BG Reads | News You Need to Know (April 12, 2019)



Austin gets a new comprehensive transportation plan (Austin Monitor)

After passing the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan – the transportation piece of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan – on an initial reading March 28, City Council unanimously approved the plan on second and third readings Thursday afternoon.

According to the ASMP’s action item 225, the city now has a full year to compile data and “set benchmarks and targets for all indicators” included in the document, which will give the public a more concrete idea of what the plan will mean going forward.

While the plan offers a variety of specific targets and policies to complement the Imagine Austin vision and exchange the city’s focus from moving vehicles to moving people, more specific principles used to achieve that goal will come later this year with updates to street design standards in the city’s Transportation Criteria Manual and with any potential changes to the city’s land development code.

Some of the plan’s goals will be impacted by what the Texas Department of Transportation chooses to do with its web of highways running throughout the city, since the city has relatively little sway over the state’s design standards… (LINK TO STORY)

See also:

BG Episode 36: Annick Beaudet, A.I.C.P. - Assistant Director at the Austin Transportation Department

Austin ISD Removes Andrews Principal Accused Of Discriminating Against Immigrant Parents (KUT)

The Austin Independent School District has removed Andrews Elementary Principal Gabriela Soto after parents and teachers accused her of discriminating against immigrant parents. 

A group of school advocates held a press conference Monday to publicize these accusations. Parents said Soto made negative comments toward immigrant parents and wouldn't let parents serve on the PTA board because of their immigration status. They cited a picture Soto posted of new PTA board members with the caption "Make Andrews Great Again."

Soto had been on leave since March. The district said she was removed from campus and won't be returning. It said Diana Vallejo would continue to serve as substitute principal.

In a letter sent Wednesday to parents, the district said it "would continue to review and address the concerns that have been brought forward regarding Andrews Elementary."… (LINK TO STORY)

Tourism Commission examines whether hotel tax could keep live music on Sixth Street (Austin Monitor)

The handful of music venues still operating in the city’s historic district along Sixth Street could be considered for preservation and infrastructure improvements using money from the Hotel Occupancy Tax.

That idea was one of several offered for further examination by the Tourism Commission this week as the group considered its overall mission and role in helping City Council decide how to allocate money from the 15 percent tax paid by hotel guests.

At issue was the way state law tightly regulates how cities can use the funds generated by the tax. Some of the allowed uses are paying for debt and operations for convention centers, tourism promotion and preservation of historic structures. Until a recent expansion of local regulations and funding, the city had for years been unable to find historic projects that qualified for funding.

During discussion that preceded a decision to form a working group to look at possible expansion of HOT revenue uses, Commission Chair Catlin Whitington said he’d advocate dedicating money to helping music venues in the district make improvements that would let them add capacity and expand business operations to generate more revenue… (LINK TO STORY)


Texas Senate Approves Two Bills To Override Paid Sick Leave, Local Control Over Employment Practices (KUT)

After facing unexpected friction in Texas’ Republican-dominated Legislature, a pair of bills to override local rules mandating paid sick leave and standardize employment practices across the state passed the Senate on Thursday over the objections of LGBTQ advocates who have warned the bills could threaten local non-discrimination protections.

Since Austin passed an ordinance in February 2018 mandating that employers allow workers to accrue paid sick time, Republican state lawmakers have made clear that they hoped to override such local rules. The lawmakers have called the requirements anti-small business and fretted that they created a “patchwork of regulations” across the state.

The two bills, Senate Bills 2485 and 2487, passed in two party-line 18-12 votes, and now head to the House, where similar legislation on the issue has yet to move… (LINK TO STORY)

See also:

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

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

BG Podcast - Episode 20: State Rep. Diego Bernal- District 123 (D-San Antonio)

Gov. Abbott, top lawmakers push to raise sales tax to 7.25 percent, on par with California (Houston Chronicle)

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and the leaders of the Texas Legislature are throwing their support behind a plan to raise sales taxes by 1 percentage point in an effort to then reduce property taxes. The plan, however, would ultimately go before Texas voters, who could decide as early as November whether to make the tax trade.

The tax swap plan would increase the state portion of sales taxes to 7.25 percent, tying California for the highest rate in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. With local-option increases of up to two percent, the sales tax would be 9.25 percent in most of Texas. That means residents buying a $1,000 television would pay $92.50 in sales tax, a jump of $10… (LINK TO STORY)

Abbott Asks If Texas State Deserves Funding After Student Senate Votes To Bar Conservative Group (KUT)

On Monday, Texas State University's student senate passed a controversial resolution to bar the conservative group Turning Point USA from campus — a move shut down by the student body president and campus administration. But the resolution caught the attention of Gov. Greg Abbott.

"I truly question if taxpayers should still fund schools like this,” Abbott tweeted on Wednesday. "There’s no place in Texas for this. Our state universities better clean up their act.”

Abbott, who could not be reached for comment, was responding to a video surfaced by TPUSA’s national President Charlie Kirk on Wednesday night. In the video, students boo and shout expletives at Stormi Rodriguez, the university TPUSA chapter leader, during and after the discussion on the resolution. Kirk called the move “despicable” and condemned it as an example of "how the left treats a Hispanic @TPUSA chapter leader.” Abbott retweeted the video just a couple hours later… (LINK TO STORY)


Social media under fire from Senate Republicans for censoring conservatives (Washington Post)

Republicans led by Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday pilloried Facebook, Google and Twitter over allegations they censor conservative users and news sites online, threatening federal regulation in response to claims that Democrats long have described as a hoax.

The tensions played out early at a Senate hearing where Cruz, the leader of the Judiciary Committee's constitution-focused panel, said that Silicon Valley's largest companies had deployed their "power to silence voices with which they disagree." But Democrats sharply rebuked Cruz and his GOP allies for convening the hearing in the first place, arguing that they had ignored the real ills of social media - including the rise of hate speech and disinformation online… (LINK TO STORY)


On April 10th, 2019 the Bingham Group team marked its Two Year Anniversary!

Public Affairs Associate Intern Julie Potrykus spoke with Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham about the start of the firm, reflecting on the past two years, and what’s ahead. She also speaks with Bingham Group Senior Consultant Paul Saldaña who recently joined the firm about his experience in the Austin market.

Check out Episode 41 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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