BG Reads | News You Need to Know (September 7, 2018)



Development Services preliminary budget asks for 50 new employees (Austin Monitor)

According to the 2017 customer satisfaction poll by the Development Services Department, the time it takes to complete the inspection process was ranked as the most important component but had the lowest satisfaction rating.
In an effort to change that perception, the department is asking for 50 new employees. The cost of this new staff will bring the entire department’s budget up $4.8 million to the tune of $63.6 million for the 2019 fiscal year.
“We do a lot of work at Development Services, and it’s difficult to keep up with growth,” explained department Director Rodney Gonzales at the Sept. 5 meeting of the Environmental Commission.
The plan to fund the additional $4.8 million required for these positions is to change the financial funnel for the department from the General Fund, which is funded by taxes, to an enterprise fund, thereby allowing for a fee increase on inspections. For residential plan review and inspections, the fees would increase $188. For tree plan reviews and inspections, the cost would rise $144.
“This means your fees are going up in some cases (by) 300 (or) 500 percent,” said Commissioner Hank Smith. He suggested that the department look into a phased approach to enact this increase in order to avoid shocking applicants. Commissioner Andrew Creel agreed and suggested tapering fees based on project size...
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City of Austin will appeal injunction delaying implementation of paid sick leave policy (Community Impact)

The city of Austin plans to appeal a temporary injunction blocking its paid sick leave policy. According to a spokesperson, the city expects to file the appeal by the end of the day.
The ordinance, which requires private businesses that operate in Austin to provide paid sick leave to their employees, was approved by Austin City Council 9-2 in February and was scheduled to take effect Oct. 1.
Along with a number of business interest groups, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Austin, filed a challenge against the city of Austin in April, requesting that the ordinance be suspended until the question of its legality could be resolved in court.
The TPPF claims the ordinance violates the Texas Minimum Wage Act.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other conservator legislators lent their support to the lawsuit. Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, pledged to fight the paid sick leave ordinance once the Texas Legislature resumes session in January...
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Twitter Bans Alex Jones And InfoWars; Cites Abusive Behavior (KUT)

Twitter on Thursday said it has "permanently suspended" conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his InfoWars outlet, citing "new reports of Tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy."
Last month, YouTube, Apple, Facebook and Spotify banned Jones' main platforms over concerns about his content. But Twitter only suspended some of his privileges, a move that drew criticism.
On Wednesday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tussled with Jones after Jones confronted and touched him outside a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing...
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For potential Texas House Speaker candidates, the clock is ticking (Texas Tribune)

The window for state representatives who would like to be the next speaker of the Texas House is open — but it could close quickly.
It’s not that the race is over. Far from it. But it’s getting crowded. Candidates are going to run out of voters if the pool keeps expanding like this. Each new entrant will find a smaller field of friends from whom to solicit pledges to back them over any of the other guys.
First come, first served.
The seat is open because five-term House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, isn’t running for reelection. It’s the first open-seat election for speaker since Gib Lewis decided to give it up — also after five terms — 26 years ago.
Straus’ announcement last October triggered a few speaker candidacies and a lot of speculation about what the other 149 members of the House might do, either as candidates or as the people who’ll be electing his successor...
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Meet U.S. Rep. Will Hurd and his Democratic challenger, Gina Ortiz Jones (Texas Tribune)

Texas' 23rd Congressional District is enormous – stretching west from San Antonio along the U.S.-Mexico border and stopping just short of El Paso. Its politics are as diverse as its terrain. It is the the only true swing congressional district in Texas. In 2016, more voters in the district chose Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump while also re-electing Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd. It was the first time an incumbent held on to the seat for a second term in eight years.
The district is once again a top race for both parties this year, with Hurd, a former CIA officer, running for re-election against Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones...
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John Cornyn floats ousting Cory Booker from Senate during Kavanaugh hearing (Texas Tribune)

A fierce exchange between U.S. senators during a confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh escalated Thursday morning to U.S. Sen. Cory Booker daring U.S. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn to move to oust him from the chamber.
Cornyn, a Texas Republican and senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, served as the lead spokesman for Republicans on the committee Thursday morning as multiple senators tangled over the confidentiality process within the committee. Cornyn began the day with a warning to Senate Democrats early to not release confidential committee documents from Kavanaugh's time on President George W. Bush's staff unless they had been cleared for public release...
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'It wasn't me': Pence, Pompeo, Mattis and Mnuchin deny writing anonymous op-ed (New York Times)

A day after a senior administration official described President Trump as amoral, impetuous, petty and ineffective in an anonymous essay, the denials from the upper echelon of the administration started to roll in. The mystery writer is not Vice President Mike Pence, a spokesman said Thursday.
“Our office is above such amateur acts,” the vice president’s spokesman, Jarrod Agen, said in a morning Twitter post, referring to the Op-Ed published on Wednesday in The New York Times. “It is not mine,” Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said. “Patently false,” said Dan Coats, the national intelligence director, responding to rumors that he or his principal deputy wrote the piece. “We did not.” Press officers for the secretaries of the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development also issued denials on behalf of their bosses. The author, whose identity is known to The Times editorial page but was not shared with the reporters who cover the White House, describes him or herself as one of many senior officials in the Trump administration who are “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” Since the piece was published, there has been a scramble to identify the anonymous official, prompting text analysis and speculation about motive...
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Five states are investigating potential cover-ups of abuse in Catholic Church (New York Times)

Newly emboldened attorneys general across the United States have begun to take an aggressive stance toward investigating sex abuse by Catholic clergy, examining whether church officials covered up malfeasance, issuing subpoenas for documents and convening special task forces. On Thursday alone, the New York State attorney general issued subpoenas to all eight Roman Catholic dioceses in the state as part of a sweeping civil investigation into whether institutions covered up allegations of sexual abuse of children, officials said. The attorney general in New Jersey announced a similar investigation. The new inquiries come several weeks after an explosive Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed the abuse of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of priests over decades...
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