BG Reads | News You Need to Know (February 18, 2019)



Affordable housing builders embrace proposal to ease restrictions: 'It will make our lives a lot easier' (Austin Business Journal)

Building affordable housing could soon be an easier feat in Austin.

Affordable housing developers, particularly in the nonprofit sphere, are excited about a proposal to ease city requirements for that type of construction.

The Affordability Unlocked proposal would waive or ease compatibility, floor-to-area ratio, height, density, parking, site plan and other requirements on projects that have a sufficient number of units dedicated to affordable housing. The chief goal is to maximize the number of affordable units built in projects across Austin, a city that identifies housing affordability as a primary threat to the growing economy.

"Sometimes, the city is our own worst enemy when it comes to developing the affordable housing we need,” said Council Member Greg Casar, who is leading efforts to pass a resolution on City Council's Feb. 21 agenda.

Foundation Communities Inc. Executive Director Walter Moreau said he thought the initiative was a “thoughtful” approach to easing the city’s affordability problems. His nonprofit is devoted to building affordable housing.

“It’s a relatively straight-forward, simple way for the city to allow for more density and more units on infill locations,” Moreau said…

Link to story

Round Rock council OKs incentive deal for $200M development to rival Domain (Austin American-Statesman)

An agreement approved by the Round Rock City Council provides city incentives for a $200 million urban-style development that is expected to bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars’ worth of tax revenue to the city.

Real estate firm Mark IV Capital is overseeing development of the District, which will be a mix of storefronts, restaurants, residences and Class A office space. The project is slated for 65 acres north of Greenlawn Boulevard and south of Texas 45 on the southern edge of Round Rock’s city limits.

The property, which is vacant, abuts the Round Rock Crossing shopping center. Once completed, city staffers said, the District will provide 5,000 jobs and bring in $1.5 million in annual tax revenue to the city.

Mayor Craig Morgan called the agreement a “win-win all around.”

“It’s a product that Round Rock has never seen before,” Morgan said. “This company has a history; they do good products. We have a good relationship with them, and we know what we’re going to get in this.”

While the District will be similar to the Domain in North Austin — which has more than 100 retail stores and restaurants alongside office and residential space — Morgan said the District will have its own flavor…

Link to story

Neighborhood implements $10 fee for Austin nature trail (Austin American-Statesman)

Starting March 2, hikers from outside the River Place Limited District will each have to pay a $10 fee to enter the River Place Nature Trail in Northwest Austin.

The fee also applies to each pet that enters the trail with a hiker. Residents will be admitted for free with a membership ID, an announcement on the River Place Limited District’s website says…

Link to story

Barton Creek Square is getting a makeover to get you to hang out longer (Austin American-Statesman)

For most of us, hanging out at the mall usually means roaming the corridors doing some window shopping, or trying to find an empty seat in the noisy food court.

But what if it meant relaxing in comfortable lounge chairs while you watch TV? Or plopping your laptop down in a private work station and getting some work done away from the office? Or sipping a latte with your friends while your kids use free Wi-Fi to play games or text each other?

That’s the vision Barton Creek Square’s owners have for the shopping mall, which is undergoing a multi-million-dollar renovation aimed at making it a more accessible and welcoming environment…

Link to story


Sen. Angela Paxton files bill that would allow her husband, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, to issue exemptions from securities regulations (Texas Tribune)

In what state Sen. Angela Paxton describes as an effort to safely expand Texas’ burgeoning financial tech industry, the freshman Republican from McKinney has filed a bill that would empower the office of her husband, Attorney General Ken Paxton, to exempt entrepreneurs from certain state regulations so they can market “innovative financial products or services.”

One of those exemptions would be working as an “investment adviser” without registering with the state board. Currently, doing so is a felony in Texas — one for which Ken Paxton was issued a civil penalty in 2014 and criminally charged in 2015.

Senate Bill 860, filed Friday, would create within the attorney general’s office an entirely new program — what the bill calls a “regulatory sandbox” — that would allow approved individuals “limited access to the market … without obtaining a license, registration, or other regulatory authorization.” The bill, based on a 2018 Arizona law hailed as the first of its kind, aims to cut red tape for the growing financial tech sector, allowing businesses to market new products for up to two years and to as many as 10,000 customers with scant regulation…

Link to story

As debate rages on border wall funding, construction is already beginning (Texas Tribune)

Krista Schlyer saw the arm of a yellow excavator emerge from the treetops in La Parida Banco National Wildlife Refuge on Thursday morning. Soon, this tract will be bisected by roughly 30 feet of concrete and steel fencing.

In the past week, the conservation photographer and writer has walked past the land multiple times and glimpsed the heavy machinery — but it was never moving. On Thursday morning, as she approached the site, she saw roughly a half dozen vehicles from local law enforcement agencies and Border Patrol surrounding the site.

“It’s really frustrating that taxpayer dollars are being used to build this,” she said. “But taxpayers can’t see the results of what they’re doing.”

On Friday, President Trump said he will declare a national emergency to pump more than $6 billion into constructing more of his long-promised border wall, on top of the $1.375 billion authorized by Congress as part of a budget compromise to head off another government shutdown. To the delight of activists and lawyers, language in the budget bill bars the construction of fencing at several local landmarks – like the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, the historic La Lomita chapel and the National Butterfly Center — but it's unclear whether that protection extends to any construction funded through Trump's emergency declaration…

Link to story


Supreme Court To Decide Whether 2020 Census Will Include Citizenship Question (KUT)

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the Trump administration can add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The decision grants the administration's request for an immediate review of a lower court's ruling that stopped plans for the question. A hearing is expected to be held in April.

The question asks, "Is this person a citizen of the United States?"

The Trump administration is locked in a legal battle with dozens of states, cities and other groups that do not want the question to appear on forms for the constitutionally mandated head count of every person living in the U.S…

Link to story


Episode 34: Dyana Limon-Mercado, Travis County Democratic Party Chairwoman

(RUN TIME - 15:09)

On today’s episode we speak with Dyana Limon-Mercado, Travis County Democratic Party Chairwoman. Elected in November 2018, she is the party’s first Hispanic chair.

She and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss her state and local policy priorities for 2019, and ahead to the 2020 elections. Dyana also discusses the multiple constituencies making up the party, and ways political novices can engage in the process.

You can learn more about Dyana here, and follow her on Twitter at @DyanaforChair.

This episode was recorded on January 10, 2019.

Link to Episode 34

The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin-based full service lobbying firm representing and advising clients on municipal, legislative, and regulatory matters throughout Texas.


Twitter #binghamgp 

Instagram #binghamgp