BG Reads | News You Need to Know (April 1, 2019)



Bingham Group Announces the Addition of Paul Saldaña as Senior Consultant

The Bingham Group, LLC (Bingham Group), an Austin based consulting firm providing government affairs, public affairs, and procurement services, today announced the addition of Paul Saldaña as a Senior Consultant.

A native Austinite, Paul brings over 25 years experience building awareness, trust and credibility for clients and their projects/services within Austin’s diverse communities. He most recently served as a President and Principal of Saldaña Public Relations, a full service firm tailored to the cultural values of Austin. Past clients include Central Health, the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association, Precourt Sports Ventures (owner of Austin FC), the Move Austin Forward Bond Transportation campaign and the re-election campaign for Austin Mayor Steve Adler… (MORE HERE)


Land use policy is driving mobility discussion (Austin Monitor)

As the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan has made its rounds to various city boards and commissions over the previous month, conversations about transportation goals have consistently gravitated toward the great unknown question of land use code reform.

Now that the plan was passed on first reading by City Council on Thursday afternoon, the mobility plan is on a clear path to become the city’s primary transportation guide up to 2039, alongside the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan for sustainable development. As with Imagine Austin, however, the vision outlined in the mobility plan has no chance of being realized in the next two decades without a significant overhaul of the development code.

While current development patterns are not necessarily a barrier to building out the city’s sidewalk or bicycle master plans, the impact of minimum lot sizes, parking minimums and single-family zoning throughout most of the city are a direct threat to the viability of high-capacity transit, the primary component of the 50/50 mode split goal at the heart of the ASMP vision… (LINK TO STORY)

See also:

BG Podcast Episode 36: The Austin Strategic Mobility Plan

William Cannon Drive in store for a major upgrade (Austin Business Journal)

The city is working on upgrades for a stretch of William Cannon Drive in South Austin.

The city said the proposed improvements will be from Southwest Parkway to McKinney Falls Parkway — about 12 miles of road. Intersections are to be improved, parts are to be widened and bike lanes are in the works… (LINK TO STORY)

New Austin Convention Center expansion report envisions the venue’s place in a modernizing downtown (Community Impact)

The Austin Convention Center is in many ways outdated, undersized and underused by locals, but has the potential to be an active, signature piece of Austin’s rapidly changing downtown, according to a comprehensive report released March 29 from the University of Texas Center for Sustainable Development.

The question of whether to expand the convention center—constructed in 1992 and expanded in 2002—has been on the table since at least 2015, when a master plan was published by architecture firm Gensler & Associates Inc. City Council posed the question to a task force in 2017, and Mayor Steve Adler, proponent of expansion, set it as the centerpiece to his 2017 “Downtown Puzzle” proposal. City Council members have questioned the worth in spending hundreds of millions of dollars on an expansion.

The UT study was commissioned by City Council in December 2017 to provide a third-party examination of the design feasibility and economic impact of a potential expansion. Building on existing ideas and coming up with their own, the team of academics produced five scenarios, ranging from the status quo, to construction of a new convention center across Trinity Street and a demolition of the existing building to create “creek-to-creek connectivity” in Downtown Austin… (LINK TO STORY)


With Texas homecoming, Beto O'Rourke gets opportunity to reassert home-state strength (Texas Tribune)

Beto O'Rourke is making his 2020 debut this weekend in Texas — and seizing an opportunity to shore up his home-field advantage as the state begins to draw serious attention from his rivals.

After a whirlwind eight-state, 11-day trip outside Texas, O'Rourke is holding three rallies here Saturday to formally launch his White House bid. They are his first campaign events in Texas since declaring his candidacy March 14, and they are taking place in three cities where he ran up the score in the U.S. Senate election last year: his hometown of El Paso as well as Houston and Austin… (LINK TO STORY)

Bill targeting paid sick leave broken up into smaller pieces (Austin Business Journal)

Senate Bill 15, the law proposed at the Texas Legislature this year that would have thrown out paid sick leave mandates in cities such as Austin and San Antonio, has been broken down into four smaller bills.

Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, required an unusual override of Senate rules to allow the four bills to be filed after the session’s bill filing deadline of March 8. Each bill tackles a single aspect addressed by SB 15, which has stalled at the Texas Capitol.

The four short bills, each less than a page long, still concern opponents who worry that they could eliminate nondiscrimination ordinances like those in Austin that protect LGBT people from discrimination during hiring.

The four bills are:

• Senate Bill 2485, which would prevent jurisdictions from dictating employment terms, but would exempt those related to wages, such as minimum wage or living wage provisions

• Senate Bill 2486, which would prevent jurisdictions from dictating scheduling practices — apparently alluding to city-mandated work breaks and water breaks

• Senate Bill 2487, which would prevent jurisdictions from imposing paid sick or vacation leave on private employers; it also raises questions as to whether cities can require contractors to follow particular employment provisions

• Senate Bill 2488, which would prevent jurisdictions from imposing fair chance hiring provisions — what is often called "ban the box" — which Austin passed in 2016 and prevents employers from asking about criminal history until after extending a conditional offer of employment… (LINK TO STORY)

See also:

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

BG Podcast - Episode 11: Meet James Hines, SVP of Advocacy and In-House Counsel, Texas Association of Business

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

Texas House seeks to put STAAR to the test (Austin American-Statesman)

Amid concerns about the validity of Texas’ standardized tests for public school students, House members early Thursday approved a measure that would require the state to develop a plan to audit the exams.

The education community has long been divided on whether the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, which students start taking in third grade, test students on material that is above grade level, worsening scores. Since the tests were implemented in 2012, studies have drawn mixed conclusions about the STAAR’s validity and reliability… (LINK TO STORY)

Van de Putte seriously considering a run for Castro’s congressional seat (San Antonio Express-News)

Former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte is seriously considering a run for the congressional seat likely to be vacated by Joaquin Castro. Van de Putte, 64, a San Antonio Democrat who served for 24 years in the Legislature, is discussing the ramifications of a possible congressional campaign with her family, according to multiple sources.

Castro is expected to announce his intention to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, which would open up the U.S. House District 20 seat that Castro has held for four terms. District 20 is a Democratic stronghold and the only congressional seat entirely contained within Bexar County. Van de Putte did not respond to an interview request for this column. A Van de Putte candidacy could produce a seismic shift in a race that looks to be up for grabs… (LINK TO STORY)

Texas will soon remove hemp from its list of controlled substances. What does that mean for CBD and hemp products? (Dallas Morning News)

The state of Texas will soon remove hemp from its list of controlled substances. On April 5, the Texas Department of State Health Services will no longer classify hemp as a “Schedule I” drug, a highly restricted group of substances that includes LSD, heroin and cocaine.

The government lists a substance in that category if it’s considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. For cannabis-related businesses and advocates, the step is a welcome change they said underscores the legitimacy of their products. But legal experts added removing hemp from the list of controlled drugs does little to clear up confusion about the legality of hemp products — including gummies, pain creams and oils — that are already on store shelves in Texas… (LINK TO STORY)

Radioactive waste site seeks more out-of-state material (Austin American-Statesman)

A proposal to take in more out-of-state waste at a West Texas radioactive waste disposal site has encountered an unlikely argument against it: that it can harm the booming oil and gas industry.

Waste Control Specialists is asking state lawmakers for permission to take in more low-level radioactive waste — such as rags, syringes and protective clothing from nuclear plants or hospitals — from outside of Texas for disposal at its Andrews County facility near the Texas-New Mexico border… (LINK TO STORY)


Senate GOP wary in Trump's revived health care battle (AP News)

President Donald Trump’s decision to revive the fight over the Affordable Care Act has stirred a political and policy debate among Republicans on how best to approach the divisive issue heading into the 2020 election.

Failing to repeal and replace the ACA, otherwise known as Obamacare, is one of the biggest shortcomings of the president’s first term in meeting its goals. It left Republicans with a broken campaign promise, dismal approval ratings and a narrative they haven’t been able to shake — that they don’t support protecting those with pre-existing medical conditions from high-cost care. In some races, it cost Republican seats last fall, flipping House control to Democrats… (LINK TO STORY)

As Electric Scooters Proliferate, So Do Minor Injuries And Blocked Sidewalks (KUT)

Dockless electric scooters are available for rent in dozens of U.S. cities. While the companies behind them are quick to extol their benefits, some health and safety experts are starting to see the challenges that come along for the ride. Scooter companies and city officials say they are aware of the issues, but solutions aren't coming anytime soon.

Stand-up electric scooters have been around since the 1980s. But the latest trend in micromobility — dockless electric scooters — launched in 2017. They arrived in the District of Columbia in 2018, and now, just over a year later, thousands of scooters are on the streets… (LINK TO STORY)


Episode 40: Discussing Austin's Affordability Unlocked Resolution with Megan Lasch

(Run time - 15:57)

On today’s episode we speak with Megan Lasch, with Saigebrook Development, an Austin-based affordable housing development firm.

She and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss the Affordabilty Unlocked resolution, passed unanimously by Austin’s City Council on February 21, 2019.

The overall objectives contained in the resolution are to:

  • Maximize affordable housing;

  • Make it easier and less costly to build affordable housing; and

  • Allow affordable housing in high-opportunity areas and areas facing and susceptible to gentrification 

City staff have until May 9 of this year to present a draft ordinance to Council.

She and A.J. also discuss the overall model of for profit affordable housing, and its fit in the Austin development community.

Megan is a graduate of Oklahoma State University (B.S. Engineering). You can learn more about her, here.

This episode was recorded on February 27, 2019.

You can listen to this episode and previous ones on iTunes, Google Play, and STITCHER at the links below. Please leave a review and rating. Share and subscribe today!


Link to executed resolution (City of Austin)

Link to Council resolution presentation (City of Austin)

Saigebrook Development (Company page)

Saigebrook Development Facebook

Link to Episode 40

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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