BG Reads | News You Need to Know (June 27, 2019)



Convention center proponents eyeing new PAC to challenge expected ballot question (Austin Monitor)

Mayor Steve Adler’s former campaign manager is preparing to launch a political action committee to lobby in favor of the proposed expansion of the Austin Convention Center if a group pushing a ballot question challenging the expansion succeeds in its petition drive. The group wants to force a public vote on the expansion as well as a restructuring of how the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax funds are used.

Jim Wick, who now works as a political consultant, told the Austin Monitor he anticipates that the group Unconventional Austin will succeed in its ongoing petition drive seeking public approval of capital projects at the convention center that cost more than $20 million. City Council recently unanimously approved an expansion scenario that is projected to cost around $1.2 billion, with the costs covered by the tax paid by hotel guests.

Wick said he is looking forward to July 15 when the group behind the petition drive has to disclose its funding source, with the expectation that those behind last fall’s ballot proposals J and K are likely linked to this effort… (LINK TO STORY)

Tovo envisions changes to Second Street parking (Austin Monitor)

With budget season approaching, Council members are thinking about what they can do to cut costs and increase revenues in their final budget with an 8 percent tax cap. Because of legislative action, next year’s tax cap will fall to 3.5 percent unless Council goes to voters to seek their approval of a larger increase.

After a lengthy discussion of tax increment reinvestment zones during Tuesday’s Audit and Finance Committee meeting, Council Member Kathie Tovo suggested that the city could save $100,000 in General Fund revenue it pays annually into the Second Street tax increment reinvestment zone, which is known as a TIRZ.

Customers of many Second Street District merchants get two hours of free parking in the City Hall parking garage… (LINK TO STORY)

Judge Clears A Path For Kinder Morgan's Pipeline Through The Texas Hill Country (KUT)

A Travis County judge has ruled construction on a natural gas pipeline through the Texas Hill Country can proceed. The state district court decision Tuesday marks a major setback for landowners and local governments that sued to stop energy company Kinder Morgan from using eminent domain to build the pipeline.

The proposed 420-mile pipeline would run through the Texas Hill Country carrying natural gas from the Permian Basin to East Texas. In their lawsuit, opponents basically put the whole system on trial, arguing the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates pipelines, wouldn't provide enough oversight for the pipeline's construction and maintenance.

Under state law, pipeline companies can chart their own routes, claiming the right of eminent domain – a process by which public and private entities can take private property, even if a property owner doesn't want to sell… (LINK TO STORY)


Using $2.5 million in old campaign funds, former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus launches a PAC (Texas Tribune)

Former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, announced Wednesday he was launching a new political action committee that he said will aim to help him continue to carry out "a thoughtful, responsible approach to governing."

The group, Texas Forever Forward, will be chaired by Straus, who said in a news release he will contribute $2.5 million from his old campaign account to the new initiative. Former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson will serve as treasurer of the group.

"We are launching this effort because I believe Texas needs leaders who are forward-looking and dedicated to bringing creative, problem-solving ideas to the new challenges our state faces as our population rapidly grows," Straus said in a statement. "It's time to unite Texas in civic participation and ensure our next decades are the very best in our long, proud journey."… (LINK TO STORY)

Julián Castro spars with Beto O’Rourke on immigration: “If you did your homework on this issue, you would know” (Texas Tribune)

Home-state tensions flared between Democratic presidential candidates and native Texans Beto O'Rourke and Julián Castro at their party's first presidential debate Wednesday night, with Castro saying O'Rourke has not done his "homework" on the issue of immigration.

At issue were the inhumane conditions at detention centers for migrants — including Texas — and a photo published Tuesday of the bodies of Salvadoran father Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria, both of whom died while trying to cross the Rio Grande to seek asylum in America.

"Watching those images of Óscar and Valeria is heartbreaking, and should also piss us all off ... and it should spur us to action," Castro said, fielding the first question on immigration… (LINK TO STORY)

Can your elected official block you on Twitter or Facebook? New Texas case may provide an answer (Dallas Morning News)

Can your elected official block you on Twitter? Or Facebook? As politicians move more of the public discourse online, allowing them to relay their message directly to supporters and avoid media and opponents’ scrutiny, federal courts are beginning to see an increase in First Amendment claims from critics who were shut out on social media by their elected officials.

But the results of these lawsuits are barely starting to trickle in, with some beginning to set legal precedents and others ending in settlements, but all being handled on a case-by-case basis. In the most recent battle in Texas, a group of gun rights activists sued House Speaker Dennis Bonnen after he blocked them from his Facebook page over disagreements on a gun bill in the last legislative session… (LINK TO STORY)


Five takeaways from the first Democratic debate (The Hill)

The race for the Democratic presidential nomination shifted into top gear here on Wednesday night, with the first debate of the 2020 election cycle. 

Ten candidates took to the stage of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. Another ten of their rivals will follow on Thursday. Here are five takeaways from the inaugural Democratic showdown… (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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