Judge Halts Austin’s Sick Leave Mandate Pending Litigation

Judge Halts Austin’s Sick Leave Mandate Pending Litigation

A Texas state appeals court last week temporarily blocked a local ordinance in the capital city of Austin requiring employers to provide paid sick leave from going into effect, the Texas Tribune reported:

[T]he measure quickly drew opposition from local and state leaders, including a lawsuit filed in April by the right-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation claiming that the city measure violates the Texas Minimum Wage Act. … The ordinance had been set to take effect Oct. 1.

“Without this stay, Austin business owners would be forced to incur significant costs implementing the requirements of the ordinance while its legality was in serious doubt,” said Robert Henneke, general counsel and litigation director for TPPF’s Center for the American Future. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has lent support to the lawsuit, also praised the news, saying the issue of minimum wage is “entrusted by the Texas Constitution solely to the Texas Legislature.”

Austin’s ordinance, which the city council passed in a 9–2 vote in February, has also faced opposition from Republicans in the state legislature, who promised at the time to pass legislation at the state level that would preempt it. Other states with conservative legislatures have taken similar measures to stop local governments from enacting liberal labor laws in the past year. Indiana banned cities from implementing “ban-the-box” laws, Missouri passed a preemption law to prevent cities like St. Louis from legislating higher minimum wages, and a Florida court found that a minimum wage increase in Miami Beach was preempted by state law.

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Austin’s New Sick Leave Law Faces Preemption Threat

Austin’s New Sick Leave Law Faces Preemption Threat

The City Council in Austin, Texas voted last week to approve a new ordinance requiring employers in the city to provide paid sick leave to their employees, the Texas Tribune reported:

At a meeting where over 200 people came to testify — a majority of them supporting the ordinance — the council voted 9-2 to implement the policy. But hours after the rule was passed, state Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, sounded off against the bill, saying the ordinance is “declaring war” on small private businesses.

The new rule mandated that private employers allow their workers to accrue up to 64 hours, or eight days, of paid sick leave per year. Small businesses with 15 or fewer employees could have paid sick days up to 48 hours, or six work days. The passed ordinance is scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 1, making Austin the first Texas city to pass a paid sick-day ordinance.

Workman and other Republicans in the state legislature have already promised to pass legislation at the state level to prevent Austin’s policy from going into effect. This type of preemption legislation has been used in other states with conservative governments to stop liberal cities from enacting their own local employment laws: In the past year, Indiana banned cities from implementing “ban-the-box” laws, Missouri passed a preemption law to prevent cities like St. Louis from legislating higher minimum wages, and a Florida court found that a minimum wage increase in Miami Beach was preempted by state law.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott expressed interest last year in passing a similar law to throttle progressive local legislation, and the state already bars cities from raising the minimum wage, introducing rent controls, or instituting some forms of inclusionary zoning, CityLab‘s Sarah Holder adds.

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Over 200 Cities Bid to Host Amazon’s ‘HQ2’

Over 200 Cities Bid to Host Amazon’s ‘HQ2’

When Amazon announced that it was soliciting bids for a venue for its second North American headquarters last month, cities across the continent immediately began lining up to court the e-tail giant with offers of tax credits, expedited permitting, public transit projects, and even cash grants. The deadline for bids was last Thursday, October 19, and Amazon revealed on Monday that 238 cities had submitted proposals, representing 54 states, provinces, and territories across the US, Canada, and Mexico. Monica Nickelsburg has the story at GeekWire:

In the U.S., there are only seven states where no cities are bidding on HQ2: Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Arkansas, Vermont, and Hawaii. … Even Amazon’s hometown, Seattle, made a hail mary attempt to get the tech titan to keep HQ2 close to home. …

Amazon did include some glimpses into the criteria it will use to judge proposals; the company is looking for a metro area with more than 1 million people, quality transit options, and incentives from local governments. Those could come in the form of tax credits and exemptions, relocation and workforce grants, utility incentives, and fee reductions, Amazon says. The company is also encouraging communities to “think big and creatively” in their proposals. With so many hats in the ring, creativity may be the criterion that puts one city over the top.

It’s no wonder so many cities are desperate to win Amazon’s favor here, as Amazon expects “HQ2” to create 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investments in the winning metropolis. Recode’s Jason Del Rey takes note of who participated in the bidding war, as well as who didn’t:

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