October 29, 2021, Number 41
Download the full .pdf version here: TML Legislative Update Number 41
city-related constitutional amendment propositions
Three of the eight proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution on the November 2, 2021, ballot directly or indirectly affect Texas cities. The following information about the propositions is taken directly from the Texas secretary of state’s website.
- Proposition 2 (H.J.R. 99): H.J.R. 99 proposes a constitutional amendment allowing the legislature to authorize a county to issue bonds or notes to finance the development or redevelopment of an unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted area within the county and to pledge for repayment of those bonds or notes increases in property tax revenues imposed on property in the area by the county. The Texas Constitution gives the legislature the power to authorize an incorporated city or town to issue such bonds or notes but does not expressly give the legislature the power to grant that same authority to counties. The proposed amendment also provides that a county that issues bonds or notes for transportation improvements may not pledge for the repayment of those bonds or notes more than 65 percent of the increases in ad valorem tax revenues each year, and a county may not use proceeds from the bonds or notes to finance the construction, operation, maintenance, or acquisition of rights-of-way of a toll road.
The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing a county to finance the development or redevelopment of transportation or infrastructure in unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted areas in the county.”
- Proposition 3 (S.J.R. 27): S.J.R. 27 proposes a constitutional amendment barring the State of Texas or a political subdivision from enacting, adopting, or issuing a statute, order, proclamation, decision, or rule that prohibits or limits religious services. The proposed amendment would apply to religious services, including those conducted in churches, congregations, and places of worship, in the state by a religious organization established to support and serve the propagation of a sincerely held religious belief.
The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment to prohibit this state or a political subdivision of this state from prohibiting or limiting religious services of religious organizations.”
- Proposition 8 (S.J.R. 35): S.J.R. 35 proposes a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the United States armed services who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty. The Texas Constitution provides a property tax exemption to the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services who is killed in action, but the current exemption does not include members of the military who die during their service due to injuries sustained that are not combat-related.
The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.”
For background and analysis of the propositions, see the House Research Organization’s Focus Report on “Constitutional Amendments Proposed for November 2021 Ballot”, and the Texas Legislative Council’s “Analyses of Proposed Constitutional Amendments”.
u.s. department of the treasury seeking input on Coronavirus local fiscal recovery funds
The U.S. Department of the Treasury is seeking feedback from Non-Entitlement Units (NEUs) which are typically cities serving populations of less than 50,000 on particular uses and impediments to spending the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (CLFRFs). If you have any feedback that would be useful for the Department of the Treasury, please email Monty Wynn, Director, Grassroots and Legislative Services at firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of business on Monday, November 1. TML will share feedback with Treasury officials.
u.s. senate passes state, local, tribal, and territorial fiscal recovery, infrastructure, and disaster relief flexibility act
The U.S. Senate passed S. 3011 sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R- Texas) that would clarify that highway and public transportation projects are an eligible expenditure for State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). If passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, states and cities would be able to spend the greater of either up to 30 percent of their SLFRF allocation, or $10 million, on qualifying infrastructure projects.
In addition to offering local governments new flexibilities for their ARPA funds, S.3011 represents an opportunity for local governments to use federal funds as a match to leverage the upcoming Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act transportation programs. Any project currently eligible for funding under the following programs would now be eligible for financing with COVID-19 relief dollars:
- Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects
- National Highway Performance Program
- Bridge Investment Program
- Surface Transportation Block Grant Program
- Metropolitan Transportation Planning
- Highway Safety Improvement Program
- Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program
- Territorial and Puerto Rico Highway Program
- National Highway Freight Program
- Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program
- Carbon Reduction Program
- PROTECT Program
- Tribal Transportation Program
- Alternative Fueling Infrastructure
- Federal Lands Transportation Program
- Federal Lands Access Program
- RAISE Grant Program
- TIFIA Program
- ADHS Program
- Urbanized Area Formula Grants
- Fixed Guideway Capital Investment Grants
- Formula Grants for Rural Areas
- State of Good Repair Grants
- Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities
- National Culvert Removal, Replacement, and Restoration Program
- Community Development Block Grant
- Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection, and Construction Program
We encourage you to reach out to your Congressional House delegation to urge their support of S.3011 and to thank Sen. Cornyn for his work on this important measure.
update: opioid settlement
In an update to the opioid settlement efforts, Attorney General Ken Paxton recently announced a $290 million statewide opioid settlement agreement with Johnson & Johnson to resolve opioid-related claims. The Johnson & Johnson agreement will largely track the terms of the Global Prescription Opioid Litigation Settlement Agreement that was announced on July 23, 2021. In addition to the funds from Johnson & Johnson, Texas is also slated to receive up to $1.2 billion from three distributors, Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen, which will bring to Texas up to $1.5 billion in funding for statewide opioid abatement efforts.
Local governments must join the settlement by January 2, 2022, in order to maximize the benefits of the settlement. Funding received under the settlement will be used to support opioid abatement strategies. More information, including the steps necessary to formally join the settlement, can be found here.
covid-19 update (no. 206)
All pandemic-related updates continue to be found in the Legislative Update Newsletter.
EEOC Issues Updated COVID-19 Technical Assistance
On October 25, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) posted updated and expanded technical assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing questions about religious objections to employer COVID-19 vaccine requirements and how they interact with federal equal employment opportunity laws.
The expanded technical assistance provides new information about how Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies when an applicant or employee requests an exception from an employer’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement that conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
The key updates to the technical assistance are summarized below:
- Employees and applicants must inform their employers if they seek an exception to an employer’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement due to a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.
- Title VII requires employers to consider requests for religious accommodations but does not protect social, political, or economic views, or personal preferences of employees who seek exceptions to a COVID-19 vaccination requirement.
- Employers that demonstrate “undue hardship” are not required to accommodate an employee’s request for a religious accommodation.
The EEOC is providing this information to the public as many employers are requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of their employment. This technical assistance answers COVID-19 questions only from the perspective of the federal EEO laws. Other federal, state, and local laws come into play regarding the COVID-19 pandemic for employers, employees, and applicants. This includes Governor Abbott’s Executive Order Nos. 39 and 40. Consult with your city attorney before taking action with regard to vaccine mandates.
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.