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Tax Exemptions, Plastic Bags, and Egg Laying Hens, Your Austin City Council Preview

Many egg laying hens don't enjoy such spacious accommodations. Photo by Jessie Wang for KUT News.
Many egg laying hens don't enjoy such spacious accommodations. Photo by Jessie Wang for KUT News.

This Thursday's  City Council meeting could bring final votes on some long-debated changes to Austin policy, even as it re-ignites debate on other issues that seemed settled just a few months ago (I'm looking at you, downtown metered parking).

In the category of "stick a fork in it, it's (almost) done" include Austin's long-discussed plastic bag ban. By his own account Mayor Lee Leffingwell has worked on an ordinance to ban plastic bags in Austin for about four years. This week the council may direct the city manager to come up with a comprehensive ban on plastic bags at the store checkout counters. You can read more about that here.

The City may be nearing a settlement on a lawsuit regarding historic zoning tax exemptions.  Critics of the Austin's policy of offering exemptions to historically zoned properties, say the system robs Austin of tax revenue, even as it give tax breaks to some of Austin's more affluent homeowners. 

Under the settlement proposal property owners will be required to give a reason why they need tax exemptions for their historically-zoned property, and council will vote to approve those exemptions or not.

Another vote scheduled for Thursday is for the birds, literally.

An item sponsored by council member Mike Martinez would officially support federal legislative efforts to regulate conditions for egg laying hens.

The legislation would require hens to be housed in humane conditions. Those efforts struck a chord for Martinez who told fellow Council Members on Tuesday that his first job was picking eggs at a hatchery.

"[The hens] were in battery cages, about the same size as this piece of paper,"  said Martinez gesturing to a standard 81/2 by 11 inch paper, "and there was four hens to each cage."

Martinez said that national egg producing companies are in support of more regulation if it is enacted at the federal level and does not give one state a competitive advantage over another.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.