BG Reads | News You Need to Know (May 31, 2019)



Episode 48 - Policy Update on Palm School and the Austin Convention Center

On this episode, Bingham Group Senior Consultant Paul Saldaña updates on discussions around Austin’s Palm School.

Significantly, at its 5/23 meeting the Austin City Council unanimously voted a resolution directing city staff to begin extensive study of information related to preserving the Palm School. Also included there were directions to study the expansion of the Austin Convention Center (itself a point of contention on the dais).



Mayor Adler on how the 86th Legislature will affect Austin (Austin Chronicle)

In the wake of sine die, Mayor Steve Adler offered the Chronicle a few comments about the 86th Legislative session, and most specifically its likely effects on Austin and other Texas cities. Overall – it’s not a pretty prospect.

Like many observers, Adler shared mixed thoughts on the just-concluded Legislative session. “I’m obviously concerned about the revenue caps,” he said, referring to the 3.5% cap to be imposed on local property tax increases (without a public referendum). He praised the increases in public school funding – “although it’s not clear how they intend to pay for it, long term” – and said he was pleased that “we weren’t preempted on fair-chance hiring and sick leave” for local workers… (LINK TO STORY)

Audit finds city has ‘poor’ leasing practices (Austin Monitor)

An analysis of the city’s leasing practices has called for widespread changes in coordination and oversight across city departments, after pointing out a number of inefficiencies and lost revenue that could cost $75 million over the next 30 years.

The city auditor’s office has found that the city “does not use a strategic approach to make decisions about City leases or meet department space needs” and in many cases the Office of Real Estate Services was not involved in the execution of current lease agreements.

The audit’s three main findings were that the city lacks central oversight of leasing processes and doesn’t have a strategic approach for meeting space needs; that the lack of process prevents leases from always meeting the city’s best interests; and that a lack of oversight on leases of city property to tenants likely results in financial loss for the city… (LINK TO STORY)

Details of Red River Street relocation emerging as Brackenridge campus redevelopment continues to progress (Community Impact)

The prospect of the city of Austin and Central Health relocating a portion of Red River Street is looking more likely as the health care district looks to redevelop the University Medical Center Brackenridge hospital campus property.

Austin and Central Health are negotiating terms and duties in an interlocal agreement that would see Central Health foot the bill for the design and construction of Red River Street’s relocation from 13th Street to 15th Street.

The city of Austin would additionally reimburse Central Health for incurred costs for the new Red River Street construction from 12th Street to 13th Street.

The Central Health board of managers voted May 29 to authorize Central Health President and CEO Mike Geeslin to negotiate and execute the terms of the interlocal agreement with the city of Austin… (LINK TO STORY)


Bills To Create Hemp Program, Expand Medical Marijuana Access In Texas Await Governor's Signature (KUT)

Sixty-three bills related to marijuana or hemp were filed at the beginning of the 86th Texas legislative session in January. Four measures passed out of the House, including bills that would establish a hemp market in Texas, reduce penalties for low-level marijuana possession and expand the list of Texans who can access medical marijuana.

At the end of the session, two marijuana-related bills are set to become law in Texas – unless the governor decides to veto them… (LINK TO STORY)

Texas Lawmakers Tried To Take The Reins From Cities This Session. The Results Were Mixed. (KUT)

For the last handful of legislative sessions, the Texas Legislature has had it in for Austin and other cities.

GOP lawmakers who regularly thumb their noses at "big government"-minded efforts in D.C. have filed bills targeting city laws regulating everything from plastic bag usage to how residents preserve trees, arguing city laws in Austin create a so-called patchwork of onerous regulations.

This legislative session was no different, but state lawmakers didn't get everything they wanted… (LINK TO STORY)

'Safety is at risk': Future of Texas plumbers' licensing and regulation uncertain after legislative (Texas Tribune)

Plumbers in Texas will no longer be subject to state regulations after lawmakers this week flushed the state plumbing code and the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners, a state agency that employed dozens and generated $5.2 million in revenue in 2017.

Soon, anyone can call themselves a plumber without completing the agency-required education and tests, said Roger Wakefield, master plumber and owner of Texas Green Plumbing in Richardson. Wakefield, who has been a plumber for 40 years, said the industry is now "completely unregulated," and will lead to more unqualified workers entering the workforce. "We're going to put the safety of the homeowners and the public of Texas in jeopardy," he said. "Plumbers install medical gas, they install the potable drinking water that we have every day. If they're not doing it right, people's safety is at risk."… (LINK TO STORY)


Ted Cruz and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez agree to partner up on legislation (Texas Tribune)

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz committed on Thursday to partner up with his political opposite, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to move legislation that would ban members of Congress from becoming corporate lobbyists after they leave public life.

The coming together played out over Twitter. Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, tweeted Thursday afternoon a statistic from Public Citizen, an ethics watchdog founded by Ralph Nader, stating that nearly 60 percent of members of Congress eventually go on to lobbying careers… (LINK TO STORY)

Trump Announces New Tariffs On Mexico To Force Cooperation On Illegal Immigration (NPR)

President Trump announced that he will begin imposing tariffs on all goods imported from Mexico beginning June 10 unless that country does more to help reduce illegal immigration from Central America.

In a statement issued late Thursday, the president cited his authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and said the crisis at the southern border requires action… (LINK TO STORY)

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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