BG Reads | News You Need to Know (March 25, 2019)



Work continues towards Austin ISD school consolidations, budget fixes (Community Impact)

Austin ISD is facing a significant budget shortfall: As district enrollment has dropped by roughly 5,000 students over five years, annual pressures felt through required recapture payments to the state have increased.

After approving a budget with a deficit of over $28 million last summer, AISD Chief of Business and Operations Nicole Conley Johnson said the district could face a $65 million deficit for fiscal year 2019-20 if cost-cutting measures are not taken and no additional state funding is given to the district. However, that projected deficit would be significantly lower if state lawmakers pass school finance reform during the ongoing legislative session, she said.

Additionally, both the district’s financial staff and budget stabilization task force, a group of citizens formed by the district to evaluate the budget, have presented possible cuts and savings that could mitigate a deficit in the future.

One idea presented by both groups included closing or consolidating schools to better use district resources. While the schools involved have yet to be determined, trustees in February approved a timeline that outlined what the process will look like…

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See also:

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

Proposed change would take some Austin ethics complaints out of public view (Austin American-Statesman)

Some of City Hall’s highest level executives will see future accusations of ethics violations against them handled out of public view, if Austin City Council members pass a proposal offered by Mayor Steve Adler.

The changes, outlined in an ordinance after Adler first proposed them in a message board post last week, would remove city employees from the Ethics Review Commission process unless they are the staff member of an elected official. Council members and their board or commission appointees would still go through the process…

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Immigrants in Austin pay more taxes, have more spending power than in other large Texas cities (Austin Monitor)

A new study shows immigrants have an outsized impact on Austin’s economy.

Overall, 4.8 million immigrants in Texas paid $34.8 billion in taxes and had an economic footprint of $109.9 billion, according to an analysis of 2017 census data from the bipartisan immigrant advocacy group New American Economy.

Researcher Andrew Lim says immigrant populations have fueled much of the growth in Texas, and particularly Austin, over the last decade.

Though Austin’s share of immigrants is comparatively smaller than that of other metro areas, Lim says the population’s purchasing power and taxes paid were proportionally greater than in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.

Overall, Austin’s nearly 300,000 immigrants had the highest combined spending footprint and taxes paid, compared to their overall size. Immigrants had a purchasing power of $7.4 billion and paid $2.5 billion in taxes, the study found. But Austin’s overall population share of immigrants in Texas was smaller than in other large metro areas…

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In Houston, Kamala Harris draws large crowd, prominent Democrats in first major Texas swing (Texas Tribune)

By the time U.S. Sen Kamala Harris, D-California, took the stage here Saturday, the message was clear.

“This is Harris County!” declared a bevy of colorful signs in the hands of supporters in a crowded auditorium at Texas Southern University. And when Harris began to speak during the biggest event of her first major swing through Texas, Harris was implicitly communicating much the same message: There may be two Texas Democrats vying for support in this state nearly a year ahead of Super Tuesday, but the Californian isn’t ceding any ground to the state’s native sons.

“I love being in Harris County!” she declared by way of greeting, enjoying raucous applause, and, apparently, the alignment between her surname and the name of Texas’ largest county and one of its most diverse. And in unveiling a major pitch for raising teachers’ salaries — a proposal her campaign has described as “the largest federal investment in teacher pay in history” — she made sure to nod to the last Texas Democrat to occupy the office she seeks…

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Coming to San Antonio’s airport: Smoke Shack, Local Coffee and a Spurs store — but not Chick-fil-A and Gervin’s bar is out (San Antonio Express-News)

Smoke Shack, Local Coffee and a Spurs shop are among the new vendors heading to the San Antonio International Airport under a plan approved Thursday by the City Council. But the city rejected Chick-fil-A.

Councilman Roberto Treviño said he couldn’t support Chick-fil-A’s inclusion because of its anti-LGBT reputation, a concern echoed by Councilman Manny Peláez. Treviño suggested the council approve the deal while directing city staff and its new vendor, Paradies Lagardère, to find a replacement for Chick-fil-A. “The heart of the LGBTQ community is in District 1, and that community has come together to voice its disapproval of this proposal because it includes a company with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior,” Treviño said…

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Texas sues company behind Deer Park terminal fire (Texas Tribune)

Late Friday, the state of Texas sued Intercontinental Terminals — the Houston-based company whose petrochemical storage facility in the suburb of Deer Park caught fire last weekend and burned for days, sending a dramatic plume of black smoke over the nation’s fourth-largest city.

The lawsuit, filed in state district court on behalf of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, alleges that air pollution released during the fire is a violation of the Texas Clean Air Act.

It seeks a permanent injunction and civil penalties that “could exceed $100,000.”

“The state of Texas works hard to maintain good air quality and will hold ITC accountable for the damage it has done to our environment,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement. “ITC has a history of environmental violations, and this latest incident is especially disturbing and frightening. No company can be allowed to disrupt lives and put public health and safety at risk.”…

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Has Dan Patrick loosened his conservative ties? Some of his staunchest supporters say yes (Dallas Morning News)

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick prides himself on being thought of as one of the most conservative leaders in Texas. He's certainly earned the title. Patrick has championed school vouchers. He’s proposed cutting college financial aid. And during the last legislative session, he led the push for a bathroom bill.

But now some of his allies are criticizing him for being too moderate. The lieutenant governor has abandoned some of his red-meat priorities, they allege, and supplanted them with middle-of-the-road proposals popular with more moderate and even liberal voters. While restricting abortion still tops Patrick's list, priorities like giving every teacher a pay bump and raising the smoking age have small-government types scratching their heads…

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The Justice Department's Summary Of The Mueller Report (KUT)

Leaders of the Justice Department have sent a summary of Robert Mueller's main findings to key members of Congress. The special counsel's office completed its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election on Friday.

Attorney General William Barr is required to notify Congress that the investigation is complete but is not obligated to release the full report, as many in both parties have demanded.

Read what Barr describes as Mueller's "principal conclusions" below…

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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

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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