DSD Seeks Your Opinion on Gender-Neutral Diaper Changing Stations

On June 19, 2019, the City Council approved Resolution No. 20190619-093 directing the City Manager to work with stakeholders to develop regulations in support of the goal of ensuring universal, gender-neutral access to diaper changing accommodations in public restrooms. The resolution initiates an amendment to City Code and proposes that the regulations extend to public serving non-City facilities with mercantile and assembly uses.

The Development Services Department is hosting two stakeholder meetings, the details of which are listed below. At each meeting, City staff will provide an overview of the preliminary draft of the regulations, solicit stakeholder feedback, and respond to questions.

Please register for the option that best suits your availability.

  • Thursday, August 15th, 1:30-3:00PM
    -or-
  • Monday, August 19th, 10:00-11:30AM

The meetings will be held at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road, in Room 400.

Please let us know if you have any questions or if we can provide any additional information in advance of the meetings.  Many thanks in advance for your participation.

Update on the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance

I am writing today to give you all an update on the City of Austin’s Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.

With all the legislative chatter and court actions it is difficult to know where it stands and what is expected of businesses in Austin.

As you may know, during the recent Legislative session the seemingly well-supported statewide bill intended to undo the city’s ordinance failed for lack of a vote in the House. The Governor has said that there will be no special session. So for now, there will be no statewide legislation that will address the ordinance, and therefore, the fate of the ordinance rests in the courts.

In November of 2018, the appellate court ruled that the City of Austin’s sick leave ordinance violated the Texas Constitution by violating the Texas Minimum Wage Act. At that time, the court issued an injunction preventing the ordinance from going into effect. That is where it stands today.

The City of Austin has filed an appeal of that decision to the Texas Supreme Court. The Texas Court is expected to decide whether or not they will take up that appeal by later this summer. If the Court chooses to do so, the possible outcomes are as follows (and expected to be decided before the end of the year):

  1. The Court could rule against the appellate court and overturn the injunction; or
  2. The Court could uphold the injunction; or
  3. The Court could choose not to rule on the appeal.

Under the second two options (which appear to be the most likely scenarios), the case would go back to District Court for arguments on the merits of the lawsuit. This would essentially start the process all over again with the injunction still in place. Until the Texas Supreme Court says otherwise, businesses in Austin cannot be forced to provide paid sick leave. At this point, this seems like an unlikely outcome, but you never know.

As a reminder, businesses with 15 or more employees at any time during the year much provide 8 days of paid sick leave. Businesses with fewer than 15 employees must provide 6 days.

In the meantime, while this is being worked out in the courts, you can take the following steps to prepare your business for the ordinance going into effect. (1) develop paid sick leave policies and procedures that suit your business; and (2) determine the timing and how you would roll out such policies. Another option is to turn your current paid sick days and paid vacation days into personal time. As long as the combined days meet or exceed the required standards, you will be in compliance.

To learn more about the proposed ordinance and rules, you can visit the City’s website: http://www.austintexas.gov/EarnedSickTime

To read more about AIBA’s position on Paid Sick Leave, see:
City of Austin Mandated Paid Sick Leave Ordinance
Business Coalition Challenges Austin’s Burdensome and Unconstitutional Paid Sick Leave Ordinance
Increased Fines for a Bad Attitude? This Devil is in the Details of Paid Sick Leave
Paid Sick Leave Survey Results
Earned Sick Time Update: The Final Rules
Is This How We Govern? Letter to City Council
The Damage Done

Michael Searle, Board Member, Austin Independent Business Alliance, CEO of Aro Group, LLC, an Austin-Based Consulting Firm, and Executive Director of the Austin Civic Fund contributed to this article.

Small Business Contracting Forum

Explore contracting opportunities with the City of Austin. Learn how to become a more successful small business vendor for the City and discover ways to increase business exposure to City purchases under $50,000. Network with representatives from various City of Austin Departments and Offices including

  • Purchasing Office
  • Small and Minority Business Resources (SMBR)
  • Economic Development Department – Small Business Program
  • Capital Contracting Office
  • Austin Energy
  • Austin Public Health
  • Austin Resource Recovery
  • Austin Water
  • Communications and Technology Management (CTM)
  • Austin Police Department
  • Aviation
  • Parks and Recreation Department
  • Transportation
  • Austin Fire Department
  • Public Works
  • Fleet
  • Human Resources

Communicate with the above departments to discuss purchasing opportunities in the following commodity groups and more:

  • Automobile Maintenance And Repairs
  • Computer Hardware, Software And Services
  • Electrical Equipment And Supplies
  • General Consulting Services
  • Grounds Maintenance And Equipment
  • HVAC Parts And Equipment
  • Janitorial Supplies And Equipment
  • Laboratory Chemicals And Equipment
  • Promotional Apparel And Products
  • Safety Supplies
  • Signs And Related Materials
  • Training

REGISTER

Tuesday, March 26, 2019
2:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Asian American Resource Center
8401 Cameron Road
Austin, TX 78754

On-site free parking and refreshments provided. Please contact Todd Czaplicki with questions, Todd.Czaplicki@austintexas.gov

ePlan Review Update

The City of Austin’s Development Services Department’s Commercial, Residential and Expedited Building Plan Review teams are now accepting electronic plan submissions through ePlan Review, an electronic plan and document management system. This tool provides a convenient central hub for development project groups (including applicants and City reviewers) to communicate and complete the entire plan review process online, from the initial application stage to final approved plan sets.

ePlan Review saves customers substantial time, money and resources by:

  • Reducing travel time to DSD’s offices at One Texas Center on Barton Springs Road.
  • Allowing plan uploads from anywhere, anytime
  • Improving turnaround times and accuracy with collaborative reviewing
  • Reducing paper, printing, fuel, storage and disposal costs.

To use ePlan Review, applicants must first create an active user internet account by registering on the Austin Build + Connect (AB+C) website. Once registered, complete the appropriate permit application and submit to the appropriate review email below:

Paper applications may also be delivered to intake staff on the 2nd Floor of One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road.

Once a completed application and payment fees are received, the applicant will receive an email from DSD to upload the required drawings and documentation. The drawings and documentation will then be distributed to the appropriate plan review staff for review.

Please note ePlan is mandatory for all Expedited Commercial permit applications.

Visit the ePlan webpage for more information.

Austin Energy News Flash

In an effort to keep you informed, we wanted to let you know of a new solar leasing pilot, as well as to warn you of scammers posing as City of Austin Utilities representatives.

Update 1: Solar leasing pilot
Austin Energy now has a pilot program offering Performance Based Incentives (PBIs) for commercial customers who want to use an operational lease to go solar. Operational leases can help make going solar even more attractive. With little to no up-front capital cost, companies will not have to use their working capital toward a solar investment. The lessor monetizes federal tax credits and depreciation on behalf of customers, so you can leverage the federal tax credit without tax liability. The solar assets are off the balance sheet with an operational lease. Lease payments are considered an operating expense that reduces taxable profit. Find out more about Austin Energy’s Solar PBI  by visiting the website today.

Update 2: Watch out for scams
Please be aware that scammers are targeting businesses in the Austin area with fraudulent emails, phone calls and even text messages. They pose as representatives of City of Austin Utilities and tell customers that service will be disconnected unless immediate payment is made. 

We want you to know that City of Austin Utilities will never:

  • ask customers for credit card or bank account information over the phone
  • ask customers to purchase or pay via gift cards or prepaid debit cards
  • ask customers to make a wire transfer or pay by Bitcoin

The City of Austin Utilities Customer Contact Center does not call residential customers with cut-off deadlines. (Note: Commercial customers may receive a courtesy call two days prior to scheduled cut off for non-payment.)

 If a customer receives a phone call or email threatening to interrupt service, demanding immediate payment or requesting credit card or bank information, they should dial 3-1-1 and report the incident immediately. If any customer is uncertain of their account status, they should call 512-494-9400 or visit our Online Customer Care Portal.

For questions, please contact Murray Jones at Murray.Jones@austinenergy.com or 512-972-7636 if your facility is north or Neil Leach at Neil.Leach@austinenergy.com or 512-972-7885 if your facility is south. We value your business and appreciate the opportunity to serve you.

Thank you very much for your time. We value your business and appreciate the opportunity to serve you.

 Sincerely,
Kerri Davis
Kerri Davis | Manager, Commercial & Key Accounts | Austin Energy
721 Barton Springs Rd. | Austin, TX 78704 | 512-322-6574

Beware of Scams Targeting Local Business

The scammers are active and have been targeting Austin businesses and residents claiming to be Austin Energy. At least one AIBA member has been hit with this so beware. Multiple phone and email scams are targeting utility customers in Austin, including commercial customers. Telephone or email requests for payment using credit or money cards to avoid shut-off are not from Austin Energy or City of Austin Utilities Customer Care.

We will:

  • Never ask customers for credit card, Bitcoin, or bank account information
  • Never ask customers to purchase gift or money cards over the phone
  • Never ask customers to make a wire transfer

If customers receive a phone call or email threatening to interrupt service, demanding immediate payment, or requesting credit card, Bitcoin or bank account information, they should hang up and dial 3-1-1 report the incident immediately. If a customer is uncertain of their account status, they should call 512-494-9400 or visit our Online Customer Care Portal (https://coautilities.com).

More information is available on our website at https://austinenergy.com/ae/residential/report-a-problem/report-telephone-scams