BG Reads | News You Need to Know (April 5, 2019)



Heartbeat of the City by Jan Buchholz - A BG Media Group Production

Check out the first feature from BG Media Group: Heartbeat of the City, a three episode pilot podcast from Austin real estate insider Jan Buchholz, an award-winning reporter known for her journalism in the Austin Business Journal and her website, ATX Real Estate News.

All three episodes are up and we’d love your review and comments. You can find them here.


Austin defends its short-term rental rules before Texas lawmakers (Austin Monitor)

Austin’s rules on short-term rental units – advertised on apps and sites like Airbnb and HomeAway – are under fire at the Texas Capitol. House lawmakers heard testimony Thursday on a bill that would override the city’s ban on properties in residential areas that aren’t owner-occupied.

Richardson Republican state Rep. Angie Chen Button said the bill would prohibit “arbitrary” bans, which she said inhibit an industry that brought more than $3 billion into the state’s economy last year, according to a recent analysis.

Austin was one of the first cities in Texas to regulate short-term rentals, though its rules specifically targeted homes rented out by people who don’t live in them full time – known in city code parlance as Type 2 properties.

Daniel Armstrong, a code enforcement officer with the city, told the House Urban Affairs Committee that the bill would kneecap Austin’s enforcement efforts against properties that perennially violate noise, parking and nuisance ordinances. Armstrong, a former police officer, said those complaints typically come between 2 and 5 a.m.

“It’s been my experience and observations with homestead STRs, that they are not the bad actors because the property owner still lives in their home and still cares about their neighborhood,” he said.

Assistant City Attorney Patricia Link told lawmakers that the bill as written was vague and didn’t clearly define restrictions a city could impose. For example, a city could adopt its own permitting process on a block-by-block basis, like one that was adopted in San Antonio. She also said the bill wouldn’t allow a city to effectively address properties with multiple complaints… (LINK TO STORY)

Austin FC hires legislative lobbyists (Austin Monitor)

The soccer club Austin FC, owned by Precourt Sports Ventures, hired three lobbyists on March 7, the day after Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, introduced legislation that could seriously impact Precourt’s plans for a new soccer stadium at McKalla Place.

The club hired Neal T. “Buddy” Jones of HillCo Partners, a well-known lobbyist with many years of experience, as well as two of his associates, Kelly Barnes and J. McCartt.

As the law currently stands, property the city owns is not subject to property taxes from other local entities. That leaves Travis County, Austin Independent School District, Austin Community College and Central Health without a mechanism to assess taxes.

In December, the city signed a lease agreement with Precourt allowing the company to build and operate a Major League Soccer stadium at McKalla Place for 20 years. Precourt agreed to pay the city a rental fee of $8.25 million over that time, but made no agreements with the other entities.

The Austin Monitor attempted to discuss the legislation with Jones, Barnes and McCartt but none of them returned our calls. Richard Suttle, Precourt’s attorney in Austin, also indicated that he would not have anything to say about the subject… (LINK TO STORY)

East Austin advocate calls out Greg Casar on affordable housing (Austin American-Statesman)

Fred McGhee, an outspoken advocate for the Montopolis neighborhood in Southeast Austin, said Thursday that City Council Member Greg Casar lacks experience in how to effectively enact affordable housing policy.

McGhee made the comments during a news conference in front of City Hall called by a group of prominent East Austin activists, who are demanding the City Council act on a proposal they set forth more than a year ago to stem gentrification.

McGhee, a member of the city’s Community Development Commission, criticized Casar several times for not pushing the group’s so-called People’s Plan. Casar, whose North Austin district is bisected by Interstate 35, has been the council’s most outspoken advocate for affordable housing, but his policy experience is lacking, McGhee said.

“Perhaps he has a few more rungs to climb before he matches our expertise,” said McGhee, noting that the community activists on hand had more than 100 years of combined experience in advocating for affordable housing.

In an emailed statement, Casar said his “record fighting for affordable housing and against displacement speaks for itself.”

Casar was a leading proponent of Proposition A, the $250 million affordable housing bond that passed in November. The council also recently passed a resolution he sponsored that calls for the creation of a citywide affordable housing program… (LINK TO STORY)


Business leaders line up for potential Texas hemp market (Austin Business Journal)

A slew of hemp-related business owners appeared before the House Agriculture & Livestock Committee this week to urge passage of a bill to legalize and regulate the industry.

As the legislative session heads down the home stretch, Rep. Tracy King’s, D-Batesville, House Bill 1325 appears to be the de facto hemp bill for the session. Texas would follow 42 states that have legalized and regulated industrial hemp following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.

The lack of legalization in Texas isn't dissuading established hemp businesses from buying into the prospective market. Kentucky-based Elemental Processing has already purchased the recently shuttered 1 million-square-foot Atlantic Coffee Solutions in Houston’s East End… (LINK TO STORY)

“That bill has now been poisoned”: Business groups worry priority sick-leave legislation faces uphill battle (Texas Tribune)

Texas business leaders who helped draft legislation banning cities from implementing employment benefit ordinances now fear those measures might be imperiled after a bill they thought was a slam dunk became ensnared in a fight over protections for LGBTQ workers.

Business groups and several Republicans set the stage for the next local control fight last year after Austin tried to require companies to offer employees paid sick leave. City officials say the Legislature shouldn't overturn such proposals because they’re beneficial for workers and public health, while members of the business community have argued that it's not individual cities’ job to set private companies’ employment policies.

Pamela Bratton, the vice president of contract administration and compliance with the Meador Staffing Services, worried that without consistent, statewide labor laws, businesses would “slowly strangle themselves trying to meet the requirements of all the individual cities.”… (LINK TO STORY)

Senate votes to loosen gun rules for school marshals (Austin American-Statesman)

The Texas Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would let school marshals carry concealed handguns anywhere on campus. Under current law, marshals — state-trained teachers and administrators who are allowed to bring a gun to school — must keep their weapons locked in a safe if they have “regular, direct contact with students.”

That requirement is impractical if a marshal’s immediate intervention is needed to protect students and staff, said Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury. Birdwell said Senate Bill 406 gives public school districts, open-enrollment charter schools, private schools and community colleges the discretion to decide if marshals are allowed to carry weapons at all times or are required to keep guns locked up… (LINK TO STORY)


Trump Walks Back Threat To Close U.S. Border, Giving Mexico A '1-Year Warning' (KUT)

President Trump is backing down from his threat to shut down the U.S. Southern border as soon as this week.

Trump had issued the warning in a bid to curtail surging border crossings by asylum-seekers from Central America. Instead, he is now giving Mexico "a one-year warning" to address his concerns about its handling of immigrants traveling through the country on the way to the United States. He also demanded that Mexico tamp down on the flow of drugs.

If the Mexican government doesn't respond in a manner acceptable to Trump within 12 months, he says, he will take action. "Mexico understands that we're going to close the border or I'm going to tariff the cars — one or the other," Trump said… (LINK TO STORY)


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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