BG Reads | News You Need to Know (February 4, 2019)



City putting high expectations on pending ‘homelessness czar’ position (Austin Monitor)

By the end of this month, the city is expected to name a new “homelessness czar” – or homeless strategy officer in city hiring speak. The new hire will become the point person to coordinate programs from the city and the nonprofit community aimed at relieving the increasingly distressed situation of the city’s homeless population.

Mayor Steve Adler mentioned the pending hire last week during discussions on the new management contract for the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless and a resolution directing city staff to find emergency shelter for the growing homeless population living in camps around South Austin. His remarks were the highest-profile talks on the position, which was included in the fiscal 2019 budget and posted as an open position in November with a description that includes coordinating existing relief efforts and developing new short- and long-term strategies…

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Access to schools highlights Cap Remap limitations (Austin monitor)

Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority knew that its June 2018 network change, Cap Remap, would remove transit service from vulnerable communities long before the changes took place. The eliminations were part of an intentional attempt to funnel resources into frequent service routes across the city.

The agency’s own internal analysis of the route changes in November 2017 predicted that Remap would significantly increase access to frequent service for minority and low-income households. It also found that over 99 percent of current customers would remain within a 10-minute walk of service with Remap. However, for communities where access to transit has been compromised or eliminated, these impressive numbers are of little help…

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Austin in January: Cash rich and maturing (Tech Crunch)

2019 has been good to the Austin startup scene so far.

Combined, Austin startups have raised $240.3 million in January. That’s not much less than the nearly $300 million raised in all of Q4 2018. And since the beginning of the year, the Texas capital has seen a number of double-digit funding rounds and a nearly quarter of a billion dollar acquisition…

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Many see "Robin Hood" as a villain. But lawmakers rely on it to pay for schools. (Texas Tribune)

For some in the debate over how to fund Texas' schools, "Robin Hood" is decidedly a villain.

The program, baked into state education law since 1993, requires the state to take funding from school districts with higher property values within their boundaries and give it to poorer school districts that can't raise much money. It's become a symbol of everything that's wrong with the state's school finance system, invoked regularly by politicians promising to help tamp down rising tax bills.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted this month that Texas will "begin dismantling the flawed Robin Hood scheme that has failed our schools." State Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg, pitched legislation to "stop excessive Robin Hood theft" and limit how much the state can take from wealthier districts. A couple of lawmakers have filed bills to completely strike the program from state law…

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is seeking more power this session to prosecute voter fraud and abortion-related crimes (Texas Tribune)

As he begins his second term, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is looking to expand the prosecutorial power of his office, asking the Legislature for more resources and expanded jurisdiction to go after crimes related to abortion and voter fraud.

The Republican attorney general’s office has asked lawmakers for millions more in funding to prosecute election fraud and human trafficking crimes. The agency has also requested expanded jurisdiction over abortion-related crimes, which are currently the purview of local officials.

Paxton’s office, which didn’t return multiple requests for comment for this story, says additional resources — and the additional grants of authority — are necessary to ensure laws are uniformly, and firmly, enforced across the state. But in Texas, most criminal enforcement falls to local prosecutors unless they seek the state’s help. And many of those prosecutors say there’s no need for the state to take over work they’re already handling…

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Cuellar, the moderate Laredo congressman who represents part of San Antonio, is target of progressive groups (San Antonio Express-News)

The 2020 primary battle has started early for Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Laredo Democrat with conservative leanings who hasn’t had a serious challenge in more than 10 years.

Justice Democrats, the group that recruited freshman firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to run for office in New York, announced earlier this month that ousting Cuellar will be its top priority in the 2020 primary elections, calling him a “fake Democrat.” Their effort also includes a “Primary Cuellar Fund” to raise small-dollar donations, though the group has not said whether any candidates have stepped forward or how much money the fund has raised in its first few weeks…

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Virginia Governor, refusing to resign over photo, risks Democrats’ ambitions (New York Times)

The refusal by Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor of Virginia, to resign after the revelation of a racist photograph is threatening his party’s political fortunes in Virginia, where Democrats are on the brink of consolidating power after a decade-long rise in the once-conservative state.

With Mr. Northam’s turmoil erupting during a legislative session in an election year, Democrats and Republicans said Sunday that his fragile hold on power risked his party’s policy ambitions and its aspirations for this fall, when control of both the state’s legislative chambers is expected to be bitterly and closely contested…

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Episode 32: State Representative Sheryl Cole (D-Austin)

(RUN TIME - 11:53)

On today’s episode we speak with Representative Sheryl Cole (D-Austin). Elected in November 2018, she is one of several incoming freshman members representing Central Texas.

While new to the Texas Legislature, Representative Cole is a veteran politician, having served on the Austin City Council from 2006 to 2015. She served as Council Mayor Pro Tem of Austin from 2011 to 2015. She was the city’s first African American woman elected to City Council.

An accountant and attorney by training, Representative Cole got her start in public life stepping up in her local PTA, and organizing community support for our schools as one of the Tri-Chair’s to the AISD Bond Committee in 2004.

She was recently assigned to the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, as well as respectively the Committees on County Affairs and Redistricting…

Link to Episode 32

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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