BG Reads | News You Need to Know (April 2, 2019)



Under House school finance bill, Austin would get to keep $194 million more in taxes in 2020 (KUT)

Austin Independent School District would pay $194 million less in recapture in 2020 if House Bill 3, the chamber’s $9 billion school finance plan, is passed.

Recapture is the law that requires “property-rich” school districts, like Austin ISD and most other major Texas cities, to pay back a portion of their property taxes to the state to fund poorer and rural school districts. Austin ISD has the highest recapture payment in the state, with half of its local property taxes going to other districts.

This fiscal year, AISD expects to pay $669 million to the state in recapture.

The projections also show AISD would receive more money per student from the state.

Under the bill, lawmakers also promised a small property tax cut to homeowners. The projection shows a $100 savings on a $200,000 home in Austin.

AISD is facing a budget crisis as enrollment in the district continues to decline. Nicole Conley Johnson, AISD chief of business and operations, said if the bill is passed in its current form it would be a great help… (LINK TO STORY)

See also:

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

AECOM wins Orange Line preliminary engineering contract (Austin Monitor)

Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority began advertising a contract for preliminary engineering design services and mode recommendations for the Project Connect 21-mile high-capacity Orange Line on Dec. 18, the day after the agency’s board of directors approved Project Connect‘s long-term vision plan.

Now, after receiving three responses in January and negotiating with the most qualified firm, the Capital Metro board has unanimously approved a roughly $12 million contract with AECOM for a multi-year process of helping the agency select an official mode of transportation (Autonomous Rapid Transit, Light Rail or Bus Rapid Transit), conduct preliminary engineering and guide the National Environmental Policy Act environmental analysis.

The Project Connect vision plan currently lists three possible mode options (buses or rail or an autonomous version of either) for the Orange Line and has it running through Austin from the Parmer Center at the northern terminus down to its southern terminus at Slaughter Lane (along the same path as Capital Metro’s highest-performing route, the 801 MetroRapid line).… (LINK TO STORY)

Vaping giant makes Austin part of rapid global expansion (Austin Business Journal)

uul Labs Inc., a leading electric cigarette company, is expanding into Texas with plans to hire at least 48 to start in Austin.

The Austin office will be used by Juul’s commercial teams to serve the Americas, Juul spokesman Ted Kwong said in an email. 

“Austin is centrally-located and home to great talent for our commercial teams serving the Americas,” he said.

Kwong declined to comment on where Juul’s Austin office space will be located.

Juul is rapidly growing its workforce as the annual sales of its vaping products reached more than $1 billion in 2018, up from $200 million in 2017, according to a February report from the Silicon Valley Business Journal. The company has more than 1,700 employees. Last year, it had 200.

Despite not disclosing where the office space is, Juul already has 20 job openings in Austin posted on its website. The jobs range from sales and finance to strategy and business operations.

“JUUL Labs is rapidly growing as we are focused on improving the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers,” Kwong said in an email. “We will be continuously evaluating spaces for our workforce of talented employees to accommodate this growth.”… (LINK TO STORY)


Hemp advocates urge lawmakers to allow ‘cash crop’ in Texas (Austin American-Statesman)

Hemp thrives in dry, rocky soils common in many parts of Texas, has multitudes of uses ranging from industrial to nutritional and is widely expected to anchor a nearly $3 billion U.S. industry over the next few years now that it has been removed from a list of federally controlled substances.

But it also has a controversial cousin -- marijuana -- that many Texas lawmakers, thus far at least, have been loath to condone. Hemp proponents turned out in force at the Capitol on Monday to urge them to ignore superficial similarities, such as appearance, and allow Texas farmers to grow what they contend is poised to become the next major cash crop.

“I know it’s a viable crop for Texas, and I believe we should have the right to grow it,” said Jeff Williams, a West Texas farmer and rancher. “I know many, many farmers who have struggled throughout the years” and would welcome an opportunity to plant hemp.

Williams and others spoke during a series of hearings held by the House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock over a number of bills that, to varying degrees, would legalize and regulate hemp production and hemp-derived products in Texas.

The new U.S. farm bill signed by President Donald Trump in December made hemp federally legal, but Texas lawmakers still must legalize it here. Under existing Texas laws, some hemp-derived products can be imported into Texas and sold in the state, but the plant can’t be grown here.… (LINK TO STORY)

Trump to visit Houston, San Antonio on April 10 for fundraisers, source says (Houston Chronicle)

President Donald Trump plans to travel to Texas on April 10 for fundraisers in Houston and San Antonio as Republicans build a campaign fund for the 2020 election, according to a Texas GOP official familiar with planning.

No other details were available, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the visits. White House staff said they had no scheduling announcements to make on the president’s trip. It will be a busy day for the president. On April 10-11, Trump is scheduled to host South Korean President Moon Jae-in for discussions on stalemated North Korean nuclear diplomacy, the White House announced earlier… (LINK TO STORY)


Federal government to accelerate Customs and Border Protection redeployment amid migrant surge (Texas Tribune)

President Donald Trump’s administration said Monday it will begin returning more migrants to Mexico after they apply for asylum in the U.S. and ordered Customs and Border Protection officials to speed up the redeployment of agents to help the Border Patrol process a growing surge of migrants arriving at the border.

Last week, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said 750 CBP agents would be pulled from their regular positions at the ports of entry in El Paso, Laredo, Tucson and San Diego to assist Border Patrol. On Monday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen told CBP to accelerate the reallocation and consider reassigning more officers.

“CBP is directed to explore raising that target, is authorized to exceed it, and shall notify the Secretary if reassignments are planned to exceed 2,000 personnel,” the DHS said in a news release… (LINK TO STORY)

The Hispanic/Latino identity may be too big for a checkbox when the 2020 census comes around (Dallas Morning News)

Gelacio Abrego remembers marking himself as being of Latino/Hispanic origin and specifically Mexican when answering the 2010 U.S. census. But he was stumped when the next question asked for his race. The Mexico native knew that he’d been categorized as white on legal forms before, but that’s not how he identified. So he chose “Some other race.” He’s pretty sure now, almost 10 years later, that he wrote in “Mexican.”

Abrego’s confusion about how to answer the census’ race question speaks to the vast nature of the Hispanic/Latino label and the challenge the massive decennial operation faces not just in counting the Latino population but also capturing how its members identify. The 27-year-old husband and father of two said he knows that “Mexican” isn’t a race, but none of the options in the race category match how he personally identifies… (LINK TO STORY)

'Fox & Friends' apologizes for headline about '3 Mexican Countries' (The Hill)

"Fox & Friends Weekend" apologized on Sunday after displaying a graphic referring to "3 Mexican countries," drawing attention on social media. The show displayed a graphic at the bottom of the screen that read "Trump cuts U.S. aid to 3 Mexican countries."

The State Department announced Saturday that the U.S. will no longer provide foreign assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the so-called Northern Triangle countries in Latin America. Co-host Pete Hegseth on Sunday correctly named the three countries affected by the measure, calling it a "big move" for Trump in cracking down on illegal immigration. The graphic stayed on the screen for 30 seconds… (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


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)

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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