BG Reads | News You Need to Know (May 8, 2019)
Streamlined housing plan comes to Council (Austin Monitor)
In keeping with its commitment to increase Austin’s affordable housing stock, Council will consider an ordinance Thursday which will eliminate certain requirements that currently apply to all new housing, affordable as well as market rate.
Under a new program called Affordability Unlocked, affordable housing developments would be able to add more units by eliminating requirements under the city’s compatibility standards and parking requirements, as Lauren Avioli of Neighborhood Housing and Community Development told Council at Tuesday’s work session. In addition, the city would waive the requirement of a zoning change, if necessary.
Avioli said while this is a density bonus program, it is different from the city’s other density bonus program, which is designed for developers of market-rate housing. She said she expects this program to be used exclusively by developers of affordable housing who receive subsidies. The subsidies come primarily from the city, the federal government and from low-income housing tax credits “to produce long-term affordable units,” Avioli said (LINK TO STORY)
I-35 changes dramatically in TxDOT’s proposed $8 billion expansion (Austin American-Statesman)
The Texas Department of Transportation has unveiled an $8 billion expansion plan for Interstate 35 that would add lanes to the highway through Austin and result in the construction of two levels of underground tunnels near the University of Texas.
TxDOT made the presentation Monday night during a board meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which voted to kick in $400 million for the project in hope of enticing state and federal transportation agencies to follow suit.
“This is a huge deal,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said. “This is the regional (transportation) project that is our singular most important.”… (LINK TO STORY)
Fire and police response times lagging due to low staffing (Austin Monitor)
In an effort to serve citizens as quickly, efficiently and proficiently as possible, Austin public safety departments have response time goals. For the Fire Department, this means response times of eight minutes 90 percent of the time, while police should arrive at the scene within 6 minutes and 44 seconds for the highest-priority calls.
However, in a quarterly update to the Public Safety Commission at its May 6 meeting, statistics showed that the public safety departments aren’t meeting those goals… (LINK TO STORY)
School funding bill with $5,000 teacher pay raise clears Texas Senate, inches toward governor's desk (Dallas Morning News)
The Texas Senate on Monday voted out sweeping school-funding legislation that would give every teacher in Texas a $5,000 raise while cutting property taxes for home and business owners.
The Senate action means both chambers of the Legislature have passed versions of a bill to dedicate at least $9 billion of new money toward improving schools and delivering tax relief over the next two years. Significantly, it also means the Legislature and top elected leaders are on the cusp of fulfilling a key promise made to taxpayers during election season to overhaul the way Texas public education is funded… (LINK TO STORY)
In A Surprising Turn, Texas House Opts To Delay Debate On Sales Tax Swap Legislation Until 2021 (KUT)
State Rep. Dan Huberty, the top public education leader in the Texas House, postponed two items of legislation Tuesday that would pay for long-term, ongoing school district tax cuts by raising sales taxes — effectively killing any chance of passing the legislation this year.
Huberty tabled until 2021 — the next legislative session — House Joint Resolution 3 and the accompanying House Bill 4621, which would ask voters to increase the state sales tax by one penny to buy down school district property taxes. The Houston Republican's move came the day after the Senate, headed by a lieutenant governor who had endorsed the proposal, stripped such a provision from its version of the school finance bill in what was perhaps a signal that the measure would be dead in the upper chamber anyway… (LINK TO STORY)
Texas House passes second, more limited bill expanding access to medical cannabis (Texas Tribune)
Four years after state Rep. Stephanie Klick authored legislation that legalized the sale of medical cannabis oil to Texans suffering from intractable epilepsy, the House gave tentative approval Tuesday to a bill by the Fort Worth Republican that would expand the list of patients eligible for the medicine.
House Bill 3703 would add multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and spasticity to the list of debilitating medical conditions that qualify for cannabis oil… (LINK TO STORY)
Senators on Facebook’s potential $5 billion fine: not good enough (VOX)
A bipartisan pair of US senators is calling for federal regulators to crack down on Facebook.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) on Monday sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, which is currently investigating Facebook’s handling of user data and potential privacy violations. In it, they called Facebook’s expected settlement of $3 billion to $5 billion with the FTC a “bargain” and said the commission should take further action, including imposing long-term limits on Facebook’s collection and use of personal data and levying “accountability measures and penalties” for Facebook executives (as in, CEO Mark Zuckerberg)… (LINK TO STORY)
Episode 45: Political Talk with Houston Chronicle Metro Reporter Erica Grieder
On today's BG Podcast Houston Chronicle Metro Reporter Erica Grieder discusses Texas and National politics, including the current legislative session and 2020 elections, with Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham.