BG Reads | News - What We're Reading (June 18, 2018)


[Austin Metro]

New Tourism Commission to advise on hotel tax funds, issues related to $9B industry (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

Austin’s tourism industry will get some additional City Hall oversight as City Council prepares for budget workshops that are almost certain to include decisions on how to spend the quickly growing reserve of Hotel Occupancy Tax funds.
Council voted 8-1-2 Thursday – with a no vote from Council Member Jimmy Flannigan and abstentions from Council members Pio Renteria and Delia Garza – to establish the 11-member Tourism Commission, which is being pushed to hold its first meeting by the end of August.
That timeline was the subject of some tense debate between Flannigan and Council Member Ann Kitchen, the resolution’s co-sponsor, with Flannigan saying commissions he has helped to form since joining Council were occasionally left to languish and wait for appointees from other Council members.
The commission will be an advisory body that will weigh in on the use of HOT funds, infrastructure and investments related to tourism, promotion of tourism attractions and studies related to any plans to expand the Austin Convention Center.
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Austin school board on path to deplete district reserves in 3 years (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

As Austin school board members on Monday weigh a $775.2 million operating budget, their spending plan for the 2018-19 school year is overshadowed by future budget forecasts that threaten the school system’s solvency. For the second consecutive year, the district will pass a budget with a deficit – this year $29 million — and pull from its reserves to cover the expenses.
If the district continues to rely on its reserves to balance its books, in three years, without other changes, the district’s fund balance will be depleted, putting the district at risk of state sanctions and poor reputation among bond rating agencies. The district’s own school board policy requires keeping a minimum of 20 percent of the operating budget in reserves, but by next year, the fund balance will dip to 18 percent.
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Council approves changes to anti-lobbying ordinance (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

Early Friday morning, City Council approved what supporters described as a temporary solution to an ongoing battle between Texas Disposal Systems and other waste contractors over city lobbying rules.
The measure approved by Council makes a few small changes to the anti-lobbying ordinance, which is designed to prevent companies seeking contracts with the city from privately trying to influence city employees to choose their bids.
First, the new measure sets up an appeals process for companies that have been found in violation of the ordinance by city staff. Under the old process, bidders could appeal, but the person hearing the appeal would be the same city staff that accused the company of the violation in the first place.
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Texas GOP Controls The State, But Continues Fight Over Controlling The Future (KUT) LINK TO STORY

Political party conventions are always about the future – the next election, to be specific, but also the five- and 10-year plan for growth.
The last couple of decades for Texas Republicans have been pretty rock solid. In 2014, Gov. Greg Abbott won the election by 20 points. And in the 2018 primaries, Republicans set records for voter turnout in an off-year election.
So at the ballot box, Texas Republicans are the Avengers at the end of the first movie – completely victorious. And Friday morning, Abbott took a victory lap.
Abbott tells convention delegates that the state is "better than it was four years ago."
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Texas is new target for constitutional carry — the unlicensed carry of handguns — in 2019 (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram) LINK TO STORY

Some gun rights advocates have set their sights on Texas. That has made the Lone Star State the next battleground for constitutional carry, which would let Texans carry their weapons — openly or concealed — without first getting a permit.
"People talk about taking your guns away to protect you from yourself or others," Tim Macy, chairman of Gun Owners of America, told a group gathered at the Republican Party of Texas state convention Friday in San Antonio. "If these are good ideas, to take your guns away in any manner, why is it OK for (officials such as congressional leaders) to be so protected?" State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, proposed constitutional carry in Texas last year but was unable to pass it through the Legislature.
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Why Texas officials decided not to levy penalties after pipeline leak (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

A buried pipeline running across a Fayette County ranch was leaking, and at least 42 barrels, or 1,700 gallons, of liquid gas containing a known carcinogen were seeping into the ground and possibly making their way into the Central Texas water table. The landowner told the company that owned the pipeline of an unusual odor and dying mesquite trees.
Officials with the pipeline giant, Denver-based DCP Midstream, said they would alert state regulatory authorities.
But they didn’t do so until at least 3½ months after the spill, according to county and state officials.
Company officials say they have acted responsibly and followed all regulations, but this spring an administrative law judge, deciding the company had acted “with a lack of good faith,” recommended that the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency, the Texas Railroad Commission, levy a $10,000 penalty against the $6 billion company.
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Supreme Court faces major decision on partisan gerrymandering (The Hill) LINK TO STORY

The Supreme Court has a big decision left to make as it heads into its final weeks of the term: whether to strike down a voter map for the first time as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.
Experts agree it would be a game changer if the court is able to find a workable test to assess when legislators have gone too far in drawing congressional maps that give their party an edge. The court has longed shied away from policing congressional maps without a clear way to measure how much political bias in redistricting is too much.
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