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May 15

May 15, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #45

Posted on May 15, 2020 at 4:27 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


What happens with regard to the governor’s re-opening plan on Monday (May 18)?


According to existing Executive Order GA-21, starting on Monday, May 18, 2020, the following are added to the existing reopened services list:


-Services provided by office workers in offices that operate at up to the greater of: (i) five individuals; or (ii) 25 percent of the total office workforce; provided, however, that the individuals maintain appropriate social distancing.

-Manufacturing services, for facilities that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the facility.

-Gyms and exercise facilities and classes that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the gym or exercise facility; provided, however, that locker rooms and shower facilities must remain closed, but restrooms may open.


According to the governor’s May 5 press release, “these newly opened services are subject to recommended minimum standard health protocols outlined by DSHS. These protocols will be available on the Open Texas webpage.” 


Executive order GA-21 expires “at 11:59 p.m. on May 19, 2020, unless it is modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor.” Because the current order is expiring on Tuesday, the governor will most likely issue a new one. He will conduct a press conference on Monday at a time to-be-determined to announce his plans.


With the above additions, what are the basics of Executive Order GA-21 right now?


Executive Order GA-21 provides that Texans should stay home/work home (“minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household”), unless (while following DSHS/CDC prevention guidelines):


-Accessing essential businesses (as defined by TDEM and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security).

-Accessing “re-opened services” as listed in the order

-Attending religious services according to attorney general’s guidelines.

-Participating in “essential daily activities,” such as going to the grocery store or gas station; providing or obtaining other essential or reopened services; visiting swimming pools, parks, beaches, rivers, or lakes; hunting or fishing; or engaging in physical activity like jogging, bicycling, or other outdoor sports.


According to the governor’s May 5 press release, “these newly opened services are subject to recommended minimum standard health protocols outlined by DSHS. These protocols will be available on the Open Texas webpage.” 


Interpretations vary significantly, but – based on everything the League’s legal staff has reviewed – the order means that anything not listed above should remain closed unless and until the governor issues further orders.


What is the latest regarding the attorney general’s lawsuit to stop mail-in ballots for those fearful of contracting COVID-19 at the polls?


Yesterday’s (May 14) update provided a detailed rundown of the lawsuits related to mail in ballots. Today (May 15), the attorney general issued the following press release:


AG?Paxton Asks Texas Supreme Court to Stay Order Expanding Mail-In Voting:  


Attorney General Ken Paxton today asked the Texas Supreme Court to immediately stay an order by the Court of Appeals for the Fourteenth Judicial District, which reinstated a Travis County District Court order allowing anyone in Travis County to vote by mail using special protections intended to aid only those with true disabilities or sicknesses. The Fourteenth Court correctly concluded that the trial court’s order was superseded, but it incorrectly allowed the order to go into effect anyway.


Attorney General Paxton also filed a petition asking the Texas Supreme Court to uphold the State’s automatic right, guaranteed by the Legislature, to stay temporary injunctions from lower courts upon filing an appeal.”


The cases referred to in the press release are both in state court. The request for stay was filed in the pending Houston court of appeals case styled as State of Texas v. Texas Democratic Party.  The petition was filed with the Texas Supreme Court in the attorney general’s pending motion for writ of mandamus styled In Re State of Texas. As mentioned in previous updates, the state court websites were hacked, which means we can’t link to them at this time.


What has the Texas District and County Attorneys Association written about enforcement of the governor’s executive orders?


The Texas District & County Attorneys Association (TDCAA), a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Texas prosecutors and their staff as well as attorneys in government representation, provides regular COVID-19 updates to state prosecutors. City officials may be interested in this update from May 7:


“We have gone on record several times over the past two months – such as here and here and here and…well, you get the idea – to recommend that criminal enforcement of these orders should be a last option, but this latest cause célèbre [the Dallas salon owner debacle] should effectively put an end to any further debate over the wisdom of that option. As it’s been pointed out before, if the governor is going to keep changing the tune he plays as he leads the state out of this pandemic, there is little incentive to put your own necks on the line to enforce an order that could be invalidated the next day. If you do that, you may simply be making someone else’s problem your problem, and that rarely ends well for the one at the bottom of the marionette’s strings. But as always, the ultimate decision is up to you—after all, that’s why you ran for this job, right? LOL”


TDCAA also includes “quotes of the week” in its updates. These seemed particularly apropos:


“We’ve got an entire legal system that was developed to deal with a world that doesn’t exist anymore.”


-Lawyer quoted in Dallas Morning News regarding re-opening during a pandemic.


“These are Colosseum rules, where the fate of the gladiators is determined not by law but by the roar of the crowd. Sometimes the partisans yell for the lions, sometimes for the hairstylists. You don’t know what’s going to happen until you’re in the ring.”


-Ross Ramsey, executive editor of The Texas Tribune, in a recent commentary.


Further Updates


Did the U.S. House of Representatives vote on H.R. 6800, the HEROES Act today? What's next?


Not yet, but they are expected to shortly. The U.S. House of Representatives spent most of the day debating rule changes to allow members of Congress to hold hearings and vote remotely, and they are expected to pass H.R. 6800 along a party-line vote. H.R. 6800 is the $3 trillion stimulus package that Senate leaders, as well as President Trump, have said is “dead on arrival” in the Senate. Senate leaders have also indicated that negotiations on a fifth stimulus package will not take place until sometime in June.


H.R. 6800, among many other things, would provide additional local Coronavirus relief funds to allow cities to continue to combat COVID-19, as well as respond to the negative economic impacts of the pandemic. We applaud Congress' efforts in recognizing that cities need flexible funding to stabilize and reopen their economies. Funding is critical to delivering essential services, ensuring public health, and providing for public safety during this time.


As the conversation moves to the Senate, we urge you to continue telling your stories and communicating with those who represent you in Washington, D.C. Interested city officials should directly contact their member of Congress (find out who represents me) and Senators Cornyn and Cruz to express their needs.


Continue to check these updates for ways that you can advocate on behalf of your citizens and your community during this critical time. Your voice and your actions are making a difference.


What has the lieutenant governor said about large-scale sporting events?


He penned an op-ed for the Dallas Morning News today (May 15) titled “It’s time to play sports again with fans in the stands.” 


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


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