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Apr 13

April 13, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #21

Posted on April 13, 2020 at 3:55 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


What can mayors do right now to support congressional efforts for additional federal funding to all Texas cities during COVID-19?


Include your signature on the letter addressed to our Texas congressional delegation urging Congress to provide direct and flexible financial assistance to Texas cities. Please email your name, city, and electronic signature to by 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning (Tuesday, April 14) to be included.


Has the governor extended his disaster proclamation for all Texas counties? 


Yes, the governor extended his original disaster declaration for all Texas counties. The order is unclear on its face, but it presumably extends the declaration for 30 days pursuant to Texas Government Code Section 418.014(c). The disaster declaration is not the same as his stay home/work home executive order GA-14. That order will expire on April 30, unless renewed. 


Must a local health authority disclose information about COVID-19 to first responders?


Yes. A local health department or health authority shall provide to first responders the physical address of a person who is being monitored by the local department or authority for a communicable disease for the duration of the disease’s incubation period. Id. § 81.046(c-1). The local health department, health authority, or other governmental entity, as applicable, shall remove the person’s physical address from any computer-aided dispatch system after the monitoring period expires. Id. The League previously reported on required disclosures, and the Department of State Health Services recently released this Q&A reaching the same conclusions.


Reports, records, and information relating to cases or suspected cases of diseases or health conditions may be released to the extent necessary during a public health disaster, including an outbreak of a communicable disease, to law enforcement personnel and first responders solely for the purpose of protecting the health or life of a first responder or the person identified in the report, record, or information. Id. § 81.046(f). Only the minimum necessary information may be released under this subsection, as determined by the health authority, the local health department, or the department. Id.


How can cities prepare locally for a “new normal” when the re-opening of business and other activities begins?


City officials may want to consider forming a local taskforce composed of local business leaders, religious and civic leaders, and healthcare professionals. The taskforce can assist a mayor or city council with communications with the public and serve as a united front between government and the private sector. League staff will compile and share ideas as they become available. 


Has the governor or attorney general provided any further information regarding golf courses?


Yes. At a press briefing last Friday (April 9), the governor further explained his position on golf courses. City officials can watch the video of his explanation, read a formal letter issued by the attorney general last Saturday (April 11), and decide what action to take. Apparently, the formal letter will be the only written guidance on the issue. Mayors who submitted their own clarification request are receiving an email referring to the form letter or a call from the attorney general’s office to discuss their unique circumstances.


One thing bears mention. In the video above, the governor said that “people are free to walk along, or even with a golf club and a golf ball, go along a golf course.” Of minor concern, he said that on “a public golf course anybody can,” and on a private golf course “members who are authorized to be on those premises, can walk along the golf course even with a golf club and a golf ball.”


This portion of his answer is imprecise: He states that “anybody can go on a public golf course.” If a city authorizes the public to use its course, that’s correct. But a city, as owner of its course, maintains the right to close, open, partially open, or any permutation thereof, its golf course or other parks.


Further Updates


How would anti-TML legislation that died last session have affected cities during and after this emergency?


For the past several legislative sessions, legislation has been filed and moved through the process that would have prohibited a city from paying dues to the League if we advocate on your behalf. (The same bills would have prohibited cities from hiring outside lobbyists.) 


In 2019, the legislation came in the form of Senate Bill 29 by Bob Hall (R – Rockwall) and House Bill 281 by Mayes Middleton (R – Wallisville). Senate Bill 29 made it all the way to the House floor (one vote away from passing), where it died on a 58-85 vote. The restrictions in the bills morphed as they moved through the legislative process, but they essentially would have eliminated the League’s ability to advocate on your behalf.   


Could such bills, if passed, prohibit League staff from working on your behalf during the virus emergency? Most certainly. We have advocated on your behalf for the governor to suspend certain laws, such as the Open Meetings Act and election-related laws. We have advocated on your behalf for more federal stimulus funds to come directly to cities. We have advocated on your behalf that the state process for distributing those funds include cities of all sizes. We have interacted with the governor’s office, numerous state legislators and their staff, leadership and staff of multiple state agencies (TDEM, DSHS, Workforce Commission, etc.), coordinated advice and messaging with other local government associations, and dealt with dozens of industries and their representatives and associations.


The League, which is nothing more than each of you working together for the betterment of your city, region, and the state, is your community’s advocate.


With cities moving their general election to November, should we be aware of legal issues related to regulating political signs?


Yes. When it comes to regulating political signs, cities always face two critical questions. Does our sign ordinance run afoul of the constitution? Does our sign ordinance conflict with state law?


To insure the city does not abridge the constitutional rights of the sign’s owner, a city should not regulate a political sign based on the content of the speech. See, e.g., Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 135 S.Ct. 2218 (2015); City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. 43, 58 (1994). Even if content-neutral, a city still needs to examine its sign ordinance to make sure it doesn’t conflict with state laws regarding political signs. See, e.g., Tex. Elec. Code §§ 61.003 (addressing the regulation of posting political signs at a public building used as a polling place); 259.003 (addressing the regulation of political signs by a city).


This is only intended to be a reminder of the legal issues related to political signs, and is not meant to suggest that your city’s sign ordinance may never reach such signs. For instance, political signs are often impacted through a city’s larger regulatory scheme of all temporary signs, residential signs, and signs in the right-of-way. 


In sum, cities should use caution and seek the advice of local legal counsel when attempting to regulate political signs.


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


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