The Houston Chronicle reports that the City Council has unanimously passed an ordinance which regulates “group homes,” facilities somewhere in between boarding home and nursing home, and with little-to-no regulation. From the Chronicle:
The ordinance before the City Council, delayed a week to Wednesday so stricter fire safety requirements Rodriguez suggested could be discussed, would require that home operators pay a fee, register with the city, share information about owners and employees, submit to criminal background checks and report any criminal activity or deaths.
Rodriguez’s amendments would add an annual inspection. Rodriguez said inspections – as well as requiring group homes to have smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers and fire evacuation plans – could help regulators spot unsafe conditions or deter operators’ negligence.
This ordinance has long been in the works, and it has been tagged (a one week delay by a Councilmember) a few times. About a week-and-a-half ago, I even heard the Mayor bragging about the effectiveness of this ordinance. It appears somewhat strange to me that these regulations did not already exist, so they are certainly a step in the right direction. As the Chronicle discusses, these places are often “the housing of last resort for many mentally ill, disabled and elderly…”
In other news, the Chronicle also reports that a Wage Theft ordinance is being discussed, though not voted, by the City Council. The ordinance was introduced to the City Council from the Mayor’s office (well, actually David Felman’s (the CIty Attorney) office) and referred to the Public Safety Commission. The article discusses what the ordinance would do:
The proposed ordinance would empower a wage theft coordinator to maintain the database of offending firms and update the watch list of accused companies, investigate complaints involving city contracts, counsel workers who file complaints against Houston companies not working for the city, and monitor City Council agendas to see if a company up for a contract appears in the database or watch list.
A firm found guilty of wage theft in an administrative or legal proceeding would be ineligible to work for the city and would be unable to receive or renew city permits or licenses. A city department director wanting to grant work to a firm on the watch list would need to review the situation before forwarding the request to the council.
Firms would be removed from the watch list if a complaint is ruled unfounded; companies in the database could be removed if a conviction is overturned on appeal.
Wage theft is essentially, the withholding of salaries by an employer, typically for overtime pay. The Public Safety Committee is chaired by Ed Gonzalez, and also about 11 more Councilmember. The result is 75% of the Council sitting on this Committee.
The Chronicle interviewed, on the committee, both Gonzalez and Christie, who spoke in favor of the measure. Accordingly, it looks like this good piece of legislation could pass with bipartisan margins, similar to the group home measure.