BG Reads| News You Need to Know (November 16, 2018)



Austin City Council Orders Postmortem On Water-Boil Mandate (KUT)

Austinites may soon be getting more information on why they had to boil their tap water last month.

The Austin City Council on Thursday ordered the City Manager’s Office to provide a report by Dec. 11 on the water-boil and conservation mandates.

District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair presented the resolution. She said she wants to know whether there are technologies that could have filtered the silty floodwater that so vexed Austin’s treatment plants, and how long Austin Water knew water supplies were dwindling before it issued the boil mandate on Oct. 22…

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Minimum lot sizes: A roadblock for affordable housing? (Austin Monitor)

Last week, Austin voters approved a record-busting $250 million for affordable housing, but a discussion during Thursday’s City Council meeting showed that building new housing isn’t simply a matter of having enough money.

At issue is a small piece of vacant land that the city owns at 3000 Funston St., just east of MoPac Expressway in the Bryker Woods neighborhood.

“We purchased the property back in 1970 as part of a MoPac expansion project– our files don’t actually talk about what the exact use of the property was for but that it was purchased with street and bridge funds for the purpose of the expansion project,” explained Alex Gale of the city real estate office, in an email to the Austin Monitor.

On Thursday, Council was asked to approve the transfer of the 4,250-square-foot lot to the Austin Housing Finance Corporation for the purpose of developing it into affordable housing (Council unanimously approved the transfer of property)…

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Samsung says it will invest $291 million in Austin operations (Austin American-Statesman)

Samsung Austin Semiconductor says it plans to invest $291 million and retain 500 jobs in Central Texas after the Austin City Council cleared the way Thursday for the tech giant to receive state tax breaks in exchange for the new investment.

The Austin City Council approved a resolution designating the company as an enterprise zone project under the Texas Enterprise Zone designation, which would allow Samsung to get a refund on its state sales and use tax. The Governor’s Office of the Economic Development and Tourism has the final say on the designation. For Samsung, the maximum possible refund from the state would be $1.25 million. The designation would not include any tax breaks from the city. Samsung previously received enterprise zone designation in 2016, when it agreed to invest $1 billion in its Austin chip manufacturing facility, adding as many as 500 engineering and manufacturing jobs. The company also received the designation in 2012.

“We’re very excited to have the City Council support it again for a third time,” Samsung spokeswoman Michele Glaze said. “We believe that we’re a vital part of this community.” This time around, Samsung said it anticipates investing $291 million at its Austin facility — $108 million in tools and equipment and $183 million toward facility renovations. “The new equipment of Samsung’s Austin facility will enable Samsung to continue with its wide-ranging products,” the company’s project summary said. No new hires are part of the project, but the company said it will retain 500 employees at the facility, which currently employs 2,952 in North Austin. “We do continue to hire new people,” Glaze said. “We always continue to focus on hiring quality workforce.” The Texas Legislature authorizes 105 state designations every biennium. Austin can designate nine projects for the Enterprise Zone designation every two years…

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Austin’s police union approves its labor contract with the city (Austin Monitor)

Officers with the Austin Police Department are getting a new labor contract.

After nearly a year of negotiations, City Council members unanimously approved a four-year and $44.6 million contract between the city and the local police union. Police reform activists celebrated the contract as a step toward more transparency – including the ability to file complaints online and anonymously.

“I think the product we have today is Austin at its best,” said Mayor Steve Adler.

Council Member Jimmy Flannigan called it “the most forward-thinking contract in the nation.”

The agreement sets out the pay for officers over the next four years. A 1 percent pay raise will go into effect next year, and then tick up by 2 percent every year after that. The department can also now hire officers based on more than simply a written exam – including an oral interview…

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The week after Election Day, some Texas races remain in limbo (Texas Tribune)

Election Day was more than a week ago. But a handful of Texas candidates who lost by roughly 1,000 votes or less have yet to concede — or are already calling for recounts in their own races.

In most cases, trailing candidates are hoping their saving grace will be a mixture of absentee, military and provisional ballots, all of which were due to each respective county by 5 p.m. Tuesday, and are still being counted.

According to the secretary of state’s website, a candidate may request a recount if the difference between the number of votes received by that candidate and the number of votes received by the winning candidate is less than 10 percent…

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wants in on Florida’s recount fight (Houston Chronicle)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton jumped into Florida's messy recount battle Thursday, arguing a federal judge’s ruling on the nation’s most high-profile vote recount is threatening the authority of states to regulate their own elections.

At stake is the “potential to damage the integrity and perceived legitimacy of the election results and the ultimate winner,” argued Paxton and Republican attorneys general from Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana in a friend of the court brief filed Thursday with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott is separated by about 12,600 votes, spurring the recount. Federal district judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee ruled Thursday some 4,000 voters have two days sort out issues with signatures on their mail-in or provisional ballots that differed from signatures state officials had on record. The judge ruled the state improperly addressed irregular signatures by failing to tell voters “immediately” if their signatures were a mismatch. The filing from Paxton and the other attorneys general argue Florida’s election laws require mail-in ballots must be received before the polls close on election day and that mail in-ballots must match the signature on record…

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Straight-ticket voting ends in 2020. For some down-ballot Republicans, that wasn't soon enough. (Texas Tribune)

As Harris County judge, Ed Emmett led the state's biggest county — 4.7 million people — through its most devastating natural disaster. That work won the moderate Republican bipartisan support, even in a county that overwhelmingly went blue in 2016.

But last week, Emmett lost his re-election bid in a close race — the closest in the county. And come January, the incumbent will turn his job over to Democrat Lina Hidalgo, a 27-year-old political newcomer who had never attended a meeting of the commissioners court she will now lead (she has, she said, watched them online). At the top of the ticket, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz lost the county by more than 200,000 votes; Emmett’s race — midway down the longest ballot in the country — was decided by a margin of about 19,000 votes…

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Waymo to Start First Driverless Car Service Next Month (Bloomberg)

In just a few weeks, humanity may take its first paid ride into the age of driverless cars. 

Waymo, the secretive subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., is planning to launch the world’s first commercial driverless car service in early December, according to a person familiar with the plans. It will operate under a new brand and compete directly with Uber and Lyft. 

Waymo is keeping the new name a closely guarded secret until the formal announcement, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the plans haven’t been made public… 

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Texas Democrat is a leader in the anti-Pelosi movement (Austin American-Statesman)

U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has been basking in the election victories that will propel her party to majority status in January, but an activist group within her own caucus is plotting to prevent her elevation to House speaker — and one of the ringleaders is a Texan.

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, is working with other House members and members-elect to prevent Pelosi from becoming speaker when the 116th Congress convenes in January. “I’m 100 percent confident that we have the votes to keep her from getting 218 votes on the House floor,” Vela told the American-Statesman on Thursday. In a letter to Democratic colleagues, Vela and 16 other members and members-elect say they are hard “no” votes against Pelosi as House speaker, according to a Democratic aide to one of the members who has seen the letter but is not authorized to speak about it. The dissident members, who include Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Tim Ryan of Ohio, are part of the party’s younger generation who have complained that Pelosi, 78, and assistant minority leader Steny Hoyer, 79, have led the party for more than 15 years. Pelosi dismissed the challenge, saying she expects to return as speaker, a position she held from 2007-11, the last time Democrats held the majority of seats in the House. “I intend to win the speakership with Democratic votes. I have overwhelming support in my caucus to be speaker of the House,” she told reporters Thursday. The new speaker will be elected by the entire House, Democrats and Republicans, when the new Congress convenes in January. Members typically support their party’s nominee, although there are often dissident votes. Democrats will hold at least 230 of the 435 seats in the next House, with a half-dozen races yet to be determined, according to the nonpartisan Pelosi will need 218 votes to be elected speaker, and she has been working to shore up her support among Democrats, making calls and getting party donors and activists to provide testimonials, ahead of leadership votes that will be taken when the caucus meets Nov. 28 and 29. Thirteen of the House Democrats will be from Texas, with the race pitting U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, against Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones still in dispute. Hurd is leading by 1,150 votes in the unofficial count and has declared victory, but his opponent has refused to concede…

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BG Podcast - Episode 23: Policy Update - Austin's Chapter 380 Economic Incentive Agreements

Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with returning guest David A. Colligan, Acting Assistant Director Economic Development Department, City of Austin.

A follow-up to Episode 12, David and Bingham Group CEO discuss the Austin City Council’s passage of a framework for a restructuring the city’s economic incentives programs (on August 30, 2018) with the goal of increasing small business growth and improving job opportunities for lower-wage and middle-skill workers.

See also: BG Podcast - Episode 12: Policy Discussion RE Austin's Chapter 380 Economic Incentive Agreements

Links: Council approves plan to revamp incentives, with small businesses in mind (Austin Monitor)

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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