BG Reads + BG Podcast | News You Need to Know (October 3, 2018)



Episode 17: Talking Dark Money with Andy Cates, J.D.

Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham and BG Advisor Andy Cates discuss dark money, funds given to nonprofit organizations, including 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) groups, that can receive unlimited donations from corporations, individuals and unions.

The issue of dark money is a current topic of interest at Austin’s City Hall, related to the November 6th bond election. In particular, Proposition K.

That measure would require the city of Austin to hire an outside firm to do an “efficiency study” of the city’s operations and finances. The city already has its own internal auditing office and uses outside auditors, as well. This measure calls for a brand-new audit — done by someone the city does not currently work with…

Link to Episode 17


Candidates in Districts 1 and 8 working hard (Austin Monitor)

In City Council District 8 and District 1, incumbents Ellen Troxclair and Ora Houston are retiring. In each case, the current council member has announced her endorsement of a candidate to take her seat in January. However, that has not made the endorsement process much easier for those candidates.

Houston endorsed Vincent Harding for District 1, and he has picked up 10 club endorsements, by far the largest number of any of the candidates in this race. Harding, of course, is the former chair of the Travis County Democratic Party.

Also getting a few organizational nods are Natasha Harper-Madison, president of the East 12th Street Merchants Association, and Mariana Salazar, who works for the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition. The other candidates include Mitrah Avini, Lewis Conway Jr. and Reedy Spigner. There’s also a write-in candidate, Misael Ramos…

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Resolution would start push for affordable housing on former HealthSouth property (Austin Monitor)

On Thursday, City Council will vote on taking the first step in redeveloping the former HealthSouth property on Red River Street, which has been identified by many as a potential site for the city to create affordable housing units.

At Tuesday’s work session, Council members discussed the finer points of the request that will direct the city manager to issue a request for information from the private development community that will lead – likely early next year – to solicitation of development proposals. Most appeared in support of the push to reuse the small vacated parcel, with much of the debate focused on exploring options other than demolition and construction in place of a former medical rehabilitation facility.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, whose district includes the area, has pushed in recent months for the city to move forward with establishing a plan for the site and said she and other co-sponsors of the resolution would prefer to have affordable housing built there instead of selling or using the property in a deal to create a larger quantity of affordable units elsewhere…

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Austin reconsiders homelessness ordinances as Houston laws are challenged in court (KUT)

It’s a new fiscal year for the city of Austin, and one of the myriad items on City Council agendas over the next year will be an overhaul of ordinances relating to homelessness. That won’t be easy, as federal courts could inform – and complicate – that effort.

In the last three years, Austin police have handed out more than 10,000 tickets downtown for things like panhandling, sitting on sidewalks and setting up camps like the one in the shadow of Austin Police Department headquarters underneath the Eighth Street bridge.

APD Assistant Chief Justin Newsom said camping is common along the bank of Waller Creek. People set up cots and chairs or just sleep on the ground, piling trash near four pillars next to the trail.

He said officers don’t often write up people for violating the city’s camping ban; a lot of the enforcement for that and other city ordinances is spurred by citizen complaints, which is what happened recently at the Terrazas Public Library. People complained to APD, then officers ran folks off. Newsom said that starts the cycle, as it relates to camps…

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Dallas police, DA refuse to release officer's 911 call, other info related to Botham Jean killing (Dallas Morning News)

The city of Dallas refuses to release a recording of the 911 call that Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger made after she fatally shot Botham Jean in his apartment last month.

An attorney for the city said in a letter dated Monday that the Police Department and Dallas County district attorney's office are asking Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to allow them to withhold the 911 recording, which has been requested by The Dallas Morning News. Assistant City Attorney Pavala Armstrong wrote that releasing the information would interfere with the investigation into the Sept. 6 shooting…

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FBI to end Kavanaugh inquiry as soon as Wednesday, with vote coming this week (New York Times)

Senate Republican leaders pressed on Tuesday to wrap up the confirmation of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, seizing on word from the FBI that it would complete its investigation into allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct as early as Wednesday.

“We’ll have an F.B.I. report this week, and we’ll have a vote this week,” an emphatic Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, told reporters after the Republicans’ weekly policy luncheon. But Mr. McConnell’s promise was as much about bluffing as it was about confidence, giving the nomination an air of inevitability even as five undecided senators will determine Judge Kavanaugh’s fate. Those five — the Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona, and the Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia — are refusing to tip their hands. The push for a quick vote on Judge Kavanaugh came as the Senate and the White House waited for the F.B.I. to finish its work…

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The Supreme Court cases for state and local governments to watch (Governing)

The U.S. Supreme Court began a new term on Monday with only eight current justices. They face a quiet docket without any headline-grabbing blockbuster cases. Still, there are several cases with implications for state and local governments.

“State sovereignty is a really big issue this term,” says Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center. Chuck Thompson, executive director of the International Municipal Lawyers Association, adds that several of this term’s cases “have the potential to expand the amount of litigation against local government.” Madison v. Alabama, a death penalty case about whether states can execute people whose mental disabilities leave them unable to remember their crimes. Knick v. Township of Scott will decide whether to overrule its previous holding that people challenging government “taking” must go through state court before federal court. Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido concerns whether the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act covers state and local government employers with fewer than 20 employees. Gamble v. United States involves the Fifth Amendment, specifically its “separate sovereigns” exception, which bars the federal government and states from convicting and sentencing someone for the same crime. The court is being asked to overrule this exception by Terance Gamble, a felon convicted of illegal firearm possession under both Alabama and federal law…

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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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