BG Reads | News You Need to Know (January 18, 2019)
Travis County court says Austin must allow guns in its city hall, siding with Ken Paxton (Texas Tribune)
A Travis County district court ruled Thursday that Austin violated the state's open carry law by barring residents from bringing firearms into its city hall — a blow to Austin officials who have long argued that the ban was admissible under the law's "government court" exception.
At issue is whether certain government agencies are exempt from the state's open carry law, passed in 2015, which allows Texans with a license to openly tote their handguns in a hip or shoulder holster. The law has an exemption prohibiting firearms "on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court," unless a written regulation or the individual court authorizes it…
Austin Housing Market Strong But Slowing As Income And Home Prices Diverge, Expert Says (KUT)
Austin shouldn’t expect the housing market gains it has seen in the past couple of years.
That was the prevailing sentiment delivered by Eldon Rude, principal with 360 Real Estate Analytics, at the Homebuilders Association of Austin’s annual housing forecast today. Developers joined elected officials and local government staff to eat breakfast and hear about what to expect in 2019.
First: Rude doesn’t expect the number of homes built in Central Texas to exceed the number in 2018 when 16,500 new houses were permitted.
“We’ll probably be flat at best for 2019,” he said. “That said, that’s a lot of houses.”
Rude blamed, in part, the city’s growing gap between income and home prices…
Austin Transportation Department brakes on issuing licenses to dockless mobility companies (Community Impact)
The Austin Transportation Department announced Jan. 17 it has paused issuing new licenses to dockless mobility operators while city staff assesses the demand for the dockless mobility vehicles—electric bikes and scooters—already available.
“The goal is to help ensure that companies are able to continue providing a safe, reliable, convenient transportation option for residents, while safeguarding mobility,” the department wrote in a news release.
The city began issuing licenses to operators in April after Lime and Bird launched in Austin without prior approval.
Operators then also have to apply for permits for individual vehicles. So far, the city has issued 17,650 permits, the majority of which belong to electric scooters…
Austin Energy tries to encourage Austinites to buy electric cars (KUT)
Last week, the city of Austin was awarded a coveted $2.5 million grant from a foundation funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to pursue a number of environmental initiatives focused on energy efficiency and green transportation.
While the Transportation Department will be using part of the grant to zero in on getting people out of their cars, Austin Energy is leading an effort to get the vast majority of Austinites who do drive to opt for electric vehicles.
At a Monday meeting of the Electric Utility Commission, Austin Energy staff and members of the commission discussed the challenge of getting drivers to go electric. One of the big problems: car dealerships…
Will Texas' attempt to shake up school finance lead to higher stakes for standardized tests?(Texas Tribune)
Top Texas lawmakers this year are proposing allocating billions of more dollars for public schools, but a portion of those dollars will likely have strings attached. And some education advocates worry the strings will lead to an even greater emphasis being placed on standardized tests in the state.
In various appearances at press conferences and speeches in Austin last week, the state's top Republican leaders signaled their support for giving more money to school districts that show higher performance or agree to offer specific programs such as merit pay for teachers. One of their main messages: Schools do need more money, but they have to show they know how to use it wisely…
Texas unions, emboldened by GOP setbacks in midterms, press aggressive agenda (Dallas Morning News)
Union leaders in Texas are mounting an offensive at the Legislature this year on a broader array of topics than just raising the minimum wage. Inspired by Democratic pickups in November and what they describe as voter fatigue over the culture wars, leaders of the Texas AFL-CIO on Thursday unveiled a "Fair Shot" agenda.
It asks state lawmakers to give teachers and state workers raises and help secure their pensions; broaden eligibility for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program; fully fund "neighborhood public schools;" oppose private-school vouchers; and expand access to union apprenticeships that can lead to high-wage jobs. The labor federation, though, also is sounding some new notes…
Trump hits back at Pelosi, threatening her trip to see troops (New York Times)
President Trump retaliated on Thursday against Speaker Nancy Pelosi for threatening to cancel his planned State of the Union address, announcing that he, in turn, was postponing an overseas trip she had planned with a congressional delegation that he described as a “public relations event.”
“I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan has been postponed,” Mr. Trump wrote in a letter addressed to Ms. Pelosi. “We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the shutdown is over.” Again citing the shutdown, the president also said Thursday that the American delegation would no longer attend the annual economic conference in Davos, Switzerland…
(RUN TIME - 27:30)
Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan (D6).
Sworn in on January 6, 2017 to a four year term, Council Member Flannigan represents Austin's Council District 6, encompassing Northwest Austin, including both Travis and Williamson Counties.
The Council Member and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss the impact new faces on the Council dais will mean, as well as 2019 policy predictions.
This episode was originally recorded on January 2, 2019.