BG Reads | News You Need to Know (October 29, 2018)



Austin Water Lifts Boil-Water Notice (KUT)

Austin Water officials have lifted a boil-water notice for all its customers that’s been in place since Monday. They say the water is now safe to drink straight from the tap.

It was the first time a citywide boil-water notice had been issued in the history of the city’s water utility…

Link to story

Anti-displacement recommendations take broad approach to combat gentrification (Austin Monitor)

The task force convened late last year by City Council to study strategies for reversing Austin’s growing affordability and displacement problem has released its initial set of recommendations. Those recommendations include a mix of taxing mechanisms, social services and bond sales among the more than 70 suggested solutions.

The Anti-Displacement Task Force will hold its final meeting early next month and revise the recommendations using feedback gathered from a series of community input sessions, though members of the group said a rough prioritization of the action steps will be the most likely change. Once finalized, the recommendations will be presented to City Council by the end of November, with possible action to follow.

This is the third significant document concerning displacement to enter the Austin public sphere in 2018, following the People’s Plan created by a group of community activists and the Uprooted study from the University of Texas, with all three calling for ambitious steps to stem and reverse the trend of longtime residents, businesses and cultural institutions being forced to move or leave the city because of increasing rents and property taxes…

Link to story

A new way to work: What 5G might look like when it (finally) comes to Austin  (Austin Business Journal)

Though Austin continues to trail other Texas cities on the path to building a 5G wireless network, most believe this haven of innovation eventually will have one up and running.

Ted Lehr, an IT data architect with the city, predicted Austin would have a functional 5G network in about five years. Though he would be happy if he’s wrong and it occurs well before then.

As of Oct. 23, city officials had approved 41 permits of 110 applications for the briefcase-sized small cells required to broadcast the 5G wireless signal, said Austin city spokesman David Green. Officials were reviewing another 20. The Texas capital has five active nodes — a pittance compared to some cities, though Austin officials have vowed to streamline the permitting process. Professionals such as those in the Texas 5G Alliance, which educates the public on the potential of 5G technology, are all for that…

Link to story


Company blames Texas voters' problems on user error, saying its machines don't flip straight-ticket ballots (Dallas Morning News)

Some voters have said their straight-ticket ballots have switched to candidates in the opposite party, but the company that makes the machines said they don't do that and have been used in the last nine election cycles without any problems.

Several voters have complained to Texas election officials that their votes for Rep. Beto O'Rourke switched to Sen. Ted Cruz, or vice versa, on Hart InterCivic's eSlate machine. But Hart, which is based in Austin, blamed the problems on user error. "County election officials conduct public logic and accuracy testing to ensure the voting system is programmed correctly and that it is capturing and tabulating votes accurately," the company said in an email. "The eSlate simply records the voter's inputs; it does not, and cannot, 'flip' or 'switch' votes." Hart said its machines allow voters to view their ballot on a summary page before casting so they can verify they made the intended choices. The company said voters should seek help from elections workers if they have any problems or questions. Dallas County doesn't use Hart's eSlate machines, but according to the secretary of state, they're in 82 counties, including Tarrant, which has 1,289. Travis County has more than 20,000, and Harris more than 8,100. Keith Ingram, the state director of elections, published a notice Tuesday to address the problems voters were having after casting straight-ticket ballots. "We have heard from a number of people voting on Hart eSlate machines that when they voted straight ticket, it appeared to them that the machine had changed one or more of their selections to a candidate from a different party," Ingram wrote. He said the problem can happen when a voter pushes the keyboard before the page has fully loaded. Voters should be careful to push only one button at a time and not push "enter" until the page is complete, he said. "As a reminder, voters should always carefully check their review screen before casting their ballots," he wrote in the notice. "If a voter has any problems, they should notify a poll worker immediately so the issues can be addressed and reported."…

Link to story

Tech titans ready to leave bathroom bill behind as Texas legislative session nears (Austin American-Statesman)

For Austin-based Silicon Labs, 2017 marked the first time the more than two-decades-old company weighed in on legislation at the state level.

And it started with the bathroom bill — a measure that drew national attention for seeking to require Texans to use the restroom that correlates to the gender on their birth certificate or other government document.

Leaders of such tech heavyweights as Dell Technologies, Apple and Facebook said the bill would be bad for Texas business. Conservative lawmakers argued that it would deter criminals. The measure to limit transgender-friendly bathrooms died in both the regular and special session of the 85th Legislature.

The lobbying effort against the bathroom bill prompted some longer-term changes for Silicon Labs, leading the company to form an internal public affairs task force, develop a legislative strategy and coordinate with local groups like the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Austin Tech Alliance.

Now, less than three months from the state’s next legislative session, Silicon Labs and other tech industry leaders say they’re ready to move away from bathrooms and focus on policies that will grow the state’s economy and technology sector, like funding for education, more focus on STEM fields and improved transportation infrastructure…

Link to story

Will Fort Worth's Tarrant County remain America's most conservative large county? (Texas Tribune)

Long before most Texans had ever heard of Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke's bid to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Planned Parenthood organizers saw something unusual happen in the winter of 2017: Their annual Fort Worth fundraising luncheon sold out.

Not since Gloria Steinem headlined the Democrat-leaning group's event in the state's largest Republican stronghold several years prior has organizers seen such enthusiasm for their reproductive health care mission.

But this time felt different to attendees who spoke to The Texas Tribune at the time. The mostly female crowd was there because of President Donald Trump, whose sexualized comments about women drew backlash even amid his successful candidacy. And many attendees were surprised to see familiar faces who were likeminded about politics.

It was that luncheon in America's most conservative urban bastion that marked the beginning of a coming out process for many Fort Worth residents who are now furiously campaigning for Democrats like O’Rourke, state Senate candidate Beverly Powell and a slew of other down-ballot candidates…

Link to story

State Rep. John Zerwas drops bid for Texas House Speaker (Texas Tribune)

State Rep. John Zerwas, a Richmond Republican, has withdrawn from the race for speaker of the Texas House, he confirmed to The Texas Tribune on Sunday evening.

“I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to engage with the members of the House. The honest conversations are critical to the relationships I have, and I am honored to work with such principled leaders,” he said in a statement to the Tribune. “While I believe that I could lead the House through a successful 2019 session, it has come time for me to end my bid for Speaker and wholly focus on writing the budget for the 2020-2021 biennium.”

His departure comes amid an effort among roughly 40 GOP House members to draft state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, into the race. Bonnen did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Texas Tribune…

Link to story

Life after Amazon HQ2? Dallas is ready for it, win or lose (Dallas Morning News)

Dallas is still in the running for Amazon’s next headquarters, and officials are prepared to handle whatever comes next, including rejection. “If Amazon comes here, great,” said Dale Petroskey, CEO of the Dallas Regional Chamber. “If Amazon doesn’t come here, we’re gonna be just fine. There are a lot of other companies circling, waiting to see what Amazon does.”

Just over a year ago, Amazon said it would build a second headquarters where it plans to eventually add 50,000 workers and invest up to $5 billion in new facilities. The retail giant sparked a bidding frenzy by inviting proposals from potential host cities throughout North America. Amazon received 238 bids, and in January, it named 20 finalists, including Dallas and Austin. Amazon has kept a tight lid on the selection process, and a final decision is expected soon. The conventional wisdom favors the region around Washington, D.C., which has three finalists — the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Md…

Link to story


Trump Cabinet exodus likely after midterms, one of the highest in recent history (Politico)

President Donald Trump could see up to six Cabinet officials depart in the weeks after next month’s midterm elections, according to interviews with a half-dozen current and former Trump officials and Republicans close to the White House. For a president who has already shed or shuffled eight Cabinet officials, that would make for the highest turnover rate in recent history. It would also be a major disruption even by the standards of an ever-churning administration — possibly creating new confusion across departments and agencies and risking multiple bloody Senate confirmation fights.

It would also be a major disruption even by the standards of an ever-churning administration — possibly creating new confusion across departments and agencies and risking multiple bloody Senate confirmation fights. The list includes Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who announced last month that she will depart by the end of the year, with no replacement in line. Trump is widely expected to oust Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom he has criticized for months. Others who appear most likely to depart, according to administration sources and White House advisers, include Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, a close ally of chief of staff John Kelly…

Link to story


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

This week’s BG Podcast features a conversation with State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) on the upcoming Texas legislative session, in particular brewing battles around local control, one being municipal paid sick leave ordinances.

This discussion was recorded on September 24, 2018.


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

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

Thank you to our sponsor, the Loewy Law Firm, Austin’s go-to personal injury law firm.  If you’ve been injured in a car crash, call Adam Loewy today at 512.280.0800. You learn more information about the firm here:

The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin-based full service lobbying firm representing and advising clients on municipal, legislative, and regulatory matters throughout Texas.


Twitter #binghamgp 

Instagram #binghamgp