BG Note | News - What We're Reading (April 25, 2018)


[Austin Metro]

Despite hurt feelings, Council members embrace electric scooters (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

Rushing to respond to electric scooters that have taken over downtown, City Council will consider an ordinance on Thursday to establish rules regarding the increasingly popular devices.
The proposed ordinance, drafted by city transportation staff, will allow the Transportation Department to issue licenses that allow companies to put their products on city streets and sidewalks. It would also allow the transportation director to “modify” the license and set limits on the number of devices allowed to be placed on city right of way. The city is proposing that each company pay $30 for each scooter for a license that lasts six months.
So far, it looks like most Council members appreciate the opportunity that dockless electric scooters present in a city choked by congestion and limited public transit options.
But their enthusiasm is tempered, to varying degrees, by the fact that the scooters that have taken over downtown over the last two weeks are the result of two California-based companies brazenly disregarding city regulations...

Business groups sue to block city’s paid sick leave law (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

An Austin-based conservative think tank has sued the city over its paid sick leave ordinance. The ordinance, which goes into effect Oct. 1, requires all private businesses to provide anywhere from six to eight paid sick days per year for employees.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation filed the lawsuit in district court Tuesday. The foundation is representing several plaintiffs, including the Texas Association of Business and the National Federation of Independent Business.
In its lawsuit, TPPF argues the paid sick leave ordinance violates the Texas Constitution and is pre-empted by state minimum wage law. The foundation asked the court to block the ordinance from going into effect while the case is being heard...

Zilker Park to get up to $2 million from ACL Fest promoter for upgrade (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

The company that puts on the Austin City Limits Festival each year is kicking in at least $1.5 million to upgrade a portion of Zilker Park.
The area off of Stratford Drive on the west end of Zilker Park, where the grass and gravel meet MoPac Boulevard, is commonly used as an area for auxiliary parking especially during the busiest days at the park.
Unlike some of the previous projects funded by the partnership between the Austin Parks Foundation and C3 Presents, the Stratford project will be less about embellishment and more about improving functionality. The improvements will also be limited by environmental restrictions in the area.
“We are working together to make that a usable space (but) we can’t plant much of anything,” said Lindsey Sokol, festival director for C3...


Texas governor orders emergency special election to replace Farenthold in Congress (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY

Voters along the storm-stricken Gulf Coast won't have to wait until November to replace the disgraced Blake Farenthold, who resigned abruptly from Congress this month, too late for a special election to determine a successor. Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday ordered a June 30 emergency special election, calling it "imperative" to restore representation in the district. All the counties in the district remain under a state disaster declaration after Hurricane Harvey. "Hurricane relief efforts depend heavily on action at the federal level, which can only occur if Texans residing in disaster zones have full and effective representation in Congress," Abbott said in a statement along with the proclamation...

Cornyn, Cruz, Abbott to speak at NRA Leadership Forum in Dallas on Friday (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

A trio of leading Texas Republicans – U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and Gov. Greg Abbott – will join Vice President Mike Pence in Dallas on Friday to speak at the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum. The association’s annual meetings website said the event is among the most politically significant in the country, and features leading Second Amendment advocates in government, media and entertainment. “The Forum is also a must-stop for candidates seeking the highest levels of elected office — including governor, congressman, senator, or president of the United States,” the website said..

Paxton rules against Texas Ag Secretary Sid Miller’s ‘BBQ Bill’ rules (San Antonio Express-News) LINK TO STORY

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton gave a thumbs down to Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller’s rules implementing the so-called “BBQ Bill,” which had restaurants across the state smoking mad over what they said were burdensome new requirements for weighing brisket, sausage and other meats.
Restaurants had under a 2017 law been exempt from an early 20th century statute requiring butchers, grocers and other sellers of meat to use precision scales to weigh food in front of customers at the time of purchase. But the regulation Miller rolled out a few months later removed the exemption for eateries, unless all food was consumed “on the premises.” It subjected barbecue joints with takeout business to burdensome new rules requiring costly scales and regular, on-site inspections...

New FEMA program could lead to repeat flooding under an obscure paperwork change (Houston Chronicle) LINK TO STORY 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is proposing to directly acquire some of the most repetitively flooded structures in the country, but its latest plan also would allow these properties to be redeveloped and potentially flood again. This little-noticed effort to change to FEMA paperwork reverses a longstanding practice that bought-out properties remain as open space forever.
Under current programs, FEMA offers grant money to state and local governments to acquire structures and the land they occupy. It also allows governments to offer grants for elevating or flood-proofing structures. The form change would allow homeowners to select a new path: Sell the home to FEMA at pre-flood market value, but keep the land, which then could be sold and redeveloped later...


U.S. Supreme Court Hears Texas Redistricting Cases (KUT) LINK TO STORY

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in a consolidated case challenging Texas' House maps and congressional districts. Both sets of maps were struck down by federal courts last year after judges ruled they intentionally discriminated against black and Latino voters.
Justices are hearing several cases grappling with the issue of “partisan gerrymandering” – that’s when lawmakers draw lines that favor one political party over another. Abbott v. Perez, however, will answer the question of whether Texas violated the Voting Rights Act and other protections that prohibit states from writing laws that hurt minority voters...

Pimco’s New Bond King Could Be a Robot in Austin (Wall St. Journal) LINK TO STORY

Pacific Investment Management Co. used to rely heavily on one man to make many of its key investment decisions. Now it’s betting a big part of its future on millions of lines of software code. Pimco will open a new office in Austin, Texas, later this year to help recruit more tech-savvy workers who might otherwise spurn the bond manager for traditional software companies, people familiar with the matter said.
The Newport Beach, Calif.-based firm plans to grow its workforce by 10% this year, adding about 250 new staff. Many of those new employees will be engineers tasked with modernizing Pimco’s technology systems, from the tools used to harness new databases of information to the platforms that trade bonds electronically. The changes aim to sharpen investment ideas and lower costs...

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