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Find out what's happening in the blog. Below is a list of blog items.

Mar 16

TML Training Events and Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)

Posted to Press Release by Jen Stamps

TML is monitoring developments related to the novel coronavirus – including tracking travel restrictions, statewide developments, and following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  We want to assure all city officials that your safety and security are our top priorities.

In light of increased city travel restrictions and the CDC’s recommendation to cancel all events of 50 or more, we are cancelling or postponing most TML training events taking place between now and May 15, including the Emotional Intelligence Workshop,  Leadership Academy, and Small Town Conference.   City officials registered for these events will be notified and registration fees will be fully refunded.  If feasible, we’ll reschedule these events later in the year.

We are considering offering the TML Budget and Tax Rate Workshop on April 23 (Austin) as a webinar instead of in-person training.  Registrants will be notified when details are worked out. 

At this time, we’re still planning to proceed with TML training events held after May 15.  If the situation changes due to a regional quarantine or state emergency declaration, TML will reschedule or cancel other upcoming training events and notify all registrants.

TML Event Cancellation Policy

Registrants whose events take place between now and May 15, or whose travel or other plans are impacted by the coronavirus may request a full refund.

Attendees should contact their hotels directly to cancel reservations, and are responsible for any cancellation or change fees.

Jul 13

July 13, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #83

Posted to TML Coronavirus Update by TML Staff

Urgent Updates

 

Did the governor take any virus-related action heading into last weekend?

 

Yes. He issued the following press release last Friday (July 10):

 

“Governor Greg Abbott has been working with Vice President Mike Pence and members of the Trump Administration to ensure the medical needs of Texans will be met as the State responds to COVID-19. He announced tonight that additional federal resources have been activated and are being sent to the Houston region to combat COVID-19.

 

The additional resources include an Urban Area Medical Task Force from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) that will arrive in the region on Monday and a Disaster Medical Assistance Team from U.S. Health and Human Services that has just been deployed. These resources add to a DOD Urban Area Medical Task Force that just began operating in Bexar County as well as seven federal assessment teams operating in Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, McAllen, Laredo, and El Paso this past week. The Governor continues daily collaboration with Texas' federal partners to expand resources for any regions to respond to COVID-19. 

 

‘Texas is grateful to the federal government as well as the President and Vice President for working swiftly to provide additional resources to the state as we work to mitigate COVID-19 and care for our fellow Texans,’ said Governor Abbott. ‘We will continue to work with our local and federal partners to ensure all resources and needs are met throughout the state.’”

 

What can mayors do right now to support congressional efforts for a next round of federal stimulus to all Texas cities?

 

The Senate Finance Committee is currently preparing the next federal stimulus package for workers, businesses, states, and local governments, and the U.S. Senate is expected to consider the measure after Congress returns from break on July 20. Please join mayors from across Texas in signing this letter urging our congressional delegation to provide direct and flexible assistance to Texas cities. Mayors interested in signing onto the letter, please email your name, city, and electronic signature to jj@tml.org by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow (July 14) to be included. 

 

Cities are facing major public health and public safety challenges at the same time we are facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis. Simply put, demand and need for core local government services has increased significantly at the same time we are all projecting unprecedented levels of revenue loss. As metropolitan area economies generate over 91 percent of the nation's GDP, direct flexible fiscal assistance to local governments is how to spur an economic comeback.

 

We encourage city officials to continue visiting with your members of Congress, as well as Senators Cornyn and Cruz, to communicate the needs of your city. ?Now, while the Senate is in recess, call your senators and representatives. We also urge city officials to engage with your business community leaders to call on members of Congress and senators in support of additional direct flexible funding. 

 

We are thankful for your voice during these trying times and we appreciate all that you are doing on behalf your communities.

 

 

What happened today with regard to the Republican Party of Texas state convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston and why does it matter to city officials?

 

Citing concerns over the spread of Coronavirus in the Houston area, Mayor Sylvester Turner relied on a force majeure clause to cancel the contract with the Republican Party of Texas and refuse the use of the city’s convention center. The Party sued the City in district court and lost, and then sought an opinion from the Texas Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court issued a short opinion denying the Party’s request that it order the mayor and City to allow the convention.

 

The case is obviously highly-politicized, and the League doesn’t weigh in on such political issues. But the Court’s opinion does provide some guidance with regard to municipal facilities. The governor’s current executive order allows local government “operations, including county and municipal governmental operations relating to licensing (including marriage licenses), permitting, recordation, and document-filing services, as determined by the local government.” And there is no occupancy limit on those operations. 

 

So what happened with the lawsuit? The Party essentially claimed that the governor’s orders and the U.S. and Texas Constitutions allowed them, by right, to use the City’s facility. The Court’s opinion rebuked those claims, and it would seem to solidify the notion that city officials maintain control over their facilities. The logic applies to any city facility: a sports field complex, a park, a library, etc.  

 

Whether that means opening them up or keeping them closed, it’s another good opinion from the Court for city discretion. The governor’s order also provides that “Nothing in this executive order or the DSHS minimum standards precludes requiring a customer to follow additional hygiene measures when obtaining services.” That means a city can open its facilities with whichever protocols are deemed appropriate. 

 

Further Updates

 

Are there ongoing efforts to ease state-issued restrictions on the use of federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) revenue by cities in counties under 500,000 population?

 

Yes. The City of Waco drafted a letter asking the governor to consider eliminating the so-called “75 percent limitation” on the use of CRF funds for cities located in counties under 500,000 population. As of today, almost 30 mayors have signed the letter. Other mayors interested in signing on to Waco’s letter are encouraged to email their name, city, and electronic signature to Ashley Nystrom with the City of Waco at AshleyN@wacotx.gov by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow (July 14). Note that this a deadline extension.  

 

The League sent a letter to Governor Abbott last month asking him to eliminate the 75 percent limitation in order to free up federal dollars for use on economic support for local businesses, among other things. No action has yet been taken on the spending limitations, which prompted Waco to take the lead on this new request.

 

Where can I go to see exactly what business and activities are allowed by the governor’s orders as of now?

 

Check out www.open.texas.gov. This is the governor’s Open Texas web page. On it, you’ll find a list of each allowable business or activity, along with a link to the Department of State Health Services guidance on allowable occupancy limits, the most recent statewide mask order, and more.

 

Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?

 

TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.