BG Reads | News You Need to Know (April 18, 2019)



Adler says Texas has ‘declared war’ on Austin: ‘We must be prepared to defend ourselves’ (KUT)

Austin Mayor Steve Adler opened the annual State of the City address Wednesday with a quote from Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Adler said Austin is experiencing a “golden moment” and is in a good position to address challenges like affordability, mobility and equity. But, he said, the state’s government is “upending” the city’s success.

“In my 40 years, our city and Texas’ cities have never been so aggressively under attack by the state,” he said.

Adler said Austin was being threatened by a “state government that would seek to change who we are, that would seek to snuff out the very culture that makes this place so special, that would seek to undermine the very values that lay at the heart of our success.”

“The state has declared war against its cities,” he said, “and we must be prepared to defend ourselves as best we can.”

Adler pointed to legislation passed in the Senate that would limit how much cities can raise in property taxes to fund services, calling it a “significant assault.”… (LINK TO STORY)

City working to align development standards on East 11th Street corridor (Austin Monitor)

Development in Austin is anything but straightforward. That’s especially true on East 11th Street, where efforts to transform blighted neighborhoods into a vibrant downtown gateway are governed both by the Urban Renewal Plan and the Neighborhood Conservation Combining District.

According to Jana McCann, a principal at McCann Adams Studio who spoke to the Urban Renewal Board at its April 15 meeting, the current iteration of the URP “has caused a lot of distress and confusion.”

In an effort to reconcile development standards between the two zoning regulation documents, city staff is reaching out to stakeholders and the Urban Renewal Board to go through the old language of the East 11th Street Urban Renewal Plan and bring it up to date and integrate the 11 plan modifications that have occurred since the document’s inception.

The idea, explained Sandra Harkins of the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department, is to preserve the original intent of the Urban Renewal Plan, which was approved in 1999, but bring the language up to date. She explained that once the document is cleaned up, staffers want to rewrite the 11th Street section of the NCCD document that governs both East 11th and 12th streets… (LINK TO STORY)

Housing committee hears about district goals (Austin Monitor)

Two years ago this month, Austin City Council adopted its first strategic housing blueprint, with the goal of developing metrics to define how the city should allocate its resources to produce affordable housing for residents earning less than 80 percent of the median family income. Over the next 10 years, the city is aiming to produce or preserve 60,000 such units.

One of the biggest questions the city faces is where to put those units.

The city hired consultants from Asakura Robinson and Austin Community Design and Development Center to help the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department analyze how the housing should be dispersed.

Alex Miller of Asakura Robinson explained to the Council housing committee on Tuesday that her group analyzed each district with respect to what are called high-opportunity areas, gentrifying areas, areas with high-frequency transit stops and Imagine Austin centers, and geographic dispersion of affordable housing. High opportunity refers to neighborhoods with access to amenities or community attributes that can increase economic mobility for their residents. Then they ranked the districts by those qualifications.

Miller told the committee that the city should strive to save and develop the most affordable housing in Council districts 6 and 10, with District 8 coming in third. The districts that ranked lowest in terms of opportunity, in particular, were East Austin districts 2, 3 and 4, with District 1 ranking slightly higher… (LINK TO STORY)


Dallas-Fort Worth metro area saw biggest population growth in Texas in 2018 (Texas Tribune)

In a state where the population continues to rapidly swell, the sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth region remains a fundamental source for those gains.

Adding 131,767 residents from 2017 to 2018, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area gained more residents than any other metropolitan area in the country and was behind more than a third of Texas' population growth in that period, according to population estimates the U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday.

Following a years-long trend, the new estimates show that Texas dominated in population growth thanks to both growing families and migration to the state. The state took 4 of the nation's top 10 spots both for counties that gained the most residents in a year and those that grew the fastest… (LINK TO STORY)

Texas lawmakers revive bid to phase out state’s franchise tax (Austin American-Statesman)

The effort to reduce local property taxes is capturing much of the attention during the ongoing session of the state Legislature, but a revived bid to tackle another bane of the Texas business community -- the franchise tax –– also is underway.

The Senate Finance Committee held hearings this week on a number of bills that would cut the franchise tax by various methods, including one aimed at eliminating it entirely by 2026 and another that would phase it out gradually over about two decades. Businesses and homeowners alike pay property taxes to municipalities, school districts and other local entities, but the franchise tax –– also called the margins tax –– is the state’s primary tax on business. Estimated to generate about $3.9 billion during the current fiscal year, it’s the third-largest source of tax revenue for state government behind sales taxes and motor vehicle-related taxes… (LINK TO STORY)

Senate votes to limit city regulations on private businesses (Austin American-Statesman)

The Texas Senate signaled approval Tuesday for two bills to limit local government control over private businesses, measures opposed by some of Texas’ major cities. Senate Bill 2486 would limit governments from regulating scheduling practices, such as an Austin ordinance requiring construction workers to be given a break of at least 10 minutes for every four hours worked.

SB 2488 would block regulations that limit the ability to request criminal history records, such as Austin’s “fair chance hiring” ordinance that prohibits businesses from asking about criminal records in the early stages of hiring. SB 2486 passed 20-11, and SB 2488 passed on a party-line 19-12 vote. Both are part of a four-piece local control package that began as SB 15 by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe. Senators approved the other two bills last week… (LINK TO STORY)

Bill passes that prevents surprise medical billing of Texans with state-regulated plans (KVUE)

The Texas Senate passed a bipartisan bill Tuesday that prevents surprise medical billing of Texans who have state-regulated insurance plans. Senate Bill 1264 (SB 1264), which was authored by Senator Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), allows medical providers to enter arbitration for payment negotiations with health insurance companies and prohibits them from sending surprise balance bills to consumers.

SB 1264 removes patients from disputes between insurance companies and providers altogether. It establishes an arbitration process to eliminate the need for patient-triggered mediation and provides state regulatory authority over that arbitration. It prohibits surprise billing of consumers in situations where the patients have no choice which provider they see or which facility they visit, including medical emergencies, non-network care at in-network hospitals and out-of-network lab and imaging work… (LINK TO STORY)


Trump moves to resist House inquiries, setting up fight over congressional subpoena powers (Washington Post)

President Trump’s attorneys and the White House are moving to resist a growing number of congressional requests for information, increasing the likelihood of a protracted legal fight that could test the power of congressional subpoenas.

The building battle will shape how much material House Democrats will be able to obtain about Trump’s policies and personal finances through multiple investigations launched by various congressional committees. White House officials are already digging in their heels on a slew of requests related to Trump’s actions as president. The administration does not plan to turn over information being sought about how particular individuals received their security clearances, Trump’s meetings with foreign leaders and other topics that they plan to argue are subject to executive privilege, according to several aides familiar with internal discussions… (LINK TO STORY)

A powerful lobbying tool in the Trump era: his ear (Wall Street Journal)

Cynthia Fisher, after years of fighting in Washington for patient rights, is gaining traction in the Trump era. The 58-year-old entrepreneur and Republican donor has been pitching an idea to force hospitals and doctors to disclose the pricing on deals they cut with insurers. The Trump administration has now backed her idea as a way to reduce health costs. That, in turn, has sent shivers through an industry used to conducting business in secret.

Ms. Fisher had pushed the idea in Congress for years. But she got her big break when she and her husband joined a formal event for business leaders at the Bedminster, N.J., golf club of President Trump. As the president talked with guests, Ms. Fisher saw her chance and made the pitch: “He got it,” she says of Mr. Trump. “He said, ‘Let’s make it happen. We need to go all the way.’”…



BG Podcast Episode 42: A Startup Conversation with Easy Expunctions CEO Yousef Kassim

On today’s episode we speak with Easy Expunctions CEO and Founder Yousef Kassim.

Easy Expunctions is a San Antonio-based legal technology start up providing background check and expunction/nondisclosure services.

Their legal records search algorithms allow clients to know what (if any) charges they have against them, and what can be expunged. 

Additionally, they provide the necessary legal forms and filing instructions directly to the client. The overall process provides a significant savings to the client (in the thousands) as well as empowering people who may not have experience with the court system.

In April 2018 they won Austin-based Capital Factory's $100,000 Startup Challenge.  As part of the package, the firm received space at Capital Factory (located in downtown Austin)...

Check out Episode 42 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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