BG Reads | News You Need to Know (July 1, 2019)



Camping comes to Austin public spaces — but not at City Hall (Austin American-Statesman)

After emotional testimony last week regarding homelessness in Austin, City Council members rescinded prohibitions on camping on public property. Starting Monday, so long as they are not presenting a hazard or danger, people will be able to sleep, lie and set up tents on city-owned sidewalks, plazas and vacant non-park space.

Except, not in front of City Hall itself.

City Hall building guidelines implemented by former City Manager Marc Ott in 2012 disallow anyone from using the outdoor plaza, covered amphitheater or raised mezzanine from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. unless a city meeting is going on inside. The rules specifically prohibit sleeping, camping, storing personal property and erecting tents.

City spokespersons confirmed this week that the camping prohibition remains in place. City Manager Spencer Cronk said in a text message that staffers are reviewing the policy, but did not indicate whether he intends to rescind it… (LINK TO STORY)

Short-term rental conference examines taxes, nuisances, compliance (Austin Monitor)

Leaders of the national travel and lodging industry and local government officials involved in the evolving short-term rental economy will convene in Austin next month for what is believed to be the first-ever conference devoted to the issue.

City regulators, property owners and managers, and representatives from companies involved in short-term rental transactions will all gather at the Smart City Policy Summit, organized by the Austin-based Smart City Policy Group, to examine how to improve compliance, increase tax remittance and reduce the nuisance issues that have led some communities to implement restrictive policies.

The event, which will take place Aug. 16 at Austin Central Library, comes as the city’s Tourism Commission has called for the city to make changes to its short-term rental ordinance to increase collection of Hotel Occupancy Taxes from stays in residential properties…



Gerrymander ruling shifts focus to Texas 2020 elections (Austin American-Statesman)

With the U.S. Supreme Court deciding Thursday that federal courts can play no role in legal disputes over partisan gerrymandering, attention in Texas next shifts to the 2020 elections, which will determine the political composition of the Legislature.

State lawmakers will draw new political districts the next time the Legislature meets in 2021, and the party in charge will set the maps for representation in the U.S. House, Texas House and Texas Senate. The Supreme Court made clear Thursday that legal challenges will not be allowed based on allegations that the new maps confer an outsized electoral advantage to the political party in charge… (LINK TO STORY)

As Texas leads charge against Obamacare, state leaders work on backup plans (San Antonio Express-News)

Texas is leading the charge to strike down the Affordable Care Act and will argue its case before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans next month. But the state has yet to come up with a backup plan, should the lawsuit succeed at unraveling the federal health care law and its popular protections for pre-existing conditions.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott pledged in December that Texas would be ready with “replacement health care insurance that includes coverage for preexisting conditions” if Obamacare ends. During the legislative session that followed, however, there was little talk of a permanent fix. Instead, lawmakers opted for a temporary plan to revive a high-risk pool should the law be overturned before the Legislature comes back in 2021. Sen. Kelly Hancock, the bill’s sponsor, said there are still too many unknowns to enact something permanent… (LINK TO STORY)

Hemp rush begins on West Texas farms (San Antonio Express-News)

Village Farms produces millions of pounds of tomatoes a year in huge, high-tech greenhouses in West Texas, supplying grocers including H-E-B, Albertsons and Walmart. But with the recent easing of both state and federal restrictions on growing hemp, it is now converting some of the greenhouse capacity for the state’s hottest new crop, with more expansion likely to follow.

Village Farms International, based in British Columbia, Canada, is leading the Texas green rush to grow hemp, as first reported in the Big Bend Sentinel. While both marijuana and hemp are in the cannabis genus, hemp only has trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound that makes people high. Despite this, farmers weren’t allowed to grow hemp for decades. The ban was lifted last year, clearing the way for production of a plant that is widely praised for its fiber and the nutritional value of its seeds. Industrial hemp is used to make rope, clothing and cannabidiol (CBD) oil, which is thought to possess medicinal qualities for a number of ailments… (LINK TO STORY)

Texas is spending billions more on education, but teachers may not get the raises they expect (Dallas Morning News)

he Texas Legislature ponied up $11.6 billion for public education in this year's session. That should mean school districts — and teachers — are now flush with cash, right? Not quite. Misconceptions about Texas' massive school finance overhaul are running fast even as districts are in the throes of finalizing their budgets for the upcoming academic year.

Yes, there is more money for schools. In some instances, it's significant. In others, it's not. And in many cases, teachers who thought they'd be big winners with big raises may find their paychecks haven't really increased all that much. With new calculations comes new confusion. While some districts — like Dallas ISD — are using some additional revenue to green-light long-wished-for initiatives, many school administrators are still trying to figure out just how much the law will mean for their districts' bottom lines… (LINK TO STORY)


Under Siege And Largely Secret: Businesses That Serve Immigration Detention (KUT)

The Trump administration's immigration policies have drawn condemnation, but increasingly the criticism has also turned to a web of companies that are part of the multi-billion-dollar industry that runs detention facilities housing tens of thousands of migrants around the country.

Businesses that supply goods and services to support those detention centers face increasing public and political scrutiny from investors, employees and activists.

Last week, employees at Wayfair protested after one worker discovered the Boston-based firm was supplying bedroom furniture to a facility housing migrant children seeking asylum… (LINK TO STORY)


We’re taking a summer hiatus, so please enjoy some our favorite past episodes in the interim:

BG Podcast Episode 3: Chas Moore, President and Co-Founder of the Austin Justice Coalition

Today's podcast was originally recorded on April 2, 2018. It was Bingham Group's first recording, and features a discussion between Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham, and Chas Moore, President and Co-Founder of the Austin Justice Coalition (AJC).

On June 19, 2019 Chas was named a recipient of the Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellowship, receiving up to $150,000 his ideas into meaningful action.


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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