View All Posts

Aug 05

August 5, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #97

Posted on August 5, 2020 at 4:01 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


Has the attorney general issued more virus-related opinions?


Yes. He issued two formal attorney general opinions yesterday (August 4). Both opinions are favorable to local government authority during the pandemic as it relates to masks in their facilities:


-Opinion KP-0323 concludes that “[i]f wearing a facial covering in a transit authority vehicle or facility is necessary for the safe and efficient operation of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Authority may require any person medically capable of doing so to wear a facial covering when entering its vehicles or facilities.”


-Opinion KP-0322 concludes that “[c]ounty authority to require facial coverings in courtrooms, courthouses, and county buildings can be found in in the Texas statutes, and in emergency and executive orders.


Judges possess broad inherent authority to control orderly proceedings in their courtrooms, and pursuant to that authority they could require individuals in the courtroom to wear facial coverings if necessary to maintain order and safety. In addition, the Texas Supreme Court has issued an emergency order requiring all judges to comply with guidance promulgated by the Office of Court Administration, which requires facial coverings by all individuals while in the courthouse. Thus, courts may require any person entering the courthouse in which they preside to wear a facial covering while in the courthouse.


Government Code section 418.108 authorizes a county judge to declare a local state of disaster and upon such declaration, vests the county judge with authority to control the occupancy of premises in the disaster area. Pursuant to this emergency authority, a county judge operating under a local disaster order could require a person to wear a facial covering when occupying a courthouse or other county-owned or controlled building.


Executive Order GA-29 allows local law enforcement and local officials to impose a fine not to exceed $250 for an individual’s second violation of a mask requirement. In addition, public officials may require facial coverings for those entering the courthouse or other county buildings and may deny entry to those individuals refusing to wear a facial covering inside those premises.”


Has the Secretary of State’s Elections Division issued additional guidance for the November election?


Yes. Last Monday (August 3), the Elections Division sent mass email advisory CSO-3449, “Methods of Filing for Candidate Applications.” Please note the email relates only to cities that normally conduct their elections in November (according to previous SOS guidance, the filing period is closed for cities that temporarily moved their May election to November). Here’s the text of the email:


“Dear Election Officials:


Many cities, school and other local political subdivisions are in their candidate filing period for the November 3, 2020 elections. We’ve received a number of questions about authorized methods of filing for candidate applications. Below is an explanation of the different filing methods.


Filing Method of Candidate Application - A candidate application may be filed in person, by mail, by fax, or by email:

-Filing in Person: The Elections Division recommends that political subdivisions take steps to have someone available for at least a few hours most days during the candidate filing period to accept filings, and that political subdivisions post a schedule on their websites and on the bulletin boards where notices of meetings are posted of the days and times when someone will be available to accept filings. The Elections Division also strongly recommends having someone available at the place of business on the filing deadline, especially from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., if you are otherwise closed.


-Filing by Mail: An application submitted by mail is considered to be filed at the time of its receipt by the appropriate filing authority. (Secs. 143.007(b); 144.005(b)).


-Filing by Fax or Email: A signed, sworn, scanned candidate application (and petition, if applicable) may be submitted by fax or email if there is no filing fee. The SOS recommends that the filing authority establish a dedicated fax number or email address for the submission of candidate applications. This fax number or email address should be posted on the Notice of Deadline to File Applications for Place on the Ballot or wherever information about filing candidate applications is posted. Please be advised that an application must be notarized prior to filing via fax or email.


Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.


Christina Worrell Adkins

Legal Director – Elections Division

Office of the Texas Secretary of State

1.800.252.VOTE (8683)


Further Updates


What’s the latest from NLC on the narrative related to the next stimulus bill?


On Monday (August 3), the National League of Cities reported that NLC and other groups pushed back at the narrative that Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) monies are widely available for allocation to cities, towns, and villages, and that providing greater flexibility to states would solve the problem for smaller and rural cities:

“NLC lays out the case that 70 percent of CRF funds have been obligated. Mark Meadows, The White House Chief of Staff, said on Face the Nation that more than $100 billion is still available to be disbursed from the CRF to local governments. However, data from the Treasury Department and national organizations representing state and local governments show that an overwhelming majority – 70 percent – of CARES Act funds allocated for state and local governments have already been obligated for expenditure between now and the end of the year. Furthermore, only approximately 10 percent of funds have been obligated for aid to local governments.


The Treasury Office of the Inspector General last week released a report that showed incurred costs through June 30 for states, counties, and cities that received direct funds from the CRF. While NLC welcomed this act of transparency, the uneven use of funds thus far reflects the uncertainty resulting from "rolling guidance" and the progress and setbacks in containing the spread of coronavirus. Today, NLC and aligned groups also issued a joint statement pushing back on the Treasury's OIG report.

Overall, with less than 30 percent of unobligated funds remaining, the modest amount of funds available for small local governments is running out and is not nearly sufficient to meet the critical needs of cities, which are facing a projected $360 billion revenue shortfall over the next three years as a result of the pandemic.”


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


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