BG Reads | News You Need to Know (May 3, 2019)

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[AUSTIN METRO]

Council directs city staff on code rewrite (Austin Monitor)

Austin City Council has spoken: It wants a new Land Development Code and map to look at and consider for adoption this year, ready to pass on first reading in October.

Council voted during a special session Thursday afternoon to direct City Manager Spencer Cronk and staff to explore writing a new code and draft a zoning map using Draft 3 of CodeNEXT as a baseline document.

The direction was drafted over several weeks of conversation in response to the memo Cronk sent Council members in March, requesting specific language on how a new land use code should address the city’s goals over the coming decades, especially in relation to housing capacity and types, parking, and restrictions on building uses and forms.

Looking back to last summer, when the six-year development code rewrite effort known as CodeNEXT was abandoned, Mayor Steve Adler highlighted that one of the reasons that process failed was a lack of this type of specific, clear direction from Council… (LINK TO STORY)


CDC Study Says Austin Scooter Riders Don't Wear Helmets, Ride Fast And Don't Know What They're Doing (KUT)

early 200 people were injured because of rentable scooters between Sept. 5 and Nov. 30 last year, according to a first-of-its-kind study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Austin Public Health Department.

During that time, there were about 940,000 rides taken in Austin overall, according to the Austin Transportation Department. That results in a ratio of 20 injuries per 100,000 rides.

Overall, the study found 271 total injuries, but researchers confirmed only 192 injuries, two of which were to people who weren't riding. Of those 190 injured riders, a third were riding the rented scooters for the first time. Injuries included bone fractures, lacerations and abrasions. Half of those riders sustained some injury to their heads or were severely injured, yet only a single injured rider was wearing a helmet… (LINK TO STORY)


HomeAway's out, Vrbo is in (Austin Business Journal)

The longtime Austin tech brand HomeAway — one of the city’s few homegrown global giants — is being phased out.

Bellevue, Washington-based Expedia Group Inc. (Nasdaq: EXPE) announced May 2 that it is going with the Colorado-born Vrbo brand as its primary short-term-rental brand. That means a new 16-story tower in North Austin will be the new headquarters of Vrbo, rather than HomeAway… LINK TO STORY)


State bill no longer targets Austin’s MLS deal (Austin Monitor)

A Senate bill that many felt could endanger the city’s lease deal on a new soccer stadium has been amended in a way that appears to have created an exception for the roughly $250 million structure.

On Thursday, State Sen. Paul Bettencourt amended SB 1771, which sought to give local taxing entities the power to collect property taxes on eligible projects even if the landowner created an exemption. The amendment creates a grandfather clause for development agreements that are already approved prior to Sept. 1, meaning Travis County and the Austin Independent School District will have an uphill legal battle if they attempt to collect taxes on the stadium.

Bettencourt drafted the bill to close a loophole in state law that would make an exemption given by the landowner applicable to other taxing entities eligible for property tax receipts on the same property. Precourt Sports Ventures, the business interest behind the stadium, bargained with the city to avoid paying property taxes on the project and said that feature was a crucial part of its business plan to make the stadium possible… (LINK TO STORY)


[TEXAS]

Ahead of 2020, Texas Republicans take a risk with sales tax swap plan (San Antonio Express-News)

In 2020, voters will pick a president. But 2019 is shaping up to be a big election year in Texas, too. Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican leaders want to ask voters in November whether to dedicate a one percent hike in the sales tax to raise billions for buying down property taxes.

By putting the choice to voters, lawmakers can deflect blame if the measure succeeds and the state’s sales tax rises to 9.25 percent for most Texans, the highest rate in the nation. But legislators also run the risk of rejection, which would unravel a crucial part of their plan to deliver homeowners meaningful property tax relief. The sales tax swap is one of many proposals Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen are backing to make good on promises to rein in property taxes, while boosting funding for public education… (LINK TO STORY)


In long-winding case, court considers federal oversight of Texas redistricting (Texas Tribune)

Back in the federal courthouse where most of an eight year-long case has played out, the fight over forcing Texas back under federal oversight of its mapmaking appeared to hinge on whether the state should be held accountable for political maps that never took effect.

The arguments for a return to the days when Texas needed approval of its political districts diverged significantly during a Thursday court hearing before a panel of three federal judges. The state and the plaintiffs — voters of color, civil rights groups and Democratic lawmakers — each appeared to have a judge on their side. One judge was skeptical of any sort of supervision for state lawmakers, while another judge openly considered why Texas should be allowed to redraw its maps without any sort of guardianship given its recent discrimination against voters of color… (LINK TO STORY)


San Antonio’s mayoral race heads into final days, and the contenders aren’t pulling punches (San Antonio Express-News)

In the final days of San Antonio’s often contentious mayoral campaign, the top contenders aren’t pulling any punches. Mayor Ron Nirenberg's campaign has launched a website called NotFitForMayor.com, attacking challenger Greg Brockhouse about police reports of domestic violence and liens levied for child support payments.

The campaign is trumpeting the site with ads on social media and other websites. Brockhouse’s own campaign has been less aggressive, mostly promoting videos on social media this week that feature his wife. But the police union — which previously employed him and is supporting his bid — has done the counter-punching for him. In one mailer, the union criticizes Nirenberg and the Express-News, which broke the story about the domestic violence reports… (LINK TO STORY)


Gov. Greg Abbott signs bill creating University of Houston medical school (Texas tribune)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a bill creating a medical school at the University of Houston amid concerns about a physician shortage in the state.

Under the legislation signed into law Wednesday, the University of Houston's College of Medicine will be the 13th medical school in Texas. It will be based in the UH System's flagship campus in Houston. Nearly half of the Texas medical schools are in the Houston area.

On Thursday, Abbott described UH as on the way to being "one of the world's preeminent universities." He said he plans to do a ceremonial signing of the bill in Houston… (LINK TO STORY)


[NATION]

Biden's rise in 2020 race catches Trump's eye, unnerves his allies (Reuters)

Joe Biden’s rapid emergence as front-runner in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination has caught the attention of President Donald Trump and unnerved some of his allies, who believe Biden is a potentially dangerous rival.

Biden soared from “will-he-or-won’t-he-run?” status to the head of the crowded Democratic field just days after announcing his candidacy last week, pulling away from Senator Bernie Sanders and a host of other rivals in opinion polls. A CNN poll gave Biden a 15-point lead in a field of 20 Democratic candidates… (LINK TO STORY)


[BG PODCAST]

Episode 44: Austin 5G Update with Bob Digneo, Assistant VP, External and Regulatory Affairs at AT&T

On today’s episode Bingham Group Senior Consultant Paul Saldaña, and CEO A.J. Bingham update on discussions around Austin’s Palm School.

Located at Cesar Chavez and I-35, Palm School was Austin’s second elementary school, and served generations of students from the city’s Mexican-American community during its 84 years.

Travis County is considering whether to put the building up for sale or a long-term lease, and there are some who don't want its cultural history gone.

Check out Episode 44 here!


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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