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Oct 08

October 8, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #135

Posted on October 8, 2020 at 3:41 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates

Will there be an update email tomorrow?

Nope! Not unless absolutely necessary.

Is the deadline for a city in a county of less than 500,000 population to draw down CRF funds approaching?

YES. Every city that is drawing CRF money from the Texas Division of Emergency Management must submit its initial paperwork by NEXT FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16. You can find your city’s allocation and the application instructions on the TDEM CRF web page. For more details, visit Carrington Coleman’s website.

Failure to comply will result in being permanently locked out from the CRF program. And we agree with the law firm’s opinion that there is no reason to not participate in the CRF program. 

Did the governor issue a new executive order yesterday?

Yes. Executive Order GA-32 is effective on October 14, and it does the following of most significance to city residents: (1) opens bars at 50 percent in certain state trauma regions, if the county judge submits an approval form to TABC; (2) increases maximum occupancy for most businesses to 75 percent; and (3) continues to limit outdoor gatherings in a city to 10 persons (other than those expressly allowed by the order), including rafting, tubing, and related services, unless the mayor authorizes more.

The governor issued the following press release to accompany the order:

“Governor Greg Abbott today issued an Executive Order to open bars and similar establishments at up to 50% capacity in conjunction with county officials. In hospital regions with low COVID-19 hospitalizations, County Judges will be able to opt their county into opening bars beginning October 14th, provided they assist in enforcing health protocols. The Governor's Executive Order also increases the occupancy levels for all business establishments other than bars to 75%.  

‘Even as more businesses have opened and students return to school, Texans have shown we can contain the spread of COVID-19,’ said Governor Abbott. ‘Thanks to Texans following the best health practices, our state is prepared for additional openings, including bars. Working with industry leaders and our team of medical experts, the State of Texas has now developed strategies to safely open bars under certain health protocols. To ensure bars open safely, these openings will be done in conjunction with county officials. County Judges will be able to opt their county into opening bars so long as they assist in enforcing the health protocols. Opening bars does not mean that COVID-19 is no longer a threat, and most Texans are still susceptible to the virus. As bars and similar businesses begin to open, we all must remain vigilant and show personal responsibility to protect ourselves and our loved ones.’

For Trauma Service Areas (TSAs) where COVID-19 hospitalizations are less than 15% of hospital capacity, a County Judge may authorize the opening of bars and similar establishments at 50% occupancy. If a County Judge authorizes the opening of these establishments, certain protocols must be followed. As recommended by trade associations representing bars, dance floors at bars and similar establishments must remain closed. Consistent with protocols for restaurants, all patrons must be seated while eating or drinking (with limited exceptions for sampling at breweries, distilleries, and wineries), and must wear masks when they are not seated at a table. Additionally, tables must be limited to six individuals or less and all establishments must follow specific curfew guidelines. 

Beginning Wednesday, October 14, all counties where COVID-19 hospitalizations are less than 15% of hospital capacity can open all businesses other than bars to 75% capacity. 

Additionally, the Governor released a web video with his Executive Order, encouraging Texans to continue following best practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in their communities.”

[Editor’s note: As highlighted above, the new order requires bar patrons to be seated whilst imbibing. Did you know that drinking alcohol while sitting down may, in additional to purportedly preventing the spread of COVID-19, have an additional benefit? Indeed. When you drink alcohol while sitting down, you may feel more buzzed when you stand up! Why? Alcohol affects the part of your brain that controls your balance and coordination for standing/walking. Less coordination is required to sit than to stand. Thus, when you stand suddenly, you need to start balancing and coordinating more and you may notice – depending on how much you’ve had – that you're just not as good at it. Yes, I am back. (P.S. Kudos to my stand in, who did an outstanding job in my absence!)]

Has the secretary of state issued new election-related guidance?

Yes.  Yesterday (October 7), the Elections Division issued the following “MASS EMAIL - (CSO-3279) Notice Requirements:”

“We have received a number of questions related to Notice Requirements.  We would like to provide some additional information below:

Notice Requirements: The authority responsible for providing notice is prescribed under Section 4.002 of the Texas Election Code.  For political subdivisions (not counties), the presiding officer of the governing body that ordered the election is responsible for giving notice. The methods of giving notice are prescribed under Section 4.003. For more information about notice requirements, please see Note 9 on our November 3, 2020 Election Law Calendar.   

Contracting with a County Election Officer: If you are contracting with a county election officer, you may in your contract have the county publish your Notice of Election for you.  Subject to Sections 31.096 (nontransferable functions) and 31.097 (early voting deputies), in a contract for election services, the county election officer may perform any or all of the corresponding duties and functions that the officer performs in connection with a county election. You must provide the county with all information required for the Notice of Election.

Countywide Polling Places:  If your county is a part of the countywide polling place program and you are publishing your Notice of Election in the newspaper on your own, it may be difficult to list all county election polling places in your local notice.  In this circumstance, we recommend that you list the county polling places located within your territory. You should also include the website address that contains the full listing of countywide polling places. In addition, your notice should include language that directs voters to this website to see the full available list of polling places.

Thank you, 

Christina Worrell Adkins

Legal Director – Elections Division

Office of the Texas Secretary of State

1.800.252.VOTE (8683)” 

Further Updates

What is the status of the suspended Open Meetings Act provisions?

Yesterday (October 7), the governor’s office extended the Open Meetings Act suspensions for another 30 days. Previously, on March 16, the governor granted the office of the attorney general’s request for suspension of 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.

The guidance associated with the suspension provides that: “These suspensions are in effect until terminated by the office of the governor, or until the March 13, 2020, disaster declaration is lifted or expires.”

The March 13 declaration has been extended for successive 30-day periods, including yesterday’s extension for 30 days. That means the relevant open meetings laws remain suspended for at least another 30 days (or until affirmatively rescinded).

We can’t be certain, but it is highly likely that the governor will continue to repeatedly extend his declarations. We’ve heard from his staff that they have no immediate plans to rescind the suspensions, which are sensible and seem to be working well, but that can’t be guaranteed.

What’s the latest from the comptroller regarding sales tax?

Yesterday (October 7), the comptroller issued the following press release:

“Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced today he will send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $751.5 million in local sales tax allocations for October, 2.8 percent less than in October 2019. These allocations are based on sales made in August by businesses that report tax monthly.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to weigh on the Texas economy and sales tax revenue. For details on October sales tax allocations to individual cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose districts, visit the Comptroller’s Monthly Sales Tax Allocation Comparison Summary Reports.


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


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