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Today, Texas Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in City's "Billion-Dollar Case"

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Exactly 30 years ago last January, Dallas voters passed a measure that gave a 15 percent pay raise to police officers, fire fighters and rescue workers; included in the ordinance was a caveat that there would remain in place a "pay differential between the grades in the sworn ranks." Which was fine for about a decade, around which time higher-ups noticed the pay-grade gap separating them from the lower-downs was shrinking, a no-no per the '79 referendum. At which point, the city said sorry, gave some high-ranking officials raises ... and, then, lawsuits. That was in 1993 and '94.

Now, there's but one consolidated suit with hundreds of petitioners: City of Dallas v . Kenneth Albert, which the city's been fending off for years by claiming the firefighters don't have the right to sue under governmental immunity. But as Tanya Eiserer noted back in lengthy story about the case in 06, "The city has lost almost every major court ruling in the dispute," which is now with the Supreme Court of Texas. Should the city ultimately lose, it's guesstimated that Dallas could be on the hook for around $1 billion in back and future pay.

Matter of fact, that's the very reason for this post: In about 10 minutes, this "ticking financial timb bomb for Dallas" (per The News three years ago), justices will begin hearing oral arguments in the case. And for those who want to follow along, the St. Mary's University School of Law Web site will carry today's proceedings, live and in their entirety, right here.

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