BG Reads | News You Need to Know (January 29, 2019)



Development fees could help parks department, study shows (Austin Monitor)

The city of Austin could collect approximately $360,000 from development reviews done by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, according to a cost of service study done by the Matrix Consulting Group at the request of City Council.

Currently, the department does not charge any fees for development review activities, even though staff members spend a considerable amount of time reviewing site plans, subdivision proposals and other development plans.

Council requested the study during deliberations on the budget last year. Council Member Alison Alter is particularly interested in helping the parks department recoup the money it is spending on services for developers…

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Capital Metro cuts back on downtown station plan (Austin Monitor)

A nationwide shortage of skilled labor and a tariff-induced spike in the cost of steel have raised estimated construction costs for Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s downtown rail station. Instead of looking for extra project funding, the agency has decided to simplify the station’s design to remain within the project budget.

Capital Metro’s downtown station project manager, Marcus Guerrero, presented the updated design during the agency’s board of directors meeting Monday afternoon.

While the station’s previous design had featured three separate tracks stretching along East Fourth Street between Red River and Neches streets, the updated design eliminates most of the third track on the north side of the station, except for a section alongside the northern platform. In addition, the new plan reduces the number of shade canopies from seven to five and temporarily removes two of the planned ticketing kiosks which could be added to the plan if more funding is secured. Some landscaping and decorative concrete surrounding the station have also been stripped from the plan…

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Renowned Cisco’s Restaurant in East Austin earns historic landmark status following commission vote (Community Impact)

Legendary East Austin eatery Cisco’s Restaurant, at 1511 E. Sixth St., is now a local historic landmark, following a unanimous vote by the city’s Historic Landmark Commission.

The restaurant’s building, which has stood at the corner of East Sixth and Comal streets since 1914 and has operated as Cisco’s Restaurant since at least 1950, will now be guarded with some of the strictest redevelopment regulations available in the city. Local historic landmark designations are one of the only protections against a property owner’s right to demolish a structure—especially significant for Cisco’s, which sits in a rapidly gentrifying area of the city.

Commission member Kevin Koch said he was enthused to vote on the building’s historic landmark status. Koch was appointed to the commission by District 3 Council Member Pio Renteria, the council representative for the area where the restaurant is located.

“This is one of the core Austin treasures that make up the value of this city,” Koch said before casting his vote…

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UT Dell Medical School reveals master plan details for $283 million replacement of Austin State Hospital (Community Impact)

To make way for a replacement of the 100-year-old Austin State Hospital in Central Austin, construction crews could start clearing land on the campus as early as October, pending allocation of state funds.

“There’s a really strong recognition [among lawmakers]that we’re not providing the type of mental health care we should and we’re having things that we’re have to spend money on because of it,” said state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, regarding political will to provide funding for state mental health hospital renovations. “For example, if we can do better with regard to mental health care in our state, we might have less cost in our criminal justice system and that’s just talking about the economic cost.”…

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After Hearing U.S. Veteran Had No Family, Huge Crowd Attends His Funeral In Texas (KUT)

Scores of people turned up for Joseph Walker's funeral Monday in Texas — not because they knew him, but because they knew the Vietnam-era veteran was at risk of being buried without anyone in attendance.

Walker served in the U.S. Air Force, and he died of natural causes in November at the age of 72. When the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery announced funeral plans for him last week, the facility said it didn't expect anyone other than staff members to be present.

With no family or loved ones coming forward after his death, Walker was classified an "unaccompanied veteran."

That changed on Monday.

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In the Texas House, they're seen as lobbyists. In the Senate, they sit at the press table. (Texas Tribune)

t’s become a common scene in the Texas Legislature. A bill comes up for a vote — caps on property tax rates, maybe, or a referendum on “sanctuary cities” — and a text goes out. Lawmakers are told they will be graded on this one, and low marks, they know, could launch a primary challenge from the right.

The sender, the scorekeeper and the eventual challenger is often Empower Texans, a Tea Party-aligned group formed in 2006 with millions in oil money that has worked to replace moderate Republicans with hardline conservatives. For the last decade-plus, the organization and its PAC — which blur the bright lines between newsroom, lobbying firm and political action committee — have aimed, with on-again-off-again success, to upend the Texas political scene, with pricey primary challenges, by-the-minute scorecards of lawmakers’ votes and a lawsuit aimed at gutting a state agency…

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Texas lawmakers again set to weigh incentives for film, video game industries (Austin American-Statesman)

A fight over state incentives for the movie, TV and video game industries sparked plenty of drama at the Texas Capitol two years ago. Supporters hope there won’t be a sequel in 2019.

The taxpayer-funded effort to encourage film and video game productions in the state, called the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, narrowly escaped an attempt to kill it by some lawmakers during the 2017 session of the state Legislature. The incentives survived, but funding over the current two-year budget cycle ended up at $32 million -- less than half the amount initially sought and well below the $95 million budgeted during the 2014-15 cycle.

“It has been enough to keep a couple big (TV) shows in the state, and some video game productions and a couple of big movies,” said Mindy Raymond, president of New Republic Studios in Elgin and spokeswoman for the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, a lobbying group…

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Some Texas voters are already being asked to prove their citizenship following state's announcement (Texas Tribune)

Following the state’s announcement that it was flagging tens of thousands of registered voters for possible citizenship checks, some Texas voters could be receiving requests to prove their citizenship this week.

Local election officials have received lists of individuals whose citizenship status the state says counties should consider checking. Officials in some of Texas’ biggest counties said Monday they were still parsing through thousands of records and deciding how best to verify the citizenship status of those flagged by the state. But in Galveston County, the first batch of “proof of citizenship” letters were scheduled to be dropped in the mail Monday afternoon.

Those notices start a 30-day countdown for a voter to provide proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate, a U.S. passport or a certificate of naturalization. Voters who don't respond will have their voter registration canceled…

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Trump's State Of The Union Rescheduled For Feb. 5 After New Pelosi Invite (KUT)

With the government reopened — at least for now — following a 35-day partial government shutdown, President Trump's State of the Union address has been rescheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 5.

In a letter sent to the president on Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote that the two had agreed upon the new date next week, after she had postponed her original offer of Jan. 29 amid the shutdown.

"When I wrote to you on January 23rd, I stated that we should work together to find a mutually agreeable date when government has reopened to schedule this year's State of the Union address. In our conversation today, we agreed on February 5th," Pelosi wrote. "Therefore, I invite you to deliver your State of the Union address before a Joint Session of Congress on February 5, 2019 in the House Chamber. Thank you for your attention to this matter."…

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Episode 31: TX Lege Talk with James Hines, SVP of Government Affairs, Texas Association of Business

(RUN TIME - 1848)

Today's podcast was originally recorded on January 8, 2019, the first day of the 86th Texas Legislative Session.

The show features a discussion with returning guest James Hines, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs & In-House Counsel, Texas Association of Business (TAB). James and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham talked TAB’s legislative priorities around economic development and public education, to name a few.

The TAB is Texas's largest business association, representing over 2, 800 businesses, from major corporations to small start-ups. Combined those businesses employ over 2.5 million Texans and drive the economic engine of the state. The association influences policy development and drives legislative decisions in Texas and Washington, D.C. advocating for members’ bottom line.

Note: We recorded in TAB’s new headquarters where minor construction was going on (pardon the light background noise).

Link to Episode 31

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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