BG Reads | News You Need to Know (February 5, 2019)



Harper-Madison removes four commissioners (Austin Monitor)

After just one month in office, District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison has signaled her intent to remove three sitting commissioners from their respective commissions, and a fourth is already gone. One of those commissioners, Bryan King of the Board of Adjustment, pointed out to the Austin Monitor that under the city charter, members of that particular board can only be removed “for cause,” after a public hearing.

Harper-Madison said via email, “It’s a new day in District 1 and we’re excited to get new faces and new voices involved in local government.”

The other commissioners being ousted are Betsy Greenberg of the Zoning and Platting Commission and Michael Searle of the Tourism Commission. All three are on a list under “removal of members” on Thursday’s Council agenda.

Harper-Madison also removed Tracy Witte from the Planning Commission at last week’s meeting.

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Siete Family Foods raises $90M as it pioneers a new way to make tortillas, queso (Austin Business Journal)

Expanding into new markets, investing “heavily” in research and development and growing the sales and marketing staff are among the top priorities at Siete Family Foods Inc. now that the Austin-based consumer packaged goods startup has received a $90 million capital infusion from Stripes Group LLC.

Miguel Garza, co-founder and CEO of the company that makes grain-, gluten- and dairy-free foods, said negotiating Siete’s evolution with his family is an ever-present challenge. He identified the key as “always making sure we’re serving our consumer base.”

The $90 million minority investment from New York-based Stripes gives Garza and Siete the funding to “innovate even faster” with new products and share those with a “broader audience,” he said. Fundamental to the strategy is ensuring the Garza family doesn’t fall prey to the temptation to “overcomplicate things,” he said, adding: “We’ll continue to build awareness by focusing on telling the Siete story.”…

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Democrats targeting 3 Central Texas GOP members of Congress (Austin American-Statesman)

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put down its marker for 2020 and the big bet is on Texas.

The arm of the Democratic Party charged with electing Democrats to the U.S. House, fresh off winning control of the chamber in the midterm elections last November, has targeted six GOP-controlled congressional districts in Texas, including three in Central Texas, among 33 districts nationally.

The three targets in the Austin area: the 10th Congressional District, held by U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin; the 21st Congressional District, represented by U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, and the 31st Congressional District, represented by U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock.

All three faced tight contests in November in an election that saw narrow GOP victories elsewhere in the state and two defeats: longtime U.S. Reps. John Culberson, R-Houston, and Pete Sessions, R-Dallas.

The close elections, all in districts drawn by the GOP-controlled Legislature to elect Republican candidates, were either evidence of Texas beginning to turn a shade of purple, what political observers have been predicting for some time, or the long coattails of Beto O’Rourke, who came within 2.6 percentage points of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the closest any statewide Democrat has come to winning in a generation…

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Amid voter ‘purge,’ Latino legislators question whether Whitley should be confirmed as secretary of state (Austin American-Statesman)

Leaders of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus said Monday that the Texas Senate should not confirm David Whitley as secretary of state if he cannot demonstrate that he can serve as the state’s chief election officer in a nonpartisan manner.

The Texas Senate will hold a hearing Thursday morning on Gov. Greg Abbott’s December appointment of Whitley, who in the last 10 days stepped into a hornet’s nest of controversy that began with a news release that called into question the citizenship status of 95,000 registered voters who were found to have identified at some point in the past to state law enforcement officials as legal, noncitizen residents…

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Texas optometrists "just roll our eyes" over treatment restrictions in the state (Texas Tribune)

In terms of restrictions on patients' access to optometric eye care, Texas ranks fourth in the nation, according to the Texas Optometric Association. Optometrists say the laws put patients’ vision at risk if they have to wait weeks for an ophthalmologist appointment. They also say that as Texas’ population grows, the state will need more eye care professionals who can help patients in one visit, particularly among older adults and in rural communities.

But ophthalmologists argue they have medical training that can potentially save patients from losing their vision. They point out that some eye issues can be difficult to diagnose and need extra scrutiny to make the right treatment plan. They also have pushed back against the idea that there’s a crisis in Texas…

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U.S. Prepares To Start Building Portion Of Border Wall In Rio Grande Valley (KUT)

The U.S. government is preparing to begin construction of more border walls and fencing in South Texas' Rio Grande Valley, likely on federally owned land set aside as wildlife refuge property.

Heavy construction equipment was expected to arrive starting Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said. A photo posted by the nonprofit National Butterfly Center shows an excavator parked next to its property.

Congress last March approved more than $600 million for 33 miles of new barriers in the Rio Grande Valley. While President Donald Trump and top Democrats remain in a standoff over Trump's demand for $5.7 billion in border wall funding, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has pushed ahead with building what's already funded…

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In The Shadow Of The Wall, Trump Will Deliver The State Of The Union (KUT)

President Trump's second State of the Union address will be delivered Tuesday night before a joint session of Congress with all the usual pomp and circumstance. But the political backdrop is unusual, coming in the aftermath of the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history and on the eve of what could be another vicious fight or even another shutdown.

The fight at the heart of the shutdown — the fight over the president's border wall — remains unresolved with the clock ticking to make a deal.

White House officials are previewing a conciliatory tone from the president, as they have done before previous addresses to Congress that didn't turn out to be so conciliatory after all. As part of a briefing with reporters at which a senior official detailed what to expect from the speech but declined to speak on the record, the official read an excerpt of Trump's prepared remarks…

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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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