BG Reads | News You Need to Know (March 15, 2019)



Austin PAC admits ethics violation, but intent at issue (Austin American-Statesman)

Yes, our political action committee violated city ethics rules, and please just give us the maximum fine, a lawyer for the No on J PAC told Austin’s Ethics Review Commission on Wednesday night.

The PAC successfully opposed a measure that would have required city land-use rewrites to be placed on election ballots — a proposition 52 percent of voters rejected in November. Fred Lewis, a lawyer and activist who pushed the proposition, accused the PAC of improperly delaying its public disclosure of a $10,000 donation from the Real Estate Council of Austin until midway through early voting.

Depending on the intent behind the omission, the commission could levy several punishments, with the most severe being a recommendation that the city prosecute a Class C misdemeanor violation and a $500 fine.

Cary Ferchill, a lawyer representing the PAC, acknowledged Wednesday that the group should have reported the donation five days sooner. He blamed the failure to do so on a confused and inexperienced treasurer and sought to wrap up the matter without having to present further evidence at a second hearing before the commission.

Lewis, meanwhile, argued that the final hearing was necessary to prove whether the violation was intentional. He sought to persuade the commission to seek emails and other records from the Real Estate Council of Austin, or RECA, to find out when the donation was first pledged.

“Rather than spending the thousands of dollars that we’ll have to spend going out and finding witnesses, we would gladly pay $500,” Ferchill said, suggesting that a large demand for evidence could lead to a court hearing. “You’re kidding yourself if you think RECA is going to hand over all of their records to Mr. Lewis.”…

Link to story

UT Austin Is Sued Over College Admissions In Class-Action Lawsuit (KUT)

UT Austin has been named in a class-action lawsuit over a national, $25-million college admissions scandal that has led to scores of indictments across the country – including the university's men's tennis coach, who was fired yesterday.

The suit, filed by two California students at Stanford, alleges UT and seven other universities were engaged in a scheme in which affluent clients of William Singer paid to secure students' admission through falsified test scores or recruitment as student-athletes from 2011 to 2018.

Singer, who managed the payment scheme through a for-profit admissions consulting firm called The Key and a nonprofit Key Worldwide Foundation, pleaded guilty to a handful of felony charges on Monday…

Link to story

Cedar Park initiates possible $60 million incentive package for Indigo Ridge, U.S. Tennis Association (Community Impact)

The headquarters for the United States Tennis Association Texas, or USTA-Texas, are to anchor a $1.5 billion development heading to Cedar Park.

The mixed-used project is Indigo Ridge, located at Whitestone Boulevard and Sam Bass Road. Also known as Indigo Ridge North, the development is planned to include office space, hotel space, residential options, retail, restaurants and entertainment.

During a March 14 meeting Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale called “historic” for Cedar Park City Council, council voted unanimously to enter a memorandum of understanding with the Indigo Ridge Development Project and USTA-Texas.

The document recognizes that Indigo Ridge Development Project is proposing to build a $1.5 billion project over six phases, including more than 2.3 million square feet of commercial, or non-residential, development and more than 2.8 million square feet of residential development, according to Ben White, economic development director for the city of Cedar Park…

Link to story

See also:

BG Podcast - Episode 23: David A. Colligan- Acting Assistant Director Economic Development Department

BG Podcast - Episode 12: Policy Discussion RE Austin's Chapter 380 Economic Incentive Agreements

Round Rock will implement roadway impact fees (Community Impact)

The cost to develop in Round Rock will increase as the city rolls out new fees over the next five years.

Round Rock City Council passed an ordinance in a 7-0 vote March 14 that requires developers to pay a one-time cost to fund transportation infrastructure. The city in turn, will use the revenue to cover costs of transportation infrastructure.

“These impact fees are not new,” Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan said during a Feb. 28 council meeting. “They’re all across the country. They’re in Texas. So they’re coming.”

In Central Texas, cities including Hutto, Taylor, Cibolo and New Braunfels have already implemented roadway impact fees. Austin and Buda are conducting studies to potentially do the same…

Link to story


In A First, Two Democrats From Texas Are Running For President At The Same Time (KUT)

With former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s announcement today, two Texas Democrats are now seeking the presidential nomination in 2020.

“It is surprising,” said longtime Democratic strategist Colin Strother. “It’s the first time, I believe, it’s happened in my lifetime.”

Strother said he long expected Julian Castro, former HUD secretary and San Antonio mayor, to run. Castro announced he was seeking the presidency in January.

“We could see that coming after his stellar performance in the Democratic National Convention in 2012,” he said. “People saw that, 'Hey, this guy is special; we should keep an eye on him.’ Beto, however, came out of nowhere.”

The last Texas Democrat to run for president was four-term U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. Bentsen unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party’s nomination in 1976. He was later on Michael Dukakis' ticket as the vice presidential nominee in 1988…

Link to story

San Antonio Mayor Nirenberg appeals to Congress for aid in curbing I-35 congestion (San Antonio Express-News)

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg told Congress today that Texas needs help from Washington to prevent the worsening highway congestion in the San Antonio- Austin corridor from stifling growth in a region he called “America’s next great metropolis.”

Nirenberg delivered his testimony to the House Transportation Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. The panel is beginning the task of reauthorizing the nation’s five-year transportation bill, which expires next year. Nirenberg was testifying in front of Congress for the first time since he was elected mayor in 2017. He also was representing the National League of Cities, which is pressing Congress for a new and modern way of dealing with transportation rather than the recent stop-gap approach of emergency budget bills…

Link to story

In Iowa debut, Beto O'Rourke picks up where Senate campaign left off (Texas Tribune)

The cities were Keokuk, Fort Madison and Burlington, but they could have been Waco, Kerrville and Pearland.

Making his debut Thursday in Iowa, hours after announcing his presidential campaign, Beto O'Rourke all but picked up where he left off in his blockbuster U.S. Senate run last year, bringing his off-the-cuff, frenetic campaign style to the towns that outline the Mississippi River. It was a return to form for O'Rourke, who has made ample public appearances in recent weeks but few that allowed him to practice the retail-heavy politics that animated his bid against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

If the style wasn't new, the setting certainly was.

"This is my first time to ever visit Iowa," O'Rourke declared Thursday morning inside a coffee shop in Keokuk, where he kicked off the three-day Iowa swing…

Link to story

San Antonio explores how to implement its paid sick leave policy even as threats loom over its survival (San Antonio Express-News)

With the threat of legislative action and court scrutiny looming, a City Council committee on Wednesday nevertheless started charting a course toward implementing its controversial paid sick leave policy. Councilman Manny Peláez, chair of the ad-hoc Committee on Paid Sick Leave, said the group will try to ensure the policy can begin working on schedule in August. While it technically took effect Jan. 1, enforcement doesn’t begin until summer.

But the committee’s actions could be rendered moot if the Texas Legislature — as expected — prohibits such policies or the Supreme Court of Texas strikes them down as unconstitutional. In creating the committee, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the city will be prepared “in the event that doesn’t happen.” Peláez, himself a labor attorney, made clear that he does not think the committee’s task is to renew the debate regarding the merits of the paid sick leave, or to change the spirit of the ordinance council passed…

Link to story

See also:

BG Podcast - Ep. 20: State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio)

BG Podcast - Episode 10: Policy Discussion Rob Henneke on Paid Sick Leave and Local Control


Trump Vows Veto After Congress Blocks His Order To Build Border Wall (KUT)

The Republican-controlled Senate approved a resolution to terminate President Trump's national emergency declaration at the U.S.-Mexico border, putting Congress on a path to its first veto confrontation with the Trump administration.

Shortly after the vote, President Trump tweeted, "VETO!" Neither chamber mustered the two-thirds support required to override a presidential veto.

The president also tweeted that he looked forward to vetoing the measure, which he called "Democrat inspired."

But in Thursday's vote to block the president's emergency declaration, 12 Republicans voted with all Senate Democrats to pass the resolution. The Democratic-controlled House approved it last month, 245-182, with just 13 House Republicans breaking with the White House…

Link to story

House Votes Almost Unanimously For Public Release Of Mueller Report (KUT)

In an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives called Thursday for special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to be made public when it is completed.

The vote is not legally binding, but it represents the growing pressure from both sides of the aisle on the Justice Department to disclose as much of the report as possible.

Federal law requires Mueller to present Attorney General William Barr with a confidential report upon the completion of his work, but it's ultimately Barr's call on how much of that report is made public…

Link to story


Episode 38: Texas School Finance with Austin ISD CFO Nicole Conley

(Run time - 25:35)

On today’s episode we speak with Nicole Conley, Chief Financial Officer for the Austin Independent School District (AISD). In this role Nicole is responsible for AISD’s $1 billion+ annual operating funds and the over $800 million Bond program.

She and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss AISD’s current fiscal position, the significant state mandated recapture (or Robin Hood) plays, and the what that means for the district. Under this system local tax dollars from property-rich districts, like Austin, are redistributed to property-poor districts. In Fiscal Year 2019, AISD anticipates the district will submit $669.6 million to the state in recapture funds. This amount is expected to increase by $115 million in Fiscal Year 2020…

Link to Episode 38

The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin-based full service lobbying firm representing and advising clients on municipal, legislative, and regulatory matters throughout Texas.


Twitter #binghamgp 

Instagram #binghamgp