BG Reads | News You Need to Know (December 14, 2018)



Tourism Commission pushes for broader use of hotel tax dollars (Austin Monitor)

Austin’s Tourism Commission wants to see the city push for more latitude in how to spend local hotel occupancy tax dollars, with an eye toward next year’s session of the state Legislature.

At Monday’s meeting, the commission approved a recommendation for City Council to amend the city’s legislative agenda for the 2019 session to advocate for bills that could allow HOT funds to be used for programs related to services for the homeless, live music, arts and watershed preservation.

The amendment from Commissioner Michael Searle would also make it a priority for the city to collaborate with other major metro areas in the state with large tourism industries on legislation that would expand the possible uses of local hotel tax funds.

In October, City Council passed its official legislative agenda for the 2019 session, with dozens of priorities under broad categories such as public infrastructure, tax reform, education and governmental transparency…

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Council hopes to reduce car use with two initiatives (Austin Monitor)

At its last meeting of the year Thursday, City Council approved two measures aimed at encouraging people to get out of their cars.

One item, crafted by Council Member Delia Garza, instructs the city manager to put together a working group to consider a pilot program “that would address shifting modes of transportation by incentivizing transit use.”

Garza’s resolution suggests two potential incentives for transit ridership. One would provide discounts on city services and fees for those who can prove they have used transit 15 days in a month. Another would set up a program offering discounts at local businesses for those with Capital Metro transit passes.

The resolution also called on city staff to identify funds to support the incentive programs…

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Lawsuit Challenging Austin's Move To Rename Manchaca Road Is Heading To Trial (KUT)

A lawsuit challenging the City of Austin's decision to rename Manchaca Road will go to trial. 

The suit, brought by the group Leave Manchaca Alone, alleges the city didn't properly inform residents and businesses ahead of an Austin City Council vote to change the street's name to Menchaca. It also argues changing the name would be burdensome for businesses along the 8-mile South Austin road.

Judge Dustin M. Howell ruled today that the plaintiffs have enough evidence to go to trial and granted a temporary injunction that stops the city from changing street signs while the case is being heard. A date for the trial has yet to be set…

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Tech firms helped knock down Texas' bathroom bill. Is Apple's $1B campus the fatal blow? (Dallas Morning News)

Big businesses helped kill the Texas bathroom bill two years ago, targeting it as discriminatory and unnecessary. They said the legislation, which would have required Texans to use the restrooms that match their sex at birth, would have hampered efforts to woo new companies to the state and turned off convention planners and sports leagues looking at venues for events.

Now, some companies are doubling down on that commitment, citing diversity and inclusivity as factors in their decisions. Apple made this clear Thursday, when it announced a $1 billion investment in the capital city. The bathroom bill, or something like it, may be back when state lawmakers meet in 2019. But opponents of these restroom regulations say the business community will again give them the ammunition they need to shoot down such divisive legislation. "These kinds of relocation or expansion announcements certainly provide an additional argument as to why it was good that we did not pass a bathroom bill two years ago," Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, said Thursday. "If we want to keep these kinds of good news stories coming, we need to make sure we don't enact these kind of discriminatory laws." On Thursday, Apple announced it would invest $1 billion to build a new campus in Austin. At a news conference with Gov. Greg Abbott and Austin Mayor Steve Adler, a company executive lauded the city for its inclusive culture.”…

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'Leaning heavily' toward running for mayor again, King files campaign paperwork for Houston mayoral race (Houston Chronicle)

Bill King, a Houston businessman who narrowly lost his bid for mayor in 2015, filed paperwork with the city secretary Wednesday marking his likely intent to challenge Mayor Sylvester Turner again in 2019.

King lost to Turner, then a state representative, in a runoff decided by about 4,000 votes, or 1.9 percentage points, out of more than 212,000 ballots cast. Though King's filing of a campaign treasurer's report does not lock in his candidacy, he said in an interview that he is "leaning heavily" toward running. "I've been watching City Hall for 40 years, and this is the most corrupt administration I've seen," King said. For now, King said he plans to conduct some polling — the reason he filed a treasurer's report — and likely will make a formal decision in the next 60 days. Houston's municipal elections will not take place until November 2019, with possible runoff elections occurring the following month. Asked after Wednesday's council meeting about King's filing, Turner replied, "Next question." Regardless of whether King runs, the issue of compensation for Houston firefighters is likely to become a dominant issue in the race, particularly because the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association supported Turner in the 2015 election. The mayor and fire union have since disagreed vehemently over the issue of pay "parity" between firefighters and police officers, as well as the handling of the firefighters' pension benefits. Turner successfully pushed pension cuts through the Legislature to resolve a multi-billion-dollar pension crisis…

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Analysis: A potential Texas shootout inside the 2020 presidential race (Texas Tribune)

The 2018 elections in Texas had a decidedly national flavor, led by the battle for the U.S. Senate between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke. But the 2020 presidential race, which is already underway, has a decidedly Texas tang.

With one of their own in the White House, Texas Republicans are keeping their heads down. But two of the many, many Democrats flirting with the race are from Texas, adding an I-10 primary to the national one.

The presidential race could force Texas Democrats to choose between two of their brightest rising stars, in El Paso’s O’Rourke, 46, and San Antonio’s Julián Castro, 44…

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Appeals court tosses Texas’ pre-emptive lawsuit over ‘sanctuary cities’ law (Houston Chronicle)

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday dumped Texas’s odd attempt to prove in court the constitutionality of a 2017 anti-sanctuary cities law before it went into effect, ruling Attorney General Ken Paxton’s case was “unconvincing.”

Paxton filed the lawsuit hours after Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4 in an attempt to keep critics of the controversial law at bay. Not only did passage of the law draw protests to the state capitol, but Paxton anticipated officials in Austin and San Antonio and other opponents would sue the state, which they later did. A district court found portions of the law unconstitutional, although the 5th Circuit later upheld most of the law on appeal. Paxton’s attempt to pre-emptively head off legal challenges was not as successful. A three-judge panel in New Orleans affirmed a ruling by a federal district court in 2017 that Texas lacked standing to sue before the law had gone into effect. To rule beforehand would “open a Pandora’s box to invite every local government to seek a court’s judicial blessing” before a law takes effect, the judges found. SB 4 bars city and state officials from refusing to cooperate with federal requests to detain immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally. The law also allows law enforcement to ask about an individual’s legal status during routine stops. The law has spurred a flurry of lawsuits, including one Paxton filed against San Antonio last month over the police chief’s decision to release a dozen people suspected of being in the country illegally. They were riding in the back of a tractor-trailer that had broken down, and had been driven up from Laredo after crossing the border, according to police…

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After $84K Farenthold settlement, Congress makes lawmakers foot sexual harassment bills (Houston Chronicle)

Less than a year after Corpus Christi Republican Blake Farenthold left Congress behind with an $84,000 settlement for sexual harassment, the House and Senate have agreed to make lawmakers pay their own misconduct judgments.

The legislation, which the House and Senate each passed unanimously on Thursday, caps a year of acrimonious debate over how to handle sexual harassment claims on Capitol Hill. Under the terms of a bipartisan deal reached this week, members of the House and Senate would assume financial liability for settlements and judgments stemming from sexual harassment complaints. Historically, taxpayers have picked up the tab. The issue came to a head last April when Farenthold, a four-term congressman, resigned amid an Ethics Committee investigation into allegations of improper conduct by at least three former staffers. That followed revelations that Congress had already covered an $84,000 settlement reached in a 2014 harassment suit brought by Lauren Greene, his former communications director. The payment came to light last December only after House administrators, under pressure in the early months of the #MeToo era, agreed to release summary data on payouts involving Capitol Hill offices. Farenthold became one of a half-dozen members of Congress to step down in the past year amid allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment…

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BG Podcast - Episode 26: Law Enforcement Responses to Mental Health

Episode 26 t features a conversation with Dr. Elizabeth Truong, MD. She is the co-Founder & Chief Clinical Officer at Cloud 9, a telehealth platform for mental healthcare.

Dr. Troung and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss the City of Austin’s September 2018 police department audit, which found the city had one of the highest rates of fatal police shootings of people suffering from mental health issues nationally.

The two also discuss how municipalities can better approach police interactions involving mental health and Cloud9’s technology solution to assist them.

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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