BG Reads | News You Need to Know (December 17, 2018)
Why parking a scooter at the Capitol is a bad idea (Austin American-Statesman)
When politicos from around Texas descend on Austin for the Jan. 8 start of the regular session of the Legislature, there is no doubt some of them might be tempted to hop on one of the rental dockless scooters now scattered around the city for their commute to the Capitol.
But for anyone riding a scooter, lawmakers included, parking a dockless means of mobility on Capitol grounds can lead to a hefty fine. Dockless scooters and bikes, which have flooded Austin’s urban core over the past year, are banned on Capitol grounds, and any that are left on the property are impounded by Capitol grounds crews, said Chris Currens, director of special projects for the State Preservation Board, which operates the Capitol. To date, about 130 scooters have been picked up and returned to scooter companies, Currens said. Before Sept. 22, they were returned free of charge, but now, the State Preservation Board charges companies $150 per scooter. Only 23 scooters have been impounded and returned for a fine. The scooters are impounded under a state statute that prohibits the use of Capitol grounds for the “commercial benefit of any individual, business, corporation, special interest group or other entity.” Preservation Board officials say the rental scooters and bikes meet that definition. “…
Action ramps up in appraisal district suit (Austin Monitor)
Action continues to ramp up in the battle between the Travis Central Appraisal District and firms representing property owners seeking hearings to lower the appraised value of their properties.
Last month, Texas ProTax Austin, Five Stone Tax Advisors, 46 commercial property owners and 113 residential property owners filed suit against the Travis appraisal review board and chief appraiser Marya Crigler.
In response, Crigler filed a motion seeking dismissal of the suit, claiming that the ProTax suit was a SLAPP, or strategic lawsuit against public participation. The motion contends that the plaintiffs are inhibiting Crigler’s right to free speech.
One of the immediate effects of such a legal filing is to stop all discovery, so the plaintiffs may not get records or depose Crigler or others involved in the case. Attorney Bill Aleshire will argue in court next week that discovery should proceed. He said a hearing is scheduled for Thursday on his motion to compel the Travis appraisal review board to provide documents for litigation…
Austin boil-water notice caused ‘crazy’ jump in recycled trash, officials say (Austin American-Statesman)
Once Austin warned its residents on Oct. 22 to boil their tap water before drinking it, it didn’t take long for panicked shoppers to clear out grocery store shelves of plastic water bottles and jugs.
The city — whose treatment plants had been overwhelmed by silt-heavy floodwaters — ended up handing out 625,608 gallons of bottled water over a four-day period.
But when the boil notice was lifted Oct. 28, work at Austin Resource Recovery was just beginning.
The amount of plastic recycled in the three weeks following the boil water crisis was “just crazy,” said Ron Romero, division manager for operations at Austin Resource Recovery. Recyclables collected in October increased 8.7 percent from the previous year, data from the center shows, and recyclables hauled in November jumped 5 percent from the previous year.
A total of 5,228 tons of recycling were picked up in October, up from the 4,808 tons collected in the same month last year. In November, collectors picked up 5,164 tons of recyclables, an increase from 4,917 tons in 2017…
In pursuit of new Austin campus, Apple took the un-Amazon path (Austin American-Statesman)
Fifteen months ago, online retailer Amazon set off the biggest economic development competition in U.S. history, igniting a media firestorm when it opened public bidding for its $5 billion second headquarters project, dubbed HQ2.
Amazon invited every North American city to submit a proposal, and in January the company — in almost reality TV-style fashion — chopped the list of contenders to 20 finalists. Four months after Amazon kicked off the HQ2 bidding war, executives at Apple Inc. started the process of picking a site for a new major corporate campus. But they approached it much differently. Instead of the frenzy Amazon had set off, Apple simply wrote in a blog that it would create 20,000 jobs over the next five years, including at a new corporate branch, before quietly moving into its selection process and saying little else about its intentions until this week. Apple revealed Thursday that it will build a $1 billion hub in North Austin that will initially employ 5,000 people but could eventually house up to 15,000 workers. While the campus will be smaller than Amazon’s HQ2, it will still be Apple’s biggest corporate location outside of its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Apple, which already employs about 7,000 people in Austin, is in line to receive $25 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund, along with millions of dollars’ worth of tax abatements from Williamson County. As was the case with the metro area’s pitch for Amazon’s HQ2, the city of Austin did not offer any financial incentives to Apple. Despite the stunningly different ways the two corporate giants approached their deal-making and site selection process, both sets of tactics worked for each company in the end…
Texas marijuana advocates set sights on 2019 legislative session (Austin American-Statesman)
Texas is poised for historic action in 2019 to ease some marijuana prohibitions and join a national cannabis legalization movement that, to varying degrees, has already swept up all four of its border states. Or maybe not.
Cannabis proponents in Texas see the potential for big wins once the Legislature convenes in January — particularly in the areas of medical marijuana and decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot — based on mounting evidence that the issues have gained bipartisan traction. But resistance still runs deep among some law enforcement officials and social conservatives. “It’s certainly not a slam dunk or something we are expecting to be easy — but I do think 2019 is the year,” said Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, a pro-cannabis advocacy group. “We have the wind at our backs, and I’m very optimistic about the bipartisan support and the growing public sentiment in wanting to see this change.” More than a dozen cannabis-related bills have been filed in advance of the legislative session, including proposals to make marijuana for medical purposes available to more Texans at greater potency, to decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot and to allow farmers in the state to grow and market hemp — marijuana’s nonpsychoactive cousin — as an agricultural product to the extent allowed under federal law. The effort surrounding medical marijuana would build on the state’s lone foray into legalization, the Compassionate Use Act that was approved by Texas lawmakers in 2015. It allows people suffering from a rare form of epilepsy to legally buy medical cannabis in Texas, although only two of the three dispensaries that have been licensed under the law are operational, and their products can contain no more than tiny amounts of the chemical in marijuana that induces a high…
State Rep. Joe Pickett to resign from Texas House after nearly 24 years in office
State Rep. Joe Pickett of El Paso will leave his post effective Jan. 4.
Pickett, a Democrat, made the announcement Saturday morning that he will step down after having served in the Texas House since 1995. He said in a statement that he learned he had cancer just before the start of the 2017 legislative session and has since sought treatment for it.
“In the last few weeks, I have learned of additional issues I must address,” Pickett said in a statement. “I could probably continue at a reduced work level while undergoing treatment, but I have been there and done that. I need to completely heal this time. I am told I am physically strong enough to hopefully make my recovery quicker than most. My body and mind need a break.”…
Beto O'Rourke says Julián Castro's likely 2020 presidential bid won't affect his own plans (Texas Tribune)
U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke said Friday that his political future won't be dictated by fellow Texas Democrat Julián Castro's decision to seriously consider a run for the White House.
“I think it’s something positive for the United States that he can offer and share ideas,” O’Rourke said of Castro, the former San Antonio mayor who also served as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama.
Castro has said he is likely to run for president, and announced Wednesday that he has formed an exploratory committee to consider a bid. He will make an announcement about his decision Jan. 12.
O’Rourke lauded Castro’s service to Texas and the country and said he was proud of the former mayor…
White House prepares for shutdown as GOP lawmakers struggle for an alternative (Washington Post)
The White House and a number of federal agencies have started advanced preparations for a partial government shutdown, as President Trump and congressional Democrats appear unlikely to resolve their fight over a border wall before some government funding lapses at week’s end.
GOP leaders are scrambling to find a short-term alternative that could stave off a shutdown, which would start on Dec. 22 absent a deal. But White House officials signaled to lawmakers Friday that they would probably not support a one- or two-week stopgap measure. Some congressional Republicans support such a “continuing resolution,” but the White House rejection has dramatically increased the odds of a spending lapse. “We could be headed down the road to nowhere,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.). “We’ll have a [continuing resolution] rather than a shutdown, I hope.”…
Federal Judge In Texas Declares Obamacare Law Unconstitutional (KUT)
A federal judge in Fort Worth has ruled the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, in a lawsuit filed by 18 Republican state attorneys general and two Republican governors.
The ruling comes a day before the end of the annual open enrollment period for insurance plans on the individual marketplace. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees the federal marketplace, said in a tweet that open enrollment will not be affected by the ruling.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led the lawsuit, has argued that the entire law should be struck down after Congress zeroed out the tax penalty for the individual mandate – the part of the law that requires people to buy health insurance – in 2017…
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…