BG Reads| News You Need to Know (November 19, 2018)



State appeals court says Austin's paid sick leave ordinance is unconstitutional (Texas Tribune)

The Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals declared Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance unconstitutional Friday morning, saying the ordinance is preempted by the state's minimum wage law.

In a 24-page opinion, a three-judge panel ordered a district court judge who originally heard the case to issue a temporary injunction against the ordinance. The judges also remanded the case back to the district court "for further proceedings consistent with [the appeals court's] opinion."

Passed by the Austin City Council in February, the ordinance is the first of its kind in Texas. It requires most employers to offer eight days of earned sick leave for a year of work, or six days for employees of businesses with fewer than 15 employees. A number of powerful business-aligned groups sued over the ordinance. In August, the state joined the business groups in requesting a temporary injunction against the ordinance and also requested a permanent injunction on the grounds that it violated the Texas Minimum Wage Act.

The ordinance was originally scheduled to take effect Oct. 1, but it was temporarily blocked by the appeals court in August as judges heard arguments…

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See aslo:

BG Podcast - Episode 20: Talking Local Control and Paid Sick Leave with State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio)

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

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

With $12M for creative spaces, arts/music group starts shaping allocation process (Austin Monitor)

With $12 million for acquisition of creative space approved by voters earlier this month, members of the city’s music and arts commissions will spend the rest of November generating ideas for how to best use the money for saving and adding arts spaces all over the city.

A working group made up of members of both commissions is working to convene for the first time following the passage on Nov. 6 of Proposition B, a city ballot question that provided $128 million to local cultural centers and libraries, including $12 million for space acquisition and improvements.

The bond proposal didn’t prescribe a process for how to allocate that money, which was included as an attempt to give some financial cover to financially distressed arts spaces facing higher rents as property values across the city continue to increase. That means the recommendations of the working group will be the first step in establishing the process for how local arts and music-related groups can apply for and receive some of the funding…

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A ‘dire need’ for student housing convinces Board of Adjustment to approve variance (Austin Monitor)

This month the Board of Adjustment approved a variance request for a multifamily unit located just behind the Drag, after postponing it in September for being “ugly.”

At its Nov. 8 meeting, the Board of Adjustment reevaluated whether the lot at 2713 Hemphill Park, which is 237 square feet smaller than the required 8,000 square feet for Multifamily Residence-High Density (MF-5) zoning, should be granted a variance for development.

The board members acknowledged the need for more student housing in the area. However, the need did not guarantee enthusiasm for this particular project, which includes street-level parking and a three-story building constructed above.

“There is a dire need for housing,” said Chair William Burkhardt. “It’s not great, but it’s a reasonable request.”…

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Analysis: Texans who barely won in 2018 will be top targets in 2020 (Texas Tribune)

As you meander through the political zoo considering the creatures collected in our latest elections, be sure to take a look at the barelies — the candidates who just barely wriggled into their Election Day victories.

The question for most (but not all) of them is not whether they won. They did. It’s whether their near-failures will temper their behavior in office.

The big changes, of course, are in places where voters flipped from one party to another. They did that in two spots in the state’s congressional delegation, two state Senate seats, a dozen state House seats, and in judicial and county and local races all over the state. That latter group includes many of the state’s most important mid-level appellate courts, county judge and county commissioner spots — particularly in areas where Republican voting strength waned this year…

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Section 8 vouchers are supposed to help the poor reach better neighborhoods. Texas law gets in the way. (Texas Tribune)

One perk of the federal program is that renters can use their vouchers anywhere in the country. Banks told Taylor that if she really wanted to leave her Chicago neighborhood in search of a new beginning, Banks could help her look in Houston. Taylor and her daughter could even stay in Banks’ house during their search.

Houston was a booming city with some attractive offerings: plenty of jobs, racial diversity and comparatively cheap housing. Taylor had few connections there, but the small church community she’d found online was ready to welcome her.

There was just one problem: Thanks to a recent state law, Texas had become one of the least accommodating states for Section 8 voucher-holders.

While states and cities across the U.S. have outlawed discrimination against voucher-holders, Texas is one of just two states that’s done the opposite. In 2015, Texas passed a law that ensured landlords cannot be punished for discriminating against families with vouchers.

The law essentially legalized a long-standing practice among landlords that blocked voucher holders, who are overwhelmingly black and Hispanic, from moving to better neighborhoods…

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Educators, mayor see Amazon's jilting of Dallas as a call to action for tech education (Dallas Morning News)

Mayor Mike Rawlings took some flak this week for saying Amazon jilted Dallas in part because the region lacked educational offerings the behemoth company needed. However, educational leaders in the region viewed Rawlings’ statement not as a rebuke, but as a call to action for North Texas institutions and the state.

“While education has always been top of mind for our community, this idea of workforce development for job creation, corporate relocation or expansion — it’s really accelerated to the very top of the list, in terms of consideration for what we need to do locally,” said Dallas County Community College District Chancellor Joe May. “That’s a huge challenge, but it’s also an opportunity.” Amazon figures to receive billions in incentives to plant offices in the Washington, D.C., and New York City areas, but the company said a key factor in its decision was also those cities’ deep STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — talent pools. An analysis from commercial real estate services firm CBRE showed New York and Washington trailing only California’s Bay Area for the nation’s largest “tech talent” markets. In addition, colleges and universities in and around the New York City and Washington metro areas turned out 12,046 and 10,526 tech graduates, respectively, in 2016. Those ranked No. 1 and 2 in the nation. While Dallas’ growth in awarding similar degrees is rapidly on the rise — growing 82 percent from 2011 to 2016 — the region produced 5,697 tech graduates in 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics…

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Rise of big cities push Texas to swing-state territory — maybe by 2020 (The Hill)

For a quarter-century, Republicans have dominated Texas politics so much that the Democratic minority has often been an afterthought. The big political battles in Austin have been fought between conservative and centrist factions within the GOP, as Democrats watch from the sidelines.

But Democratic gains in this year’s midterm elections on the federal, state and county level show the prospect that Texas will become a swing state — a promise Democrats have made for years — is slowly coming to fruition.

Texas’s evolution illustrates two of the defining inflection points in American politics today: A growing divide between liberal urban cores and conservative rural bastions; and a shift in attitudes of suburban voters turned off by President Trump and his Republican Party…

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Fight for House speaker explodes into national political campaign (Washington Post)

While congressional leadership fights have historically revolved around insular matters such as committee assignments and rules changes, the battle over who will lead the newly empowered House Democrats has exploded into a national political campaign.

At stake is not merely the House speakership, a job second in line to the presidency, but who will emerge as the country’s most high-profile counterpoint to President Trump — who will set the strategy for investigating him, who will lead the opposition to his agenda, and who will be the face of the Democratic Party ahead of the 2020 campaign. The country’s biggest unions, arguing that Pelosi is the best equipped to take on Trump, have lobbied Democrats to back her. Top donors have placed calls to lean on undecided members. Celebrities have weighed in as well, and prominent liberal activists have openly discussed fomenting primary challenges in the next campaign against the leaders of the anti-Pelosi opposition. The battle lines have been drawn around identity, race and gender — issues that dominated this year’s midterm elections…

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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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