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Apr 29

April 29, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #33

Posted on April 29, 2020 at 4:59 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


Whose role is it to interpret the governor’s order? Should TML or city attorneys be advising on whether particular businesses or activities are essential, prohibited, or allowed?


It depends. The League’s legal staff has received dozens and dozens of emails and phone calls related to the application of Executive Order GA-18 to particular businesses and fact situations. As we prepared responses to those inquiries, it became very clear, very quickly that doing so – beyond consulting with a city’s attorney – may not make sense.


We have our reasoned legal opinions about how to interpret the order, but reasonable attorneys can easily differ on theirs. We’ve included as much analysis as we think prudent in these daily email updates, issued on the heels of each of the governor’s orders.


In addition, TML legal staff can’t know the “situation on the ground” in any particular city. Some mayors and councils may want to be more aggressive in enforcement, while others may wish to hold back. We have even seen internal disputes regarding these issues. We never want to be in a position to be issuing information that may conflict with a city’s attorney. 


Moreover, the League’s legal staff doesn’t directly represent your city, and we also can’t provide legal advice to private business owners seeking opinions. That can be an issue for a city attorney as well. The city attorney’s client is the city. Thus, he or she can advise the city about enforcement of state and local orders, but can run into ethical issues by advising a private person or business owner about his or her legal rights. 


What does all of the above mean in terms of how the League’s attorneys assist you? We are in no way abandoning you or the support we provide; we are still here to do that with general legal inquiries, whether related to the COVID-19 emergency or not. To that end, please continue to ask your questions by calling 512-231-7400 and choosing option 2 or emailing We will always be here to answer questions that don’t involve making a specific determination about which businesses or activities are subject to the governor’s orders.


What about those determinations? We will defer to your city’s attorney, and he or she can continue to consult with us on how to make them. 


Other avenues for assistance about the application of the governor’s orders to a particular situation are as follows:


-Pursuant to a new state law passed in 2019, mayors and designated emergency managers with questions about the COVID-19 emergency or how the governor’s order applies to any particular situation can seek legal advice from the attorney general’s office. If you take this route, please share the answer with us at


-A business that is seeking to determine whether it is classified as essential can do so through the Texas Division of Emergency Management. If you receive one of these determinations from a local business, please share it as well.


-Another possibility is to contact the governor’s office directly. To that end, another route might be his office’s basic contact methods, which are listed on his web site


Thank you for allowing us to serve you during this crisis. Questions or comments can be directed to Scott Houston, TML general counsel, at 512-231-7464 or