BG Reads | News You Need to Know (November 13, 2018)



Debate over convention center, hotel tax funds spreads to Music Commission (Austin Monitor)

A recently created music activism group has been thrown into the fray of the debate – largely playing out in meetings of the new Tourism Commission – over how to spend money the city generates through its roughly $100 million portion of the Hotel Occupancy Tax, and the larger issue of possibly expanding the Austin Convention Center.

Last week’s meeting of the Austin Music Commission featured discussion with Catlin Whitington, a member of the Music Moves Austin activist group and chair of the Tourism Commission, that in part focused on work the group was doing to find dedicated public funding to bolster the city’s commercial music industry.

Pointing out the concerns that members of the local arts community have over attempts to increase music funding in the general cultural arts fund allocated from HOT funds, Commissioner Graham Reynolds asked Whitington if he would be able to reassure the city’s Arts Commission that MMA isn’t targeting cultural arts funding as a source of more commercial music funds.

“I don’t know if I’m in a position to do that right now, quite frankly, because as much as I definitely understand the nuances of that conversation I’d rather not pick a side at this point,” said Whitington, who is also an executive with South by Southwest…

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Which areas of Austin killed Props J and K? (Austin Monitor)

Last week, Austin voters approved nine of 11 propositions on the ballot, including seven bond measures totaling $925 million, a proposition that made small spelling corrections to the city charter and a proposition authorizing City Council to set rules for removing members of the Planning Commission.

All nine measures passed with at least two-thirds of the vote. The victories were not particularly surprising; the bond propositions enjoyed support from a well-funded campaign and did not have to contend with any organized opposition. Nevertheless, the results show that they enjoyed much less support in wealthy West Austin areas than in poorer East Austin neighborhoods…

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Texas lawmaker begins assault on paid sick leave in Austin, San Antonio (Austin Business Journal)

The legislative assault on mandatory paid sick leave is underway.

Texas state lawmakers won't officially reconvene at the State Capitol until the legislative session begins in January. But they began filing bills Monday, less than a week after the general election. More than 400 bills had been filed by Monday afternoon.

One of them — House Bill 222, filed by Rep. Matt Krause, a Fort Worth Republican — would prohibit municipalities from requiring an employer to provide paid sick leave.

The bill, which would take effect Sep. 1, 2019, would also invalidate prior sick leave mandates, like ones passed earlier this year in Austin and San Antonio. The laws have been somewhat controversial, heartening labor advocates and progressive groups striving to expand workers' rights but angering some businesses and conservative organizations worried about costs and regulatory overreach…

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See also

BG Podcast - Episode 20: Talking Local Control and Paid Sick Leave with State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio)

BG Podcast - Episode 11: Meet James Hines, SVP of Advocacy and In-House Counsel, Texas Association of Business

BG Podcast - Episode 10: Policy Discussion Rob Henneke on Paid Sick Leave and Local Control


From staying out to declaring victory, how Dennis Bonnen ended the speaker's race in a weekend (Texas Tribune)

On a Sunday night in October, a group of about 40 Republican members of the Texas House met in Austin to work out a problem: A year had passed since Speaker Joe Straus announced he was retiring — and while six candidates to replace him had emerged, none had surfaced as the clear frontrunner.

Their goal was to change that, and many had their eyes on someone who wasn’t even in the race — or in the room that night. They wanted someone who would protect the independence of the 150-member lower chamber, even if that meant standing up to other state leaders. They wanted someone who aligned ideologically with a majority of Republicans, a concern some members had expressed with the current field of candidates. And they wanted someone who they thought had a viable path to victory — securing at least 76 of the 150 votes when the House voted on its next leader in January…

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First day of bill filing brings deluge as 2019 Legislature looms (Austin American-Statesman)

Marking the unofficial start of the 2019 session of the Legislature, Texas lawmakers began filing bills Monday, proposing hundreds of new laws governing abortion, guns, marijuana, daylight saving time and much more.

The deluge — 428 bills and 24 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution were filed by 5 p.m. — was the opening salvo heading toward the 140-day legislative session that will kick off Jan. 8…

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Anti-vaccine Texas families may take their fight to day cares next (Texas Tribune)

The next vaccine fight could be coming to a day care near you.

Texans for Vaccine Choice, a group focused on anti-vaccine policy, says it has received hundreds of calls and emails from parents of children without vaccines who were rejected by private child care facilities. Now, the group has put a call out for those families to tell their stories. The plan: Collect as many responses as possible and present them to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in an attempt to end those denials.

The effort has the potential to open up a new front in the fight over vaccines. Thus far, much of the skirmishing has been over public schools…

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Amazon's Grand Search For 2nd Headquarters Ends With Split: NYC And D.C. Suburb (NPR)

Amazon's HQ2 is getting divided by two.

Instead of building a massive second headquarters in one location, Amazon is expected to announce as early as Tuesday, that it would build two offices, one in New York City and another in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., according to a person familiar with the plan. The specific locations are expected to be the Long Island City neighborhood in Queens and the Crystal City area in Arlington, Va.

As NPR reported last week, Amazon's surprising decision to split HQ2 between the two is an anticlimactic ending for the much-publicized, Olympic-style search that lasted over a year and attracted 238 bids from across the U.S. and Canada.

New York and the D.C. area already have a considerable Amazon presence. But the company's decision to strengthen its footprint in America's financial and political centers, could prove particularly helpful as the company continues to face criticism from power brokers over its size and reach into so many sectors…

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Pelosi leans on Dems for support (The Hill)

The Pelosi machine is in full force.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has launched a fierce lobbying campaign within her caucus to become the next Speaker, pressing Democrats to publicly declare their support for her in an effort designed both to show her strength in the race and discourage detractors who are scrambling to block her ascension.

Pelosi, 78, has been “working the phones nonstop” over the past few days, targeting those lawmakers “who may be close to some of the insurgents and are getting pressured by some of those insurgents,” said a Democratic aide whose boss has been on the receiving end of the campaign. To boost her odds of success, Pelosi has recruited congressional allies, friendly chiefs of staff and lobbyists off Capitol Hill, who are all showering on-the-fence lawmakers with phone calls, texts and emails…

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Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle (The Hill)

Senate Republicans are preparing for a shuffling of committee chairmen and some changes in the upper ranks of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) leadership team.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is expected to be elected as Republican whip, the No. 2 position in the conference, when GOP lawmakers meet to vote on their new team at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday in the Old Senate Chamber. 

Thune will replace Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is facing a term limit as whip. Cornyn will retain his position through the lame-duck session and then take a role as a counselor to McConnell’s leadership team next year, allowing him to remain a participant in leadership strategy sessions…

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