BG Note | News - What We're Reading (November 30, 2017)


[Austin Metro]

What do clients pay to sway Austin City Council? Lobbyists won’t say. (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

After a years-long process to close loopholes in Austin ethics rules, city leaders passed stronger regulations that went into effect in June. Among the new rules: Lobbyists must disclose how much their clients are paying them to sway Austin officials, as they must report on the state and federal level.

Nah, said a swath of local lobbyists.

At least 17 Austin lobbyists who are also lawyers refused to complete the form on the grounds that their compensation is privileged attorney-client communication. The lobbyist reporting form asks for a ballpark range of payment...

School district announces first-year bond project timelines (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

The Austin Independent School District is not wasting any time putting the 2017 bond money to use, according to a presentation by Superintendent Paul Cruz at the school board’s Nov. 27 meeting. Cruz emphasized that strict adherence to project timelines would be necessary to get the most bang for bond buck, but those schedules could be subject to change based on community-centered processes outlined in the Facility Master Plan Update adopted in April...
Seventeen projects in total will be funded through the bond, with 10 commencing next year. The construction of new buildings for T.A. Brown, Menchaca, Govalle and Doss elementary schools will begin in the fall of 2018. Bowie High School will start moving on plans for a new parking garage to accommodate its 2,900 students, and modernization and repair projects will initiate on several other campuses. Cruz described the district’s approach in implementing the bond goals as “aggressive.”...

Champion tract returning to Council (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

Because neighborhood activists won their open meetings lawsuit against the city last month, City Council will be reconsidering an ordinance that amends an old settlement agreement related to development on the Champion tract at 6409 City Park Road at next week’s meeting.

District Judge Scott Jenkins ruled that the city violated the Texas Open Meetings Act in November 2016 by failing to disclose on the Council agenda that Council would be voting on waivers of the Hill Country Roadway Ordinance and the Lake Austin Watershed Ordinance when it voted to change the settlement agreement...


Builders support tighter flood control regulations in Harris County (Houston Chronicle) LINK TO STORY

Influential groups representing many of the region's residential and commercial builders have endorsed Harris County's proposed new regulations for developing in floodplains. Though developers have not gone to war over every recent amendment to Houston or Harris County's stormwater regulations, the support still is a departure from years of opposition or wariness of tighter building rules, which developers have argued would undermine the Houston's competitive edge as a big city with comparatively affordable housing...

Longtime lobbyist Trey Blocker mounts primary challenge to Ag Commissioner Sid Miller (The Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is getting a primary challenge from Trey Blocker, the longtime lobbyist, ethics adviser and attorney from Austin. 

"I'm running because we need to bring honesty, integrity and fiscal responsibility back to the Department of Agriculture," Blocker said in a video announcing his campaign Wednesday. "We need to restore TDA to its core mission of promoting, protecting and preserving Texas agriculture and rural Texas. And we need a commissioner who can be an articulate, intelligent defender of our core conservative values."...

‘Volatile’ Starr County is ground zero in Texas border wall debate (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Border Patrol officials call the 70-mile stretch of the Rio Grande in Starr County the most volatile segment of the entire southern border.

The area has the second-most immigration arrests, trailing only the neighboring McAllen station, and the second-most narcotics seizures, just behind a station in Arizona, according to station chief Ryan Landrum.

Federal officials here say the 500 or so agents who patrol the county are woefully undermanned. “This is the last real stronghold of really wide-open area,” Landrum says.

The U.S. Border Patrol says a plan to build 32 miles of border wall in Starr County will help agents gain control of the area...

Texas health regulators overrun by "several hundred" rats at Austin headquarters (The Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY

On Oct. 17, Brenda Brantley, an employee at Texas' Health and Human Services Commission, was in her second-floor office at the agency’s Austin headquarters when she received an unexpected visitor. The beady-eyed infiltrator — a brown rat of the species Rattus norvegicus — scurried down the carpeted hallway before ducking behind a filing cabinet, employee correspondence shows. The sight was sufficiently disturbing to health commission workers that Hugh Addington, the agency's director of cross-division coordination, fired off a note to executive leadership, detailing the intruder’s exact movements before it disappeared...


U.S. calls for global shutdown of all ties to North Korea (Politico) LINK TO STORY

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, called for a complete shutdown of all ties with North Korea by every nation on Wednesday, the strongest response yet from the Trump administration after the country’s latest missile test. “Today we call on all nations to cut off all ties with North Korea,” Haley said during an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. The Trump administration called for the session after the Pentagon announced that Pyongyang had conducted its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile in over two months...

The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin-based full service lobbying firm representing and advising clients on municipal, legislative, and regulatory matters throughout Texas.


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