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May 12

May 12, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #42

Posted on May 12, 2020 at 5:21 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


I’m worn out trying to read all the virus-related information coming at me every day. Is there another way to learn what I need to know?  


Yes, you’re in luck!  On May 21, from 2:00 - 3:30 p.m., the League will host the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update Webinar: What You Need to Know. The webinar is free to TML member cities. Advance registration is required. We began email updates regarding COVID-19 over two months ago. From the beginning, League staff has pushed out important information and analysis through our written daily updates. In fact, those archived updates total over 150 pages of information. We know how hard it is to digest all the incoming information, from the League and others. Because of that, we are offering our city officials this complimentary webinar update, which will cover the key issues you need to know to serve your city. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask questions after the update.


What is happening in Congress regarding additional federal stimulus funds to combat Covid-19?


House Democrats released a roughly $3 trillion plan today to battle the health and economic effects in the ongoing battle with COVID-19. The “Heroes Act” includes $375 billion to assist local governments with the fiscal impacts from the public health emergency caused by the Coronavirus, as well as an additional $500 billion in state aid. The bill is almost 200 pages long, and the summary is close to 100 pages. 


Although Senate Republicans have said that this bill is dead on arrival in the Senate, it does begin the negotiations between the two chambers that should ultimately lead to the next round of stimulus legislation. The House plans to vote on the measure this Friday.


To help cities and state leagues advocate for additional stimulus funds, the National League of Cities (NLC) has launched the Cities Are Essential campaign, a grassroots advocacy campaign to ensure cities, towns, and villages are included in the next relief package. 


NLC has requested that state leagues ask city officials to share their COVID-19 stories so they can use them in their communications and federal advocacy work. 


In addition, NLC has prepared tweets and letters to members of Congress, along with infographics and sample letters to the editor for your use.


To help convince senators, NLC is asking city officials who advocate to focus on the overall economic impact to the community, such as how lack of funding could affect the sanitation in your city, the tourist industry, etc.  In addition, administration officials have stressed to TML staff the need to differentiate how future monies will be used to alleviate on-the-ground budget gaps due to Covid-19, such as revenues needed to retain full first responder employment, versus perceived efforts in other parts of the nation to remedy “bad decision making” such as unfunded pension liability.  Accordingly, when sharing COVID-19 stories with NLC as requested above, Texas cities are urged to stress the concrete nature of their budget shortfalls, especially as they impact important critical services.


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


Today, the governor’s office extended the Open Meetings Act suspensions. 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 was extended on April 12, and the April 12 declaration was just extended for another 30 days today (May 12). 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 make changes. 


Do you have an update regarding the state’s response to the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state’s prison population?


Yes. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice issued the following press release today (May 12):


“Testing is one key to stopping the spread of COVID-19. Thanks to Texas Governor Greg Abbott and with the help of the Texas Department of Emergency Management, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) this week is beginning a new expanded testing program.


The agency continues to be agile in its response to the pandemic.


The state has acquired and is deploying tens of thousands of COVID-19 oral fluid tests manufactured by Curative, Incorporated. The tests were given approval in April by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization and will be administered at TDCJ prison units across Texas. These tests are designed to be self-administered by the person being tested.


‘These tests are readily available and deployable,’ said Bryan Collier TDCJ Executive Director. ‘Increasing the information available to our medical professionals will help us to further enhance the agency’s ability of stop the spread of COVID-19.’


The new tests are being utilized by the United States Air Force. Clinical studies suggest Curative’s oral fluid test has equivalent sensitivity to nasopharyngeal swab tests that require a nurse. Curative has also deployed its oral test kit at drive-thru and other centers in Los Angeles, testing more than 57,000 people at a rate now grown to approximately 5,000 per day.


The agency has 12 strike teams who are being trained to begin testing this week.


Jeremy Desel

Director, Communications

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

(O) 936-437-6052”                    


City officials with a prison unit in or near their city may wish to reach out to TDCJ for more information.


Further Updates


What action did the Texas attorney general take today (May 12) with regard to his opinion of certain cities’ disaster orders?


He issued this press release:


AG Paxton Warns County Judges and Local Officials on Unlawful COVID-19 Orders


AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today issued letters to three Texas counties (Dallas, Bexar, and Travis) and two mayors (San Antonio and Austin), warning that some requirements in their local public health orders are unlawful and can confuse law-abiding citizens. These unlawful and unenforceable requirements include strict and unconstitutional demands for houses of worship, unnecessary and onerous restrictions on allowing essential services to operate, such as tracking customers who visit certain restaurants, penalties for not wearing masks, shelter-in-place demands, criminal penalties for violating state or local health orders, and failing to differentiate between recommendations and mandates.  


‘Unfortunately, a few Texas counties and cities seem to have confused recommendations with requirements and have grossly exceeded state law to impose their own will on private citizens and businesses. These letters seek to avoid any public confusion as we reopen the state,’ said Attorney General Paxton. ‘I trust that local officials will act quickly to correct any orders that unlawfully conflict with Texas law and Governor Abbott’s Executive Orders.’  


Read the letter to Bexar County and the City of San Antonio.

Read the letter to Travis County and the City of Austin.

Read the letter to Dallas County.”


What new action has the governor taken with regard to the July 14 primary runoff election?


Yesterday evening (May 11), the governor issued a proclamation that doubled the length of the early voting period for the upcoming July 14 primary runoff election, which is the first statewide election to be conducted during the pandemic. This means, for any election ordered or authorized to occur on July 14, early voting by personal appearance shall begin on Monday, June 29, and shall continue through the fourth day before election day, excluding any legal state or federal holidays. 


Of interest to the handful of cities that will have special elections on the July 14 date, he further amended their proclamations to conform to the extended early voting schedule.


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


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