BG Reads | News You Need to Know (September 13, 2019)
NEW -> Episode 52- The Internet of Things and Austin Tech Philanthropy with Silicon Labs CEO Tyson Tuttle (LINK TO SHOW)
Dallas Fed: Austin economy continues boom (Austin American-Statesman)
Underline “resilient” in the list of adjectives that describe Austin’s strong economy, because the local boom has yet to show signs of ebbing despite the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, early indications of a manufacturing slowdown nationally and growing fears of a possible recession.
A key measure of the economy in the Austin metro area, called the Austin business-cycle index, grew at an annualized pace of 8.5% in July, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, a rate that has held largely steady since April but that previously hasn’t been reached since late 2015. The recent growth is well above a rate of 7.2% in July 2018 and the index’s long-term average of 6%… (LINK TO STORY)
Proposed changes to public camping ordinances force two special-called Austin City Council meetings (Community Impact)
Local lawmakers are scheduled to meet twice next week, Wednesday, Sept. 18 and Friday, Sept. 20, to discuss and vote on proposed changes to how the government regulates homeless encampments in the city.
The meetings come three months after Austin City Council, under pressure from civil rights advocates and legal experts who highlighted potential constitutional violations behind public camping bans, voted to decriminalize homeless encampments throughout the city. However, some camping restrictions for city property, public parks and public right-of-way obstruction, have remained in place.
The decision, combined with a plan to open a new taxpayer-funded shelter in South Austin, thrust the city’s homelessness challenges further into the spotlight and caused voices on each side of the issue to amplify… (LINK TO STORY)
State of Texas' ambitious real estate expansion sends ripple effects through Austin (Austin Business Journal)
Mike Novak didn’t know what the Texas Facilities Commission was when he was asked by then-Speaker of the House Joe Straus to serve as a board member for the state agency.
Fast forward eight years, and what the Texas Facilities Commission actually does is the No. 1 question Novak gets now that he’s running the agency that serves as the real estate management and construction group for the state.
It’s a big job — across the state the commission manages about 26 million square feet of office space.
But it’s a role the construction industry veteran of more than 30 years agreed to take on for the next three to four years through the $895 million expansion of the Capitol Complex, one of the state’s largest real estate endeavors — perhaps the biggest since the Texas State Capitol itself was completed in 1888… (LINK TO STORY)
Austin City Council Voted To Fund Support For Abortions. Now A Former Councilmember Is Suing. (KUT)
Former Austin City Council Member Don Zimmerman filed a lawsuit in a Travis County district court Wednesday challenging the city's effort to fund logistical services for low-income women obtaining abortions.
In a filing, Zimmerman argued "this expenditure of taxpayer money violates the state’s abortion laws and should be promptly enjoined."
At the urging of advocacy groups, city council members set aside $150,000 in the recently passed city budget for groups that provide transportation, lodging, child care and counseling to women seeking abortions. None of these grants would actually pay for the procedure itself. Advocates say Austin is the first city in the country to fund a program like this… (LINK TO STORY)
Julián Castro goes after Joe Biden during debate, questioning his memory and his commitment to Barack Obama’s legacy (Texas Tribune)
Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro aggressively challenged Joe Biden — a fellow former Obama administration official — on the debate stage here Thursday, seeming to question the former vice president’s memory and saying he was not fulfilling former President Barack Obama’s “vision” on health care.
The showdown early in the debate at Texas Southern University came after Biden criticized the Medicare-for-all health care plan touted by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, among others. Arguing that the idea would force people off their current insurance plans, Biden instead praised the Affordable Care Act under Obama… (LINK TO STORY)
Ted Cruz distances himself from GOP ally Dan Patrick on gun background checks (Dallas Morning News)
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is distancing himself from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's proposal to require background checks for all stranger to stranger gun sales, painting his fellow Republican's idea as in line with broader proposals offered by Democrats. Asked on Thursday if he supported Patrick's specific measure — which would not affect private sales between friends and families — Cruz compared it to the notion of universal background checks.
"The consistent focus of Democrats in Congress is precisely the proposal that you laid out — it is mandating that all private person-to-person sales have a federal background check," he said at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. "That's a mistake." Cruz was pressed on the fact that Patrick's idea would focus only on private gun transactions between strangers — and not all private person-to-person sales. He was asked if that distinction would change his feelings. The senator demurred… (LINK TO STORY)
Texas mass violence committee members receive death threats (Associated Press)
Top leaders of a new Texas House committee that is addressing issues related to gun violence in the wake of two local mass shootings say some of its Republican members have received death threats.
The threats mark the latest confrontation Republican lawmakers have faced by gun rights supporters in Texas, which already has some of the most permissive gun laws in the U.S.
Democratic state Rep. Poncho Nevarez, the vice chairman of the panel, said the lawmakers were targeted “by people who do not want to see any movement on gun issues.” Nevarez declined to comment Wednesday on who the lawmakers were and did not know if they reported the threats to law enforcement… (LINK TO STORY)
Trump Administration rolls back clean water protections (New York Times)
The Trump administration on Thursday announced the repeal of a major Obama-era clean water regulation that had placed limits on polluting chemicals that could be used near streams, wetlands and other bodies of water.
The rollback of the 2015 measure, known as the Waters of the United States rule, adds to a lengthy list of environmental rules that the administration has worked to weaken or undo over the past two and a half years. Those efforts have focused heavily on eliminating restrictions on fossil fuel pollution, including coal-fired power plants, automobile tailpipes and oil and gas leaks, but have also touched on asbestos and chemical hazards like pesticides. (LINK TO STORY)