BG Reads | News You Need to Know (March 14, 2019)



Riverside Hooters demolished as construction of 15-story office tower begins (Community Impact)

Groundbreaking for a new 15-story, 350,000-square-foot mixed-use office tower at 401 S. First St. began Wednesday with the demolition of the old Hooters building that has stood onsite at the corner of S. First Street and W. Riverside Drive for years.

The office tower set to replace it will take up the entire triangular tract, putting it at the intersection of S. First Street, W. Riverside Drive and Barton Springs Road, three of South-Central Austin’s busiest streets.

The project—known colloquially as the “Snoopy” planned-unit development, as the family of Charles Schultz once owned the tract—is called RiverSouth, and is being developed by Stream Realty. The mixed-use development will include dining and retail on the ground floor. RiverSouth is the first major development under the city’s South Central Waterfront District plan, which maps out the future use of land just south of the Colorado River…

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UT Austin Fires Michael Center After Indictment In College Admission Scheme (KUT)

A day after his indictment in a wide-ranging college admissions scandal, longtime UT Austin tennis coach Michael Center has been fired.

Center, who faces two felony charges for allegedly receiving nearly $100,000 to recruit a student with falsified athletic credentials, was placed on administrative leave yesterday.

In a statement announcing the decision, UT Austin President Greg Fenves said the school will launch an internal investigation into Center's alleged 2015 fraud, but emphasized, as the university did yesterday, that the accusations around Center were isolated.

"We take the criminal allegations against Michael Center very seriously and, as of today, he has been terminated as a UT employee," Fenves said in a statement…

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City staffers say they cannot expedite Austin’s Water Forward Plan as requested by council (Community Impact)

Although City Council said late last fall it wanted to expedite the implementation of the city’s 100-year water-resiliency plan, city staff said March 12 they could not do anything to move the process along faster, and new water-conservation and use rules would likely not take effect until at least early 2022.

The Water Forward Plan aims to bolster Austin’s water resources and conservation efforts to safeguard the growing city against future droughts, which climate scientists predict will become more common and extreme as climate change continues. City staff has deemed it the “most important water plan that’s been produced in the United States” because it sets Austin up to continue responsible and sustainable use of its own water resource—the Colorado River—into the future, rather than taking water from other communities….

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Greg Abbott tells every university in Texas to re-evaluate processes in light of admissions scandal (Texas Tribune)

Gov. Greg Abbott is urging Texas universities to re-evaluate their admissions processes in the wake of a federal investigation that led to bribery charges against a coach at the University of Texas at Austin.

"As far as the University of Texas is concerned — but I will expand this to every university in the state of Texas — it’s important for every university to go back and re-evaluate, to study and to investigate, their admissions processes to make sure that nothing like this either is happening or can happen," Abbott said Wednesday morning at an unrelated news conference in Austin. "I expect all universities to look into this and make sure they have procedures and policies so that this type of action will never be able to happen again."

Federal authorities revealed Tuesday that UT's head coach for men's tennis, Michael Center, allegedly took a $100,000 bribe in 2015 to help a student get admitted to UT-Austin by adding him as a recruit to the team. The student did not play competitive tennis, according to court documents…

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Texas Senate seeks to tap billions from rainy day fund (Austin American-Statesman)

Aiming to cover lingering expenses related to Hurricane Harvey and add additional safety measures at schools, state senators on Wednesday approved spending more than $4 billion from the state rainy day fund as part of a stop-gap spending measure.

The supplemental budget measure plugs holes in the current two-year budget cycle, which ends in August, and can include other one-time expenditures.

The Senate proposal, which ultimately will have to be squared with a House counterpart, calls for a supplemental appropriation of $8.4 billion for fiscal 2019 to pay for everything from Harvey-related expenses to a crime lab shortfall at the Department of Public Safety and bolstering the teacher retirement system.

The majority of the money — $4.4 billion — would come out of the rainy day fund.

The rainy day fund was set up in the late 1980s as a management tool to smooth out a volatile source of revenue: oil- and gas-related tax collections…

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Texas lawmakers look to Uber, Lyft to transport Medicaid patients (San Antonio Express-News)

Texas would soon start relying on Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing services to shuttle Medicaid patients to and from the doctor, if a new House bill becomes law.

The state is one of several eyeing rideshare as a way to save money and ensure Medicaid patients make it to their health care appointments. Each year an estimated 3.6 million people delay or forgo care due to lack of transportation, studies have found, leaving providers with cancellations and patients with potentially more costly medical issues in the future. “It’s about better outcomes for patients, health care providers and, at the end of the day, much better outcomes for the taxpayers,” said state Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, who authored the bill, HB1576…

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FAA Grounds Boeing 737 Max Planes In U.S., Pending Investigation (KUT)

The Federal Aviation Administration says it is temporarily grounding all Boeing 737 Max aircraft operated by U.S. airlines or in U.S. territory.

The announcement Wednesday afternoon follows decisions by many other countries to ground the planes after 157 people died in Sunday's crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8.

"The grounding will remain in effect pending further investigation, including examination of information from the aircraft's flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders," the FAA said in a statement. "The agency made this decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today. This evidence, together with newly refined satellite data available to FAA this morning, led to this decision."…

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Gov. Newsom to order halt to California’s death penalty (Sacramento Bee)

When Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Wednesday putting a moratorium on the death penalty in California, he called it the culmination of a personal, 40-year journey.

He spoke about meeting men imprisoned in San Quentin State Prison, including a former high school classmate on death row and a foster brother who did time for dealing crack cocaine.

He described meeting a wrongfully convicted man, Pete Pianezzi, who narrowly escaped death row and was later pardoned, and whose case was championed by Newsom’s father and grandfather…

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Episode 38: Texas School Finance with Austin ISD CFO Nicole Conley

(Run time - 25:35)

On today’s episode we speak with Nicole Conley, Chief Financial Officer for the Austin Independent School District (AISD). In this role Nicole is responsible for AISD’s $1 billion+ annual operating funds and the over $800 million Bond program.

She and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss AISD’s current fiscal position, the significant state mandated recapture (or Robin Hood) plays, and the what that means for the district. Under this system local tax dollars from property-rich districts, like Austin, are redistributed to property-poor districts. In Fiscal Year 2019, AISD anticipates the district will submit $669.6 million to the state in recapture funds. This amount is expected to increase by $115 million in Fiscal Year 2020…

Link to Episode 38

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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