BG Reads | News You Need to Know (July 30, 2019)



Travis County eyes moratorium on incentive applications (Austin Business Journal)

Samsung Austin Semiconductor LLC has received $65 million in tax rebates from Travis County since 2009 in exchange for growing its massive corporate campus on the north side.

But that type of deal, or any new incentive agreement at all, may be a thing of the past in Travis County under a new era of revenue caps on local governments.

The Travis County Commissioners Court is set to consider July 30 placing a moratorium on new applications for incentive agreements. Through an item on their July 30 agenda, commissioners could also direct staff to research revising the county's economic development incentive policy to focus on programs that can leverage other sources of funding, like grants and other non-property tax funding streams.

"The moratorium will ensure no further property tax is rebated for new agreements," according to the agenda item.… (LINK TO STORY)

Cannabis testing company Ionization Labs finalizing $5M series A round (Austin Business Journal)

An Austin-based cannabis testing company is in the final stages of raising a $5 million series A funding round at a $20 million pre-raise valuation, mere weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott signed two new cannabis bills into law.

Ionization Labs bills its product, a hemp and marijuana testing solution called Cann-ID, as "the first affordable, highly scalable, accurate and simple to use turn-key in-house testing solution," according to the company's website.

The company's latest funding round is led by New York-based Merida Capital Partners, which along with its affiliates is expected to inject about $3 million of new capital into Ionization Labs. In a prior seed round, Merida had also invested $1.23 million in convertible notes that now convert to series A preferred stock… (LINK TO STORY)

Amid criticism, Travis County DA resigns from state sexual assault task force (Austin Monitor)

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore resigned from the state’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Task Force on Friday. Her appointment was cut short after critics, including survivors suing over Moore’s record of handling sexual assaults, expressed concern.

The task force was created this past legislative session to help promote best practices in rape investigations and prosecutions.

Moore sent her resignation letter to Jarvis Parsons, the president of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, who originally appointed her to the position late last month. In the letter, Moore points to what she calls her “extensive work” in improving adult sexual assault prosecutions, but goes on to acknowledge her appointment has become a distraction… (LINK TO STORY)


Speaker Dennis Bonnen publicly denies he's targeting 10 Texas House Republicans (Texas Tribune)

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has publicly denied allegations from a hardline conservative activist that he planned to target 10 GOP members during the 2020 primary elections — four days after the accusations surfaced.

Bonnen's statement, which was released Monday, followed an email he sent to House Republicans on Friday evening disputing a version of a June 12 meeting that Michael Quinn Sullivan, the CEO of Empower Texans, made public Thursday. According to Sullivan, Bonnen left the room and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, a top speaker ally and chair of the House GOP caucus, handed the activist a list of 10 Republicans to target in 2020. Sullivan said he was told that, in return, his organization would receive long-denied House media credentials when the Legislature reconvenes in 2021.

Bonnen did not explicitly mention Sullivan's alleged 10-member list in his Friday email, though he told members he looked "forward to vigorously campaigning and supporting every one of you in both the upcoming primary and general elections."… (LINK TO STORY)

Texas was warned its hemp law would complicate marijuana prosecutions. Lawmakers didn't listen. (Texas Tribune)

Months before Texas district attorneys started dropping or delaying low-level marijuana cases, state lawmakers were told that a well-liked bill to legalize hemp was going to complicate pot prosecutions.

The warnings fell flat.

In early April, members of the Texas House Agriculture and Livestock Committee sat through two hours of testimony supporting a bill to legalize and regulate hemp and its derivatives, like CBD oil. Most of the discussion focused on farming and regulatory procedures. Near the end of the hearing, though, the Texas Department of Public Safety’s crime lab director, Brady Mills, was brought up to the microphone to address any law enforcement concerns the legislators may have overlooked… (LINK TO STORY)

Congressman asks Border Patrol chief to clarify testimony about U.S. citizen held for weeks (Dallas Morning News)

California congressman Ted Lieu has asked a U.S. Border Patrol chief to clarify the contradictory testimony he delivered to the House Judiciary committee last week on the detention of 18-year-old Francisco Erwin Galicia, a U.S. citizen who was held by immigration officers for more than three weeks.

Brian Hastings, chief of law enforcement for U.S. Border Patrol, told members of Congress last week that Galicia never said he was a U.S. citizen to border agents when he was detained at the Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias. But Hastings’ statement contradicts paperwork that the Department of Homeland Security issued to Galicia. Hastings told the House Judiciary committee that, “Throughout the process, and while he was with Border Patrol, he claimed to be a citizen of Mexico with no immigration documents to be in or remain in the U.S.”… (LINK TO STORY)


Trump widens war on race critics while embracing black pastors (New York Times)

President Trump widened his war on critics of color on Monday with fresh attacks on the Rev. Al Sharpton and other political opponents even as he gathered his own African-American allies at the White House to defend him against charges of racism.

In a third straight day of broadsides against black figures, Mr. Trump denounced Mr. Sharpton on Twitter as “a con man” who “Hates Whites & Cops” and again assailed Representative Elijah E. Cummings and his Baltimore-based district, drawing rebukes from Maryland Republicans as well as Democrats… (LINK TO STORY)


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

BG Podcast Episode 20: State Rep. Diego Bernal- District 123 (D-San Antonio)

Today'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. (LINK TO SHOW)


UPDATE: City announces Development Services Department Director finalists (City of Austin)

The public is invited to meet the finalists for the Development Services Department Director position. There will be two opportunities to meet the finalists at Austin City Hall Council Chambers, located at 301 W. 2nd Street, Austin, TX 78701, on Monday, July 29, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., and again from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Three finalists will be introduced: Sylvia Carrillo-Trevino, Michael Clack, and Denise Lucas… (LINK TO BLOG)

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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