BG Reads | News You Need to Know (August 27, 2019)
Travis County considers nonpartisan redistricting (Austin Monitor)
In contrast to most elected officials around the country, members of the Travis County Commissioners Court say they don’t want to be in charge of picking their voters. At their Aug. 20 meeting, the commissioners discussed setting up a nonpartisan redistricting commission similar to the city’s. The commission would be tasked with redrawing the four commissioners’ precincts as well as the county’s roughly 200 voting precincts in 2021.
Under the city’s model, redistricting is conducted by a panel of 14 people randomly selected from a pool of applicants (any registered voter who has voted in three of the last five general elections may apply).
“If we wanted to, we could be an exemplar, and we could establish, as the city of Austin has, an independent redistricting committee,” said Eckhardt, drawing approval from Commissioner Brigid Shea… (LINK TO STORY)
Austin City Council Finalizes Ballot Language For Convention Center Vote (KUT)
Austin voters will decide in November the fate of the convention center's expansion, along with a possible reshuffling of how the city spends money from hotel stays.
Ballot language for the public referendum was OK'd by the Austin City Council this afternoon, after a state appeals court ordered the city to rewrite language it found was misleading and vague.
The official language proposes an ordinance that would cap the city's ability to spend money from hotel taxes on the Austin Convention Center, requiring the city to spend 15% on efforts to improve and support cultural tourism and businesses and 15% on historical preservation… (LINK TO STORY)
Ballot language for MLS stadium proposition challenged in court (Austin American-Statesman)
Ballot language for Proposition A, the petition-initiated election item designed to undo Austin’s deal with a Major League Soccer franchise owner to build a stadium in North Austin, is being challenged in court.
The suit filed Friday by Austin resident Sharon F. Blythe stated the ballot language approved during a late-night City Council meeting earlier this month included a “poison pill” to sway voters against the proposition. The lawsuit is the second to arise against ballot language for two petition-initiated voter propositions up for election in November. Texas’ 3rd Court of Appeals delivered a stiff rebuke to the Austin City Council Thursday by striking down ballot language approved for the Austin Convention Center-related Proposition B… (LINK TO STORY)
City still trying to figure out how to respond to 14 years of rapid change to Rainey Street District (Community Impact)
The Rainey Street District of today—one of the city’s most popular entertainment districts—contrasts sharply to the area of 20 years ago—a modest single-family neighborhood with a clear Mexican-American identity.
The relatively abrupt shift, which began following a 2005 zoning change by City Council, from a secluded, quiet neighborhood to one of the most densely populated corners of the city, has come with consequences. Pedestrian and vehicular traffic has skyrocketed absent enhanced infrastructure, and the Mexican-American identity of the neighborhood has essentially disappeared.
Council Member Kathie Tovo, whose district encompasses Rainey Street, said these changes, though at times unwieldy, were meant to be eased through the 2013 creation of the Rainey Street District Fund, which aimed to ensure the area’s rapid development would pay for infrastructure improvements and cultural preservation. However, City Council and city staff have since failed to get on the same page, and the fund’s substance has faded… (LINK TO STORY)
New Texas laws address topics ranging from guns and cigarettes to lemonade (KUT)
A number of new laws passed this spring by the Legislature will take effect Sept. 1. They represent changing political winds in the Lone Star State. Texas Standard Host David Brown spoke about the new laws with two reporters who cover state government and politics. Lauren McGaughy writes for The Dallas Morning News. Matthew Watkins is the politics news editor for The Texas Tribune.
McGaughy says lawmakers loosened some restrictions on guns. As of Sept. 1, it will be easier to legally carry a gun during a state of emergency. Another bill passed this year encourages local crime labs to move forward with the testing of rape kits. The kits contain evidence collected from a survivor after a sexual assault. The bill does not fully fund or require the testing, but Watkins says "there are procedures in place to get more money to allow the crime labs to do this."… (LINK TO STORY)
Gov. Greg Abbott selects former appeals court judge Jane Bland for Texas Supreme Court (Texas Tribune)
Jane Bland, a former Republican appeals court judge in Houston who lost her seat in November amid a Democratic rout of urban-area appeals courts, is Gov. Greg Abbott’s pick for a vacancy on the Texas Supreme Court, he announced Monday.
Bland will assume the Place 6 seat of Justice Jeff Brown, a Republican who was confirmed late last month to the federal bench, after he formally resigns to begin his new post. Since the Legislature is not in session, she does not require confirmation by the Texas Senate, but will have to stand for election in 2020.
“Jane Bland is an experienced and proven legal expert whose respect for the Constitution is unmatched,” Abbott said. “As she assumes her new role on the Supreme Court, the people of Texas can rest assured that she will uphold the rule of law and be a good steward of the justice system. I am honored to appoint Jane to the highest court in Texas and am grateful for her service to our great state.”… (LINK TO STORY)
Johnson & Johnson Ordered To Pay Oklahoma $572 Million In Opioid Trial (NPR)
An Oklahoma judge has ruled that drugmaker Johnson & Johnson helped ignite the state's opioid crisis by deceptively marketing painkillers, and must pay $572 million to the state.
Oklahoma sought $17.5 billion, blaming Johnson & Johnson for fueling the crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people in the state.
It's the first ruling to hold a pharmaceutical company responsible for one of the worst drug epidemics in American history.
Judge Thad Balkman delivered his decision from the bench, after presiding over a seven-week civil trial in the college town of Norman, Okla… (LINK TO STORY)
19 States And DC Sue Administration Over Plan To Detain Migrant Children Indefinitely (NPR)
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia are suing the Trump administration over its plan to pull out of a decades-old court settlement that governs the care of migrant children in federal detention.
The federal government has abided by a court agreement known as the Flores settlement since 1997. It says migrant children should be detained in the least restrictive setting possible and only for about 20 days. Last week the Trump administration announced it will soon detain children with their families indefinitely… (LINK TO STORY)
We’re taking a summer hiatus, so please enjoy some our favorite past episodes in the interim:
BG Podcast Episode 46: Austin FC Updates from Club President Andy Loughnane
On today's episode Austin FC President Andy Loughnane sits down for club updates with the Bingham Group Senior Consultant Paul Saldaña and CEO A.J. Bingham.
Andy was named president of the Major League Soccer (MLS) club on January 3, 2019. Most recently he was president of business operations for MLS’ Columbus Crew SC.
Andy provided Bingham Group with the latest updates on Austin FC, including hiring for front office and coaching staff, groundbreaking, season tickets, and its development academy, among others.
Austin FC will be the 27th team to enter Major League Soccer, and will begin play in Spring 2021… (LINK TO SHOW)