BG Reads | News You Need to Know (June 21, 2019)

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[BG PODCAST]

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

BG Podcast Episode 42: A Startup Conversation with Easy Expunctions CEO Yousef Kassim

Bingham Group client Easy Expunctions is a San Antonio-based legal technology start up providing background check and expunction/nondisclosure services.

They were recently one of twelve legal tech startups invited to participate in Duke’s Law Tech Lab.

(LINK TO SHOW)


[AUSTIN METRO]

Austin Votes To Scale Back Laws Opponents Say Criminalize Homelessness (KUT)

The Austin City Council voted to scale back city rules on camping, panhandling and sitting or lying down in public. Council members heard hours of impassioned testimony on the ordinances at the tail end of a marathon meeting that stretched into early Friday morning. 

"I know that changing these ordinances will be unpopular with some people. I'm not trying to downplay the challenges that we're going to face, but we can take on those challenges in a better way," Council Member Greg Casar said before the vote. "We can house people. We can serve people. We can address the core issues. We can improve all of our safety, rather than perpetuating instability and insecurity."

The council's decision pares down the ordinances, removing instances of specific behavior and intent on the part of those receiving Class C citations for actions like sitting or lying down on a sidewalk, sleeping in a car or asking people for money. The revisions lean on state law for enforcement in the case of the sitting and lying down and panhandling bans – adopting language that prohibits obstruction of a sidewalk and aggressive confrontation, respectively. Camping is still banned in public parks… (LINK TO STORY)


Council vote OKs move to open homeless housing center in South Austin (Austin Monitor)

The city’s second homeless shelter will be located in South Austin, as a result of a unanimous vote by City Council on Thursday to approve the purchase of an office building that will be converted into a 100-bed facility, possibly by the end of the year.

The approval of three resolutions gives city staff direction to allocate $8.6 million from the Real Estate Services capital budget and authorizes the purchase of the 1.66 acre property on 1112 West Ben White Blvd. near Banister Lane.

The public comment period preceding the vote saw more than an hour of comments, many from residents who objected to the move on grounds the facility would create an environment like that of the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless in downtown Austin. Many speakers shared stories of increasing aggression from homeless people already congregating in the area, many of whom live in or near campsites located beneath expressways. Those campsites, as well as the growing frequency of homeless people living in wooded areas and waterways and the growing crowd looking for overnight shelter at the ARCH downtown, prompted Council to take action to open its first new shelter since ARCH opened in 2004… (LINK TO STORY)


Creative office building in East Austin could be city's first opportunity zone project (Austin Business Journal)

Opportunity zones were designed to spur investment in low-income census tracts. They also offer significant tax cuts and deferrals for those who invest in projects in the zones — up to 15 percent of capital gains invested can be exempted from taxes, if investors keep their money in the zone for at least seven years. Read more about the rules here.

It’s not just the real estate investors that will receive tax benefits from investing in 1141 Shady Lane. Tenants of the new building, especially startups raising capital, could be eligible for benefits as long as most of their assets and gross income is derived from that location in the opportunity zone — and if their backers’ investment comes from capital gains.

Travis County has 21 opportunity zones, most east of I-35, while the five-county Austin metro has 35. Another large development is planned in an East Austin opportunity zone: Urban East is expected to bring 440,000 square feet of offices, stores and apartments to 6400 E. Riverside Dr. just east of Montopolis Drive… (LINK TO STORY)


Decision to tax hundreds of Lake Austin properties sparks conversation over adequacy of city services (Community Impact)

Roughly 400 Lake Austin homeowners will begin paying city property taxes for the first time in 33 years after City Council voted June 20 to close a loophole that has kept the properties exempt from the tax rolls since 1986.

The move came in response to a lawsuit filed over a year ago by a property owner in the area who felt residents were treated unfairly because they, unlike their neighbors, had to pay Austin property taxes. After City Council’s unanimous decision, all neighbors will begin paying property taxes in fiscal year 2020-21, and the city estimates it will provide an additional $3 million to the annual tax rolls… (LINK TO STORY)


[TEXAS] 

Stealing packages could result in jail time in Texas after Gov. Greg Abbott signs bill (Texas Tribune)

United States Postal Service letter carrier Homer Hernandez has delivered mail in the San Antonio area for over 15 years. And in that time, he's seen more items get stolen from households' mailboxes and porches than he can count.

"It's happened a hell of a lot over the past few years," said Hernandez, the vice president of the Texas State Association of Letter Carriers. "Almost every day."

A new bill signed last week by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott aims to deter offenders by upping the punishment for such crimes.

House Bill 37, which goes into effect Sept. 1, criminalizes mail theft, with the penalty ranging from a class A misdemeanor to third-degree felony, depending on the number of addresses mail is taken from. That means the punishment ranges from up to one year in jail and a fine of $4,000 to between two and 10 years in prison and fine of up to $10,000, depending on the number of addresses stolen from. The punishment also increases — and can go up to a first-degree felony — if there's proof an offender intended to obtain someone’s identifying information or steal from the address of a disabled or elderly person… (LINK TO STORY)


Can Houston avoid mistakes of the past as it tries to build its tech scene? (Houston Chronicle)

Fresh from attracting a $200 million investment, the Houston software company Onit proceeded to get it backward last month. Instead of pulling up stakes and heading west, or selling out to a California tech company, the startup stayed put and bought a Silicon Valley rival.

That milestone, for both Onit and Houston’s nascent tech sector, follows others that have included the opening of a Houston branch of the Boston startup accelerator MassChallenge and the selection of Houston by digital payments company Bill.com as its first location outside the San Francisco Bay Area. These successes have fueled optimism within the city’s small, yet earnest startup community, but they also are raising new anxieties that Houston is squandering the momentum as it tries to build a technology sector… (LINK TO STORY)


[NATION]

2020 Democrats Offer Up Affordable Housing Plans Amid Surging Prices (NPR)

If you listen carefully, you'll hear something unusual on the presidential campaign trail this year. Democratic candidates are talking a lot about the lack of affordable housing, an issue that rarely, if ever, comes up in an election. They're trying to tap into a growing national concern, as well as a potential voting bloc.

Several of the candidates have offered extensive plans that they say would address the housing shortage that is affecting millions of low and middle income voters. They've proposed everything from refundable tax credits for overburdened renters, to spending billions of dollars on new affordable housing. They've also raised the issue as a prime example of racial and income inequality, another focus of the Democratic campaigns… (LINK TO STORY)


[BG BLOG]

Client News: Easy Expunctions Selected for Duke Law Tech Lab

Congratulations to Bingham Group client Easy Expunctions on being one of twelve early-stage legal technology companies selected to participate in Duke Law Tech Lab's summer pre-accelerator program.

Easy Expunctions is a San Antonio-based legal technology start up providing background check and expunction/nondisclosure services.

Their legal records search algorithms allow clients to know what (if any) charges they have against them, and what can be expunged. 

In April 2018 they won Austin-based Capital Factory's $100,000 Startup Challenge. As part of the package, the firm received space at Capital Factory (located in downtown Austin)… (LINK TO POST)


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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