' Relief and Retirement Fund Tx' 85 Legislature (The deal)

Your trustees have met with city representatives, legislative representatives, legal representatives, actuaries, and a host of other key players to develop recommendations minimizing the impact to any particular class of employees and retirees. We also felt it important to share the topics being discussed, understanding that rumors will soon overshadow reality.

The following topics are under consideration, and we are asking our actuary to determine the economic impact of them. These are POSSIBLE changes at this point and do NOT reflect any final agreement with or promise to the City. Click here.

 

09/14/2016 - Discussions on Plan Update Communication to Membership from Chair

As you know, over the past many months, a team of Trustees from your Board have been meeting with Mayor Turner and/or his staff at the Mayor’s request to attempt to reach an agreement on adjustments to the HFRRF plan.  Although we have worked diligently on your behalf, we have not reached an agreement at this time. Click here to read the release.

09/09/2016 - City of Houston Loses on Appeal in Denied Bid to Have Its Firefighters’ Pension Statute Declared Unconstitutional

The Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund (“the Fund”) won another major victory in defense of a City of Houston lawsuit.  The Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals rejected the City’s petition to have the statute governing the firefighters’ pension declared unconstitutional.  Click Here to read the release.

 

08/01/2016 - Press Release Keller Elected to Chair Houston Firefighters' Relief and Retirement Fund

The Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund Board of Trustees Elect New Chair, Vice Chair and Approve Schedule for Special Election to Complete Unexpired Term for Trustee Position I  - Click Here to view the Press Release

03/03/2016 - Presentation: Pensions Are Good For Business

03/03/2016 - Presentation: Retirement Crisis: Defending Defined-Benefit

01/21/2015 - Trustees Re-Elect Todd E. Clark

Trustees re-elect Todd E. Clark as Chairman of the Houston Firefighters' Relief and Retirement Fund Board of Trustees for calendar year 2015. Click here for press release. 

12/12/2014 - Brady Press Release

U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady, District 8 (R- The Woodlands) will hold a press release on the introduction of  H.R. 5697, a  bill to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision at the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund on Monday, December 15, 2014 at 10:00 am.

Click Here for the press release

06/30/2014 - Houston Fire Department donate helmets used for the annual memorial ceremony to the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund

Stop by the pension office to view the display, a fitting testament to these brave men and women we have lost but that we will never forget. We have added a kiosk affixed with a tablet where visitors can view the electronic pictures highlighting the history of the Houston Fire Department