BG Note | News - What We're Reading (September 13, 2017)
Plan for new development services staff on hold (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
Along the way to passing a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, City Council voted Tuesday to derail the Development Services Department’s plan to hire 51 new employees beginning in either January or March. The department has said it needed the new employees in order to keep up with the demands of a growing city.
On a motion from Council Member Delia Garza, Council voted unanimously to postpone making a decision about whether to hire some or all of those 51 employees and asked staff to come back with a fee schedule reflecting that decision. Because some increase in fees is already baked into the fee schedule that will take effect Oct. 1, it’s possible that there will be two fee schedule changes in Fiscal Year 2017-2018.
The department has been under pressure for more than two years to streamline operations in moving development from plan to reality. The Zucker Report made clear that nobody was happy with the situation in the department.
Council faces hard choices on final budget day (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
City Council went through another meandering, confusing and at times tense all-day budget discussion Tuesday and still has tough decisions left to make today, when it is scheduled to give final approval to the Fiscal Year 2017-2018 budget.
The Council debate has generally not centered on major changes to the roughly $4 billion budget proposed by the city manager earlier this summer, but rather on what to spend the roughly $5 million of surplus funds identified by staff.
The problem, as usual, is that the requests for funding far exceed the available money. Rather than make the final decisions today, Mayor Steve Adler suggested that Council take votes to add certain priorities to an informal list to be used as a basis for debate today.
2 new buildings will add 1 million square feet to Capitol complex (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
Construction is set to get under way later this month on a decades-in-the-making project to build new state office buildings, parking garages and a pedestrian-friendly green space along Congress Avenue north of the Capitol between 15th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
A commemorative groundbreaking for the $580 million initial phase of the state complex has tentatively been scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 28, according to the Texas Facilities Commission, which is overseeing the work.
Supreme Court puts redrawing of Texas political maps on hold (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY
The U.S. Supreme Court has dealt a serious setback to those hoping Texas would see new congressional and House district maps ahead of the 2018 elections.
In separate orders issued Tuesday, the high court blocked two lower court rulings that invalidated parts of those maps where lawmakers were found to have discriminated against voters of color. The justices’ 5-4 decisions stay the rulings — which would have required new maps — as they take up an appeal from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissented from the majority opinion.
Straus tells business leaders to keep up fight after "bathroom bill" failure (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY
SAN ANTONIO — Texas House Speaker Joe Straus urged business leaders Tuesday to keep up the fight following the failure of legislative efforts this year to pass a "bathroom bill" that many of them opposed.
"Texans rejected name-calling and scare tactics, and as a result, we avoided a major mistake that would’ve cost our economy greatly and divided us unnecessarily," Straus, R-San Antonio, said in a speech to the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. "Now is not the time to walk away from the table. Going forward, working together we can do more than just avoiding mistakes."
"We need the business community to stay engaged, and it begins with public education," Straus added, invoking the House's long-running goal of overhauling the state's broken school finance system.
New law means extra costs for large craft brewers — unless they're owned by brewing giants (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY
The latest draft of beer legislation in Texas has left a bitter taste in the mouths of some craft brewers.
House Bill 3287, which lawmakers passed during their regular legislative session earlier this year, requires craft brewers that produce more than 225,000 barrels per year to pay a distributor to deliver their beer — even if the destination is inside their own facility.
Proponents of the legislation say it will maintain the state’s three-tier system — Prohibition-era regulations that legally separate brewers, distributors and retailers — and properly regulate large companies that purchase craft breweries. To opponents, though, the law targets newer craft breweries across the state, discouraging investment in their businesses while protecting larger and more established beer companies.