July 9, 2021, Number 26
Download the full .pdf version here: TML Legislative Update Number 26
Governor announces special legislative session agenda
On Wednesday, Governor Abbott announced the agenda for the special session that began on July 8. The following items are on the agenda:
- Bail Reform: Legislation reforming the bail system in Texas to protect the public from accused criminals released on bail.
- Election Integrity: Legislation strengthening the integrity of elections in Texas.
- Border Security: Legislation providing funding to support law-enforcement agencies, counties, and other strategies as part of Texas’ comprehensive border security plan.
- Social Media Censorship: Legislation safeguarding the freedom of speech by protecting social-media users from being censored by social-media companies based on the user’s expressed viewpoints, including by providing a legal remedy for those wrongfully excluded from a platform.
- Article X Funding: Legislation providing appropriations to the Legislature and legislative agencies in Article X of the General Appropriations Act.
- Family Violence Prevention: Legislation similar to Senate Bill 1109 from the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, requiring schools to provide appropriate education to middle- and high-school students about dating violence, domestic violence, and child abuse, but that recognized the right of parents to opt their children out of the instruction.
- Youth Sports: Legislation identical to Senate Bill 29 as passed by the Texas Senate in the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, disallowing a student from competing in University Interscholastic League athletic competitions designated for the sex opposite to the student’s sex at birth.
- Abortion-Inducing Drugs: Legislation similar to Senate Bill 394 from the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, which prohibits people from providing abortion-inducing drugs by mail or delivery service, strengthens the law applicable to the reporting of abortions and abortion complications, and ensures that no abortion-inducing drugs are provided unless there is voluntary and informed consent.
- Critical Race Theory: Legislation similar to House Bill 3979 concerning critical race theory as originally passed by the Texas Senate in the 87th Legislature, Regular Session.
- Thirteenth Check: Legislation similar to House Bill 3507 from the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, relating to a “thirteenth check” or one-time supplemental payment of benefits under the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.
- Appropriations: Legislation providing appropriations from additional available general revenue for the following purposes:
- Property tax relief;
- Enhanced protection for the safety of children in Texas’ foster-care system by attracting and retaining private providers for the system; and
- To better safeguard the state from potential cybersecurity threats.
The League will summarize city-related bills (whether or not they are currently included in the governor’s special session agenda) starting in next week’s edition of the Legislative Update.
tdem Releases guidance on stimulus fund disbursement for small cities
On Friday, July 2, the Texas Division of Emergency Management sent notice to Texas “non-entitlement units” of local government (typically cities under 50,000 population) that TDEM will soon announce the availability of federal stimulus dollars allocated to these cities under the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (CLFRF). According to the notice, the state will formally apply to receive the federal funds on August 2, 2021.
Included in the notice is a CLFRF timeline that details what steps cities need to take to request funding. TDEM warns that cities that do not complete the required steps by August 2 may lose access to their CLFRF allotment. For this reason, it is imperative that cities act quickly to complete their submission packages and send them to TDEM to receive this funding.
The full list of CLFRF allocations to non-entitlement Texas cities can be accessed here.
TDEM will also offer CLFRF training sessions via Zoom every business day during July, starting July 7. Interested city officials and employees can register for the training sessions here.
TDEM has created a dedicated webpage for CLFRF information, including information on how to apply for funding and proper uses of CLFRF revenue. The page also includes links to U.S. Department of Treasury guidance, as well as a Texas-specific FAQ document.
The League will continue to provide updates on CLFRF disbursement as new information becomes available.
speaker phelan announces new select committee
On Tuesday, Speaker Phelan announced the creation of the House Select Committee on Constitutional Rights and Remedies. In his press release, Speaker Phelan created the committee for the “purpose of studying certain issues that will be submitted by the Governor for the House’s consideration in the upcoming special session, specifically on matters relating to the constitutional rights of Texans and the entities, activates, and democratic institutions responsible for the administration and protection of those rights. The issues that the Legislature will be tasked with undertaking are by their very nature complex, and a select committee with expanded membership and expertise is the ideal forum for ensuring their thoughtful consideration.”
stay engaged during special session: grassroots involvement program
During the special session, Texas cities will face many challenges and opportunities. TML will need to mobilize our membership at key points during special session. The Grassroots Involvement Program (GRIP) is one way to do so. Our GRIP survey focuses on a variety of items including your areas of expertise and involvement with other professional organizations. Most importantly, the GRIP survey asks how well you know various state legislators and if you are willing to communicate with those legislators during the session.
If you have a relationship with your legislator(s) or want to be more involved during session, please take the time to complete the GRIP survey. Past efforts have proven that such participation is a highly effective tool.
We ask that you complete the survey as soon as possible.
post-session update: paid quarantine leave for first responders
House Bill 2073 was signed by the governor on June 15, 2021 and is effective now. The bill requires a city to adopt a paid quarantine leave policy for fire fighters, peace officers, detention officers, and emergency medical technicians (as applicable for each city) who are employed by, appointed by, or elected to one of those positions. The policy comes into effect when someone who holds one of those positions is ordered by a supervisor or local health authority to quarantine or isolate due to a possible or known exposure to a communicable disease while on duty. The policy is a stand-alone mandate that is unrelated to workers’ compensation benefits.
The League’s legal department has received several inquiries about the bill and has prepared an example policy for its implementation. Of course, only a city that employs someone in one of the positions mentioned above needs the policy. Also, the benefits provided under a policy may be different for different cities. As such, the example is a starting place only. Each city’s attorney should carefully review its city’s policies prior to adoption.
post-session update: building inspections
S.B. 877 adds a section to Chapter 214 of the Texas Local Government Code expanding the list of specific individuals permitted to perform building inspections during declared disasters. Under the new provisions the following individuals may perform inspections during a declared disaster for compliance with building codes: (1) certified inspectors; (2) city building inspectors; (3) government building inspectors who have been approved by the city to perform inspections during a disaster; and (4) licensed engineers.
Because this bill is effective immediately and Texas is still operating under a statewide disaster declaration – at least for now – your city could receive inspection reports from different people.
Note that these “inspectors” must comply with the city’s building regulations and policies and give the city notice of an inspection within 30 days of the inspection. The city may prescribe the format of the inspection notice but cannot collect an additional inspection fee based on the inspection being conducted by a person pursuant to these provisions.
post-session update: responding to disasters
S.B. 968, effective June 16, 2021, made several changes related to a city’s response to emergencies or disasters. The bill provides that a mayor may not issue an order during a declared state of disaster or local disaster to address a pandemic disaster that limits or prohibits: (1) housing and commercial construction activities, including related activities involving the sale, transportation, and installation of manufactured homes; (2) the provision of governmental services for title searches, notary services, and recording services in support of mortgages and real estate services and transactions; (3) residential and commercial real estate services, including settlement services; or (4) essential maintenance, manufacturing, design, operation, inspection, security, and construction services for essential products, services, and supply chain relief efforts.
S.B. 968 also prohibits a city, other than for health care purposes, from: (1) issuing to a third party a vaccine passport, vaccine pass, or other standardized documentation to certify an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status; or (2) otherwise publishing or sharing any individual’s COVID-19 immunization record or similar health information.
Additionally, the bill provides that, in the event of a disaster or other emergency as determined by the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), TDEM shall collaborate with first responders, local governments, and local health departments, to conduct wellness checks on medically fragile individuals (as defined by TDEM) within 24 hours of such events. The wellness checks must include an automated phone call, a personalized call, and if the person is unresponsive to calls, an in-person check. The bill requires each city to adopt procedures to conduct wellness checks in compliance with minimum standards adopted by TDEM. At this time, TDEM has not published its minimum standards. The League will continue to monitor this issue and provide updates as new information becomes available.
covid-19 update (no. 193)
All pandemic-related updates, including information about the American Rescue Plan’s city related provisions, will be in the Legislative Update newsletter from now on.
- Open Meetings Act: In March 2020, as Texans worked to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Governor Abbott’s office granted the attorney general’s request to suspend certain open-meeting statutes. The temporary suspension allows, among other things, for telephonic or videoconference meetings of governmental bodies that are accessible to the public in an effort to reduce in-person meetings that assemble large groups of people.
On June 30, 2021, the governor’s office approved a request by the attorney general to lift those suspensions. The suspensions will lift at 12:01 a.m. on September 1, 2021. Thus, as of September 1, 2021, all provisions of the Open Meetings Act will be effective and all Texas governmental bodies subject to the Open Meetings Act must conduct their meetings in full compliance with the Open Meetings Act as written in state law.
TML member cities may use the material herein for any purpose. No other person or entity may reproduce, duplicate, or distribute any part of this document without the written authorization of the Texas Municipal League