BG Reads | News You Need to Know (March 22, 2019)

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[AUSTIN METRO]

Community Leaders Gather For Memorial A Year After Austin Bombings (KUT)

"The first thing we need to do is remember and give a prayer" for the victims of the serial bombings last year, Austin Mayor Steve Adler told community leaders and others gathered at City Hall on Thursday for a memorial service on the anniversary of the bombings.

“For many of us, we’re looking back and remembering a year later, but for some in our community, it’s something that we’re with every day,” he said.

Adler said the attacks "frayed" the community, but it pulled together.

"I think that the real legacy of this moving forward is making sure that everyone knows their neighbors," he said. "We’re less suspicious of what we don’t know or understand, and we have to recognize that there are those around us that may need a little more support.”…

Link to story


As hotel tax growth slows, Tourism Commission targets short-term rentals (Austin Monitor)

The growth of short-term rental activity in the city and a possible saturation of the local hotel market are seen as the biggest causes behind a flattening of Austin’s once fast-growing Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue.

That was the conclusion at this week’s meeting of the Tourism Commission, where how to best use the roughly $100 million collected by the city annually from hotel visitors is a central issue of debate.

While discussion at the meeting again veered into whether expenditure levels for the Austin Convention Center are in line with other peer cities and market demand, commissioners roundly agreed that a combination of factors are slowing growth of the hotel tax. That money is used to fund a variety of efforts including historic preservation, cultural arts, tourism promotion and debt relief on previous capital improvements to the convention center.

While the revenue pool grew by more than 10 percent annually for much of the past decade, its growth is estimated now to be in the low single digits because of a possible surplus of hotel rooms and demand for short-term rentals siphoning off traditional hotel business…

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Bills could raze Austin’s regulations on short-term rentals (Austin American-Statesman)

Texas lawmakers are making a second run at tearing down the short-term rental restrictions of Austin and other cities.

Identical bills filed this session in the House and Senate would require cities to allow short-term rentals and would allow only limited restrictions on them.

Such rentals, facilitated by online booking sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway, have boomed, especially in neighborhoods close to downtown. Some property owners have complained about having to live next to party houses that are effectively hotels, but others have argued that they should be able to rent their properties if they choose.

The proposed bills are similar to measures debated during the last legislative session, which passed in the Senate but did not make it through committee in the House. Austin Mayor Steve Adler testified against that 2017 bill, speaking about the difference in quality of life in a neighborhood comprising full-time residents who know one another versus one with homes owned by outside investors who rent them full time to tourists.

Austin city policies put strict capacity limits on short-term rentals and phase out full-time, full-home rentals by 2022.

The bills filed this month by state Sen. Pat Fallon, R-Prosper, and state Rep. Angie Chen Button, R-Richardson, would keep municipalities from prohibiting or limiting short-term rentals. Cities would be allowed to regulate only things like food preparation and health inspections in such rentals. Capacity limits would be allowed only on a per-bedroom basis, not on a per-property basis…

Link to story


[TEXAS]

Border Patrol Starts Releasing Asylum-Seeking Migrants To South Texas Streets (KUT)

The U.S. Border Patrol is releasing asylum-seeking migrants who were recently apprehended in Texas' Rio Grande Valley without detaining them because officials say detention facilities are full to capacity.

The Border Patrol released 50 migrants on Tuesday rather than turn them over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for detention. Another 200 will have been released Wednesday, an official at Customs and Border Protection told NPR.

The move is another apparent return by the government to the practice President Trump has called "catch and release" and promised to end when he was a presidential candidate. Some migrant advocates say the release appears timed to bolster the administration's claims of a crisis at the border…

Link to story


Rep. Giovanni Capriglione's bill to strengthen open records law gets day in sun (Austin American-Statesman)

In the 2017 legislative session, Rep. Giovanni Capriglione proposed a bill to restore the strength of the Texas Public Information Act, which guarantees citizens access to government records, after a pair of 2015 court rulings that transparency advocates say gutted the law.

On Wednesday, the State Affairs Committee, led by Chairman Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, heard testimony on House Bill 2189, which aims to close loopholes created by the two Texas Supreme Court decisions that allowed state agencies and local governments to keep secret basic details about their dealings with contractors and quasi-public corporations that receive taxpayer money…

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114 years of waiting: Callers kept on hold by Texas state agencies (Houston Chronicle)

Texans calling state agencies in recent years waited on hold for a lifetime — literally. Callers were on hold for a total of one million hours — some 114 years — trying to get in touch with eight state agencies over a two-year period ending in August 2017, according to a new state audit.

The worst waits were at the driver license division, which has already come under fire from lawmakers for long lines at offices across the state. Callers waited on hold an average of 15-and-a-half minutes. One in five hung up before ever talking with a customer service representative, the report said…

Link to story


[NATION]

Supreme Court won't hear suit against Dallas-based Topgolf that called it a monopoly (Dallas Morning News)

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an antitrust case brought against Dallas-based Topgolf in which lower courts decided the company did not kill its competition by purchasing tech company ProTracer.

In the case, Sureshot Golf Ventures Inc. claimed that Topgolf's purchase of broadcast technology company ProTracer in May 2016 unfairly blocked competition from other companies in the golf entertainment industry. ProTracer, a Swedish company, is known for developing the leading software for tracking a golf ball's trajectory. It's widely used now in sports broadcasting…

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China's embattled Huawei insists it only wants a fair fight, not fear and politics (Dallas Morning News)

Chinese tech company Huawei can meet U.S. standards for cybersecurity, but it wants fair rules rather than a ban based on fear and politics, says Andy Purdy, chief security officer at Huawei Technologies USA.

Huawei, which has its U.S. headquarters in Plano, makes equipment that spans the world of technology, from antennas and network equipment to mobile phones, laptops and smart watches. It sold more smartphones than Apple last year. Yet until recently, its name drew blank stares from many Americans…

Link to story


[BG PODCAST]

Episode 39: Brand Building and Entrepreneurship with Drew Hanish, Principal and Co-Founder, Pravo Construction

(Run time - 15:57)

On today’s episode we speak with Drew Hanish, Principal and Co-Founder of PRAVO Construction, and Austin-based general contracting firm.

Nearly three years old, PRAVO came to our attention through its innovative thinking about its brand. This includes hiring a Head of Brand and Content Creation, as well as its their white papers and employee investment through PRAVO University.

Drew and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss some of the issues and policy concerns relevant to general contractors in Austin, and also delve into defining a firm’s brand and its importance, particularly with relatively new to a market.

The latter portion of their discussion is applicable to entrepreneurs, new businesses, and even established firms looking for market differentiation…

Link to Episode 39


[BLOG]

Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham featured on The Lobbyist Show Podcast

Posted on Monday, Episode 39 of THE LOBBYING SHOW featured our CEO, A.J. Bingham. Recorded in November 2018 at a pivotal time for the firm, A.J. discusses his path to lobbying, working at the state and municipal level, and the drive to launch Bingham Group…

LINK TO EPISODE


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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