UPDATE: DART spokesman Morgan Lyons said the domestic partner benefits plan won’t go before the board until late August. The plan will now go before the administrative committee on Aug. 27, which he said will give the board time to be briefed on the impact the U.S. Supreme Court rulings will have on DART. The committee was expected to discuss the plan Aug. 13, but Chairman Jerry Christian will be absent that meeting and requested it be pushed to the next meeting.
The committee won’t meet in July because there is only one board meeting scheduled for Tuesday. If the committee approves the plan, it will go before the committee-of-the-whole at its two meetings in September before the full board votes on the plan.
ORIGINAL POST: After almost a year since a former DART employee began petition agency officials to consider domestic partner benefits, the agency will take up the item for discussion again on Tuesday.
DART’s Board of Directors postponed a decision on offering the benefits in March until its July meeting to wait and see how the Supreme Court ruled in the two same-sex marriages cases last week. The agency’s administrative committee already approved a plan to offer opposite- and same-sex partners benefits, so the full board will consider the plan again at its committee-of-the-whole meeting Tuesday.
DART spokesman Morgan Lyons said the plan will go before the board for initial consideration. It will have to be discussed a second time before a vote can be taken and the board can make a final decision.
“We’ll be coming back with the same material we had presented before and so it will be for the board to decide what next steps to take,” Lyons said.
LGBT advocates addressed the board at its six meetings since the decision to postpone, many who had sat through meetings when the issue had been discussed. Advocates reminded them that the issue was about family and fairness for employees.
Rafael McDonnell with Resource Center Dallas helped organize the schedule of speakers. He said the wide variety of speakers, some who were angry and others who were calm, was a good representation of the entire LGBT community.
“I think certainly it will help them make a better-educated decision,” he said. “The board has listened to all of this and I hope that three months of listening would help them make the right decision.”
McDonnell said timing is critical because there’s only one board meeting in July and only a few left before the end of the fiscal year.
He said the committee-of-the-whole could move the plan forward Tuesday, approve it at another committee-of-the-whole meeting in August and send it to the full board for approval at the second meeting in August. That way the plan will be approved in time for open enrollment in October and go into effect in January. But he said any delay could jeopardize that.
“DART needs to move the plan forward or it may not happen this year,” he said.
McDonnell said the center sent a letter to DART’s board and leadership this week explaining the high court’s refusal to hear an appeal from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to ban offering DP benefits to state employees. He said the letter also mentions the decision from a federal judge last week that ruled Michigan’s ban on DP benefits was unconstitutional in light of the DOMA ruling.
Meanwhile in Austin, AISD announced the district wouldn’t offer its employees DP benefits in the fall. The decision was made in late April, the deadline for policy changes before July open enrollment. At the time, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had announced his opinion that the benefits violate the state’s marriage amendment and state Rep. Drew Springer’s HB 1568 that targeted state funding for districts that offered the benefits was still in play in the Legislature.
The district announced the reversal of the decision last week after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8. They feared legal action from Abbott and funding cuts from lawmakers. But the officials say the decision is a delay and AISD may once again decide to offer the benefits in coming months.