BG Reads | News You Need to Know (January 28, 2019)



Club owners, developers’ input sought for agent of change survey (Austin Monitor)

The city’s Music and Entertainment division is pushing for more music and entertainment venue operators and members of the local development community to take a survey that will play a major role in shaping the long-brewing “agent of change” ordinance governing noise issues near entertainment districts.

The city’s call for more survey participation comes after an initial look at early responses showed nearly 80 percent of the completed surveys came from residents and neighborhood stakeholders, with only 18 percent from venue owners or operators and 2 percent from the development community.

The comprehensive survey, which closes Wednesday, asks for opinions on a variety of issues related to friction between venues and nearby hotels and residences, including requirements for new businesses, enforcement of the city’s noise ordinance, standards for venues, and how to help existing and new businesses mitigate sound…

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See also: Amplified Sound Compatibility Proposed Solutions Survey

Texas Supreme Court Affirms Greg Casar's 2014 Austin City Council Election (KUT)

More than four years after his first election, Austin City Council Member Greg Casar can put that race behind him. The Texas Supreme Court today sided with the District 4 council member after his opponent, Laura Pressley, contested his victory in 2014. The court did, however, find her challenge wasn't frivolous. 

Neither Pressley nor Casar garnered enough votes to win the seat outright in November 2014. Casar then defeated Pressley in a runoff by 1,291 votes. Pressley challenged that win in a years-long legal fight that was put to rest by the state's high court Friday.

"I never would have imagined ... that a candidate who lost 65-35 would have gone to such lengths for over four years to keep this lawsuit going," Casar told KUT…

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After years of declines, Cap Metro sees an increase in ridership (Austin Monitor)

After years of declining ridership, Capital Metro’s ridership increased in 2018. The boost comes in a year that saw the transit operator’s largest overhaul of its bus system, known as Cap Remap, which affected more than half its lines.

Overall, Capital Metro’s ridership went up 5.4 percent in December 2018 compared to the previous year, with its largest individual ridership gains on its MetroRapid lines, 801 and 803.

Todd Hemingson, Capital Metro’s executive vice president of planning and development, says ridership increased in the months after Cap Remap’s initial rollout in June.“We’ve, at least initially, reversed what had been a several-year-long trend of decreasing ridership,” he said. “And now we’ve kind of bucked that trend and bent the curve back in a positive direction.”…

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As It Ponders Where To Put A Confederate Plaque, A Texas State Board Faces Backlash For Removing It (KUT)

What started Friday as a public State Preservation Board hearing on where to place a controversial Confederate plaque that was recently removed from the Texas Capitol quickly turned into a heated debate over whether the marker should’ve been taken down in the first place.

Two weeks prior, the board voted unanimously to remove the “Children of the Confederacy Creed” plaque, which falsely states that the Civil War was “not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery,” from its location near the Capitol rotunda.

The board did not determine a final location for the plaque Friday, but unanimously voted in favor of a motion to temporarily store the plaque in the Capitol collection — which consists of artifacts from the Capitol and state history — and allow a 90-day period for public comment on where the plaque should end up…

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National Democrats target 5 Texas GOP congressmen as 2020 cycle begins (Texas Tribune)

National Democrats have five Texas Republican congressmen in their crosshairs as they begin the 2020 election cycle looking to build on their gains here in November.

As part of its first digital ad campaign of the cycle, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting U.S. Reps. Michael McCaul of Austin, Chip Roy of Austin, Pete Olson of Sugar Land, Kenny Marchant of Coppell and John Carter of Round Rock. They are among 25 GOP House members across the country included in the ad offensive, which the DCCC announced Friday…

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HISD investigation puts state takeover of board on radar (Houston Chronicle)

The threat of state takeover has loomed over Houston ISD for months, largely due to chronically low-rated schools and mounting frustration with its much-criticized school board. Now, another factor could give state leaders more reason to pull the trigger: a new investigation into potential violations of open meetings laws by five trustees last year.

It’s far too soon to tell whether state investigators will dig up any dirt on the five board members, but the fallout from the disclosure of the investigation is leading to speculation about what sanctions could befall the state’s largest school district. The worst-case scenario for those who want HISD to remain under local control: investigators find extensive wrongdoing that provides cover for Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration to wrest jurisdiction over the board…

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Online critics on Glassdoor can stay anonymous, Texas Supreme Court says (Austin American-Statesman)

With no lawsuit possible because there is a two-year statute of limitations on business disparagement claims and a one-year limit on libel, the court said it could not rule on the meatier issues, including possible limits on free speech rights in the digital age.

The unanimous ruling did clarify the court’s thinking on what qualifies as a publication date on the internet, particularly for information that can be accessed years later by a single click of the mouse.

Just like mass publications, the statute of limitations for online posts generally begins running on the date the information becomes available to the public, Justice Debra Lehrmann wrote for the court.

Lehrmann acknowledged that the court heard from advocates who argued that potentially defamatory claims should have a more loosely defined publication date if the information is not available to the general public or difficult to find via common search engines.

“We need not address this concern here, as Andra highlights Glassdoor’s ‘high number of visitors and visibility to the general public,’” Lehrmann noted…

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Trump signs bill to open the government, ending the longest shutdown in history (Texas Tribune)

President Trump on Friday agreed to temporarily reopen the federal government without getting any new money for his U.S.-Mexico border wall, retreating from the central promise of his presidency, for now, in the face of intense public anger.

The president’s humbling concession to the new realities of divided government brought the nation’s longest government shutdown to an end on its 35th day. It was a major victory for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, who took charge of a new House Democratic majority just three weeks ago and kept her large caucus unified throughout the standoff.

“Our diversity is our strength,” Pelosi told reporters after the agreement was reached. “But our unity is our power. And that is what maybe the president underestimated.”…

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Gavin Newsom takes wealthy Southern California city to court over its lack of housing (Sacramento Bee)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is giving teeth to his efforts to build more housing in California by suing a city that he argues isn’t allowing enough low-income housing, as required by state law.

Newsom announced that Attorney General Xavier Becerra is suing Huntington Beach, a coastal city in Orange County, to compel it to support construction of more affordable apartments and houses.

California law requires communities to plan for housing at all income levels. If the state finds those plans won’t allow for enough housing, communities are required to revise them…

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Episode 31: TX Lege Talk with James Hines, SVP of Government Affairs, Texas Association of Business

(RUN TIME - 1848)

Today's podcast was originally recorded on January 8, 2019, the first day of the 86th Texas Legislative Session.

The show features a discussion with returning guest James Hines, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs & In-House Counsel, Texas Association of Business (TAB). James and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham talked TAB’s legislative priorities around economic development and public education, to name a few.

The TAB is Texas's largest business association, representing over 2, 800 businesses, from major corporations to small start-ups. Combined those businesses employ over 2.5 million Texans and drive the economic engine of the state. The association influences policy development and drives legislative decisions in Texas and Washington, D.C. advocating for members’ bottom line.

Note: We recorded in TAB’s new headquarters where minor construction was going on (pardon the light background noise).

Link to Episode 31

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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