• City Council resumes regular meetings Aug. 8, but the budget cycle is rolling in earnest, and city staff will present a proposed budget Thursday, Aug. 1, followed by departmental presentations to be posted online.
› Contract negotiations were suspended last week between city management and the Austin Firefighters Association, when management declared an impasse. The major sticking point is not money, but a continued stalemate over hiring procedures that may affect minority hiring; the union is resisting giving management too much flexibility in hiring standards.
› The firing of Austin Police Officer Christopher Allen for reckless use of force in a Dec. 2011 incident was upheld last week by an arbitrator; Allen fired more than a dozen shots at a fleeing car, and the arbitrator ruled that Allen's actions violated APD's use-of-force policies.
› A proposed recycling center in Northeast Austin hit a roadblock last week when the Zoning and Platting Commission rejected an extension of a grading plan sought by waste company Republic Services.
› Last Thursday, the same day that Gov. Rick Perry ceremonially signed legislation adding severe new restrictions on abortion and reproductive care, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, citing both HB 2 and previous state budget cuts, announced the closing of clinics in Bryan, Lufkin, and Huntsville – only the Bryan clinic performed abortions. See "What Now? What Next?"
› Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Tuesday announced his endorsement of Sen. Dan Patrick over Lt. Gov. opponent David Dewhurst. Huckabee had previously endorsed Dewhurst in the 2012 U.S. Senate race against Ted Cruz. Although Huckabee did not explain the change of heart, we're sure it has nothing to do with Patrick's Houston radio station KSEV carrying the Mike Huckabee Show.
› The GOP shuffle continued Tuesday as Rep. Dan Branch announced his candidacy for Texas attorney general. Branch will square off against Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman in the March Republican primary. McKinney Sen. Ken Paxton is expected to throw his hat in the ring next week.
› Transocean Deepwater Drilling, Inc., the company that owned the drilling unit that burst into flames and sank in the Gulf in 2010, this week lost its legal bid to keep the federal Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board from obtaining documents it needs to investigate the disaster. The explosion on the rig in the Gulf was prompted by a well blowout that released large amounts of hazardous gases; release of such "extremely hazardous" substances into the air is the purview of the CSHIB.