Two Texas Cities Remain In The Running For Amazon’s HQ2

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelJanuary 18, 2018 2:00 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Amazon has narrowed its choices for a second headquarters down to 20 cities. And two from Texas made the list, Austin and Dallas.

The Dallas Regional Chamber released a statement in response to the announcement.

Mike Rosa, senior vice president of economic development said, “We’re proud of the great work done by our regional cities and leaders. We’re looking forward to the next steps and are in direct contact with Amazon to begin the process.”

Mike Berman, senior vice president for communications and marketing at the Austin Chamber of Commerce, told Texas Standard that even though two of the finalists are in Texas, they do not look at it as a competition between the two.

“We have an ongoing economic development program, so we’re competing against cities on a daily basis whether they’re in Texas or outside of Texas,” Berman says.

238 places applied for the chance to be home-base for Amazon’s HQ2. The company says it expects to create as many as 50,000 jobs that would pay an average salary of roughly $100,000.

The final numbers of how many Texans have signed up this year for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act are almost out.

From KUT News in Austin, Ashley Lopez reports that experts who anticipated a tough year for the insurance program have been surprised.

Last year about 1.2 million Texans signed up for health plans through the individual marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. And so far, there are 1.1 million Texans signed up for plans this year. Melissa McChesney with the Center for Public Policy Priorities says that’s a lot better than she expected.

‘I’m not at all ashamed to admit that I was surprised to see the numbers come out as good as they did. So there were so many different things – obstacles in the way between the cut in advertising budgets, the cuts to the outreach and enrollment efforts through both the navigator funding but also those government contracts that were ended.’

McChesney says the fact that enrollment numbers didn’t take a huge dip this year is a testament to advocacy groups that took on the work of getting the word out and helping people sign up, and she says she’s still waiting for an update on how many people affected by Hurricane Harvey signed up. Folks living in affected counties had extra time to sign up for a plan.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says school districts can’t drive students to polling places if it’s not for an educational purpose. He issued the official, nonbinding opinion Wednesday at the request of state Sen., Paul Bettencourt, a Houston Republican.

Aliyya Swaby covered this story for the Texas Tribune. She explains Bettencourt was concerned about the work of civic engagement group, Texas Educators Vote. They were urging school administrators to adopt a resolution encouraging voting.

“The resolution mentions that administrators should check their district policies to see if they can use school buses to take students and employees to polling places,” says Swaby. “And it also includes an oath that educators can sign promising to ‘vote in support of the more than 5.4 million Texas school children.’”

Bettencourt felt that was a violation of state law and Paxton agreed. But school districts are not required to heed Paxton’s advice.  For their part, the group Texas Educators Vote say they’re just doing their civic duty. In fact, there’s even a state law that requires school administrators to circulate voter registration forms to eligible high schoolers twice a year.