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Sep 29

September 29, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #129

Posted on September 29, 2020 at 2:29 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


Are there any new developments on another federal stimulus bill?


Yes. Yesterday (September 28), Congressional Democrats announced a $2.2 trillion stimulus proposal as a final effort to reach a deal with the White House and Senate before the election. The HEROES Act includes $436 billion of funding for state and local governments, $225 billion for education, renewed Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses, a second round of $1,200 economic impact payments per taxpayer, and additional assistance for airline industry workers, among other things.


Further details on the funding for state and local governments can be accessed here. Most notably, the HEROES Act would appropriate $179 billion to be divided evenly amongst cities and counties. The $89.5 billion for cities nationwide would be allocated in accordance with a modified Community Development Block Grant formula as follows:


- $62.65 billion for CDBG-entitlement municipalities (generally defined as those with populations of at least 50,000);

- $26.85 billion for CDBG non-entitlement municipalities (generally defined as those with populations of less than 50,000). Funds would be awarded to states, which must make awards to non-entitlement cities based solely on population within 30 days of receipt.


City funds received under the HEROES Act could be used for COVID-19-related expenses, to replace foregone revenues not projected on January 31, 2020, or to respond to negative economic impacts of COVID-19. New city funds under the HEROES Act would be available until expended. Additionally, the HEROES Act would expand the use of CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) revenue to cover lost, delayed, or decreased revenue stemming from the COVID-19 public health emergency and extends the date of expenditure for CRF funds to December 31, 2021.


It's probably safe to say that any stimulus legislation, including the HEROES Act, faces an uphill battle at this point. That being said, the Speaker of the House and the Treasury Secretary have been meeting in recent days about stimulus proposals, so it is encouraging that negotiations are ongoing.


What is the latest in the lawsuit to limit the governor’s authority to expand early voting and the delivery of mail-in ballots for the upcoming November election?


Last Wednesday (September 23), several state officials filed a lawsuit challenging the governor’s authority to issue a July 27 proclamation extending the early voting period for the November election by a week and expanding the timeframe in which marked mail-in ballots may be delivered in person to the early voting clerk’s office. Technically speaking, the state officials asked the Texas Supreme Court for a “writ of mandamus” to prevent the secretary of state from implementing the governor’s allegedly unlawful proclamation.


Yesterday (September 28), the attorney general and solicitor general filed their response to the mandamus petition on behalf of the secretary of state. In addition to a procedural argument about the state officials’ standing to file the lawsuit, the attorney general and solicitor general argue that the Supreme Court should deny the petition because the secretary of state doesn’t enforce the proclamation or relevant sections of the Texas Election Code, and therefore there is no ministerial duty that the secretary of state could perform to remedy the alleged injury. Further, even if there were something the secretary of state could do about the governor’s proclamation, the Texas Disaster Act delegates reasonable legislative authority to the governor, and the proclamation represents the proper exercise of that authority.  


Any other election lawsuit updates?


Sure, why not? Although it doesn’t pertain directly to cities because it deals with straight-ticket voting for partisan elections this November, it is worth mentioning the recent back and forth on the issue. On Friday (September 25), a federal district judge in Laredo struck down a state law that passed in 2017 and was slated to go into effect for the first time this November that would eliminate the long-standing ability of Texas voters to vote a straight-ticket based on party affiliation. According to the judge, the elimination of straight-ticket voting would “cause important delays at polling places, place Texan voters at increased risk of catching a deadly virus, and discourage voters, particularly those most vulnerable to the disease or under significant economic pressure, from exercising their rights on election day.”


Yesterday (September 28), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals put a temporary hold on the lower court’s reinstatement of straight-ticket voting while it takes up the case on appeal. So at this moment there is no straight-ticket voting in the November election, as we await final word from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.


Further Updates


How can we help local retailers keep their doors open and rebound?


Retail has been especially hard hit by the pandemic with many beloved stores hanging out “for sale” signs as the virus forces permanent closures. Innovations are helping the retail sector weather the challenges with curbside shopping and delivery, but what does the future hold? Listen in on “Retail Trends Post COVID-19” at the virtual TML Annual Conference and Exhibition on October 14 at 1:30 p.m. where C. Kelly Cofer and Aaron Farmer of The Retail Coach will discuss how you can help foster a strong retail sector in your community.


Register to hear this presentation and view more than 30 other TML Annual Conference sessions related to recovery and resilience. The deadline for early conference registration is Thursday, October 1.