Will there be a TML Coronavirus Update on Monday (May 25)?
No, we all need a break while we take time to commemorate
all those who have sacrificed for our country. We’ll be back on the
Tuesday after Memorial Day!
I missed the League’s “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update
Webinar: What You Need to Know.” Is the recording archived?
Yes, the webinar was recorded and is now available at no
charge on the League’s Coronavirus web page under the “TML Resources”
heading. The questions asked by attendees, along with the
answers, are listed below under “Further Updates.”
What’s the latest in the mail-in ballot controversy?
In the pending federal court lawsuit we’ve reported on
previously, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Fifth Circuit granted a temporary administrative stay of the decision by the
federal district court in San Antonio. The district court
had issued a ruling allowing anyone in Texas to vote by
mail. Presumably, the plaintiffs will ask all the judges on the court
to review the decision and/or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Did the governor request most state agencies to prepare
budget reductions in the current biennium?
Yes. The governor, along with the speaker of the house
and lieutenant governor, sent a letter to most state agencies asking that they submit a
plan identifying savings to reduce their budgets by 5 percent for the
current biennium. The letter identified several agencies that are
exempt from the reduction “given the importance of the state’s response to
COVID-19 and the continuity of critical government functions.”
I attended the League’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update
Webinar. What questions were asked and answered?
Thanks for attending and for bearing with us through minor
technical glitches. The questions and answers (reprinted verbatim
below, so please excuse typos and grammatical errors) from the free webinar
(which is available to watch here) are listed by category:
Q: If you have a first responder who is an FTE (in the
budget) and they spent all of their time on COVID-19 response, is their
straight time eligible under the CARES Disaster Relief Fund?
A: As of right now, the federal CARES Act requires any
expenditure of coronavirus relief fund revenue to be spent only to cover
expenses that were not accounted for in a city’s most recently approved
budget as of March 27, 2020. In other words, regardless of expenditure
limitations in the state and federal guidelines referenced above, the
revenue can go only towards unbudgeted expenses paid by the city due to the
public health emergency in connection with COVID-19. TML and the
National League of Cities, along with many individual cities, are lobbying
for that and other restrictions to be removed in future federal
legislation. Right now, Ds and Rs in Congress are at a
stalemate. We will continue to work on the issue.
Q: Will there be any push by TML to ask the State to lift
the 75% rule from the spending of CRF funds? Perhaps the mayors that
collectively petitioned the governor for these funds could petition to
remove the 75% rule?
A: Yes. The 75 percent rule is a state-imposed
limitation on the use of CRF funds by cities in counties under 500,000
population: “The sub recipient agrees that a minimum of 75% of its
allotment will be spent in the categories of medical expenses, public health
expenses and payroll expenses for employees substantially dedicated to
mitigating or responding to the public emergency. The remainder of the
allotment may be spent in any of the categories provided within the
Treasury guidance.” We actually shared that request with the
governor’s office today. We will continue to work on
it. Contacting your local legislators to make that request on your
behalf as well, with concrete examples, will also help.
Q: In regards to the CRF funding, are only
cities/counties under 500,000 required to spend 75% of the allotment on
medical expenses, public health expenses and payroll expenses for employees
substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the public
A: That's correct. But keep in mind that those cities
are still bound by the Treasury Department guidance.
Q: Does the 75% refer to only that which is actually provided
to the City (i.e., the 20% plus any additional funding requested) or does
it apply to the entire $55 per capita allocation.
A: You must confirm with your city attorney, but it
appears that it's 75 percent of the amount you actually draw
down: “The sub recipient agrees that a minimum of 75% of its allotment
will be spent in the categories of medical expenses, public health expenses
and payroll expenses for employees substantially dedicated to mitigating or
responding to the public emergency. The remainder of the allotment may be
spent in any of the categories provided within the Treasury guidance.”
Q: We have a super event (East Texas Jamboree) on the calendar
for mid-October. Currently, the city has no plans to cancel this event.
Does the current governor's order prohibit such an event? More than likely
we will defer to the governor's office.
A: As of right now, there's no exception for a gathering like
that. Under GA-23, start with social distancing and then look for an
exception. That being said, the governor may have removed restrictions
by then. We'll just have to wait and see what he decides.
Q: Executive order GA-24 just issued. Does it remove
A: Yes, it removes quarantine requirements for those traveling
to Texas from certain places out of state. But that is completely
separate from the social distancing requirement in GA-23, with its
exceptions for covered services or safe daily activities.
Q: Where can a mayor or business owner seek guidance from
the state related to the virus?
A: A mayor can seek disaster-related advice from the
attorney general’s office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org,
a business owner can seek a determination as to whether the business is a
covered business by emailing email@example.com,
and any city official can seek guidance on the Open Meetings Act by
or calling 888.672.6787.
Open Meeting Act:
Q: For videoconference city council meetings, is it ok
for council member's initials or photos to be displayed rather than having
their faces visible on the video?
A: While that may technically comply with the governor's
suspension letter, the AG's office has said it would be a "best
practice" to allow the public to both see and hear the city council
during the videoconference. That said, they readily acknowledge that Gov't
Code 551.127 (f) and (h), which refer to the ability to both hear and see
the meeting have been suspended. You should consult your city attorney
and/or the attorney general's office (TOMA@oag.texas.gov or 888.672.6787) in making a final
decision about this matter.
Q: In-person council meeting requires compliance with
citizen comment requirement also, correct? What if it's a combination of
in-person, but also zoom for public who does not want to show up at city
A: In-person meetings must comply with all the regular
open meeting requirements, including citizen comment. If someone wants to
participate by videoconference, the meeting should comply with the
Q: Will Rule 3.334 from Comptroller impact whether
Chapter 380 loans and grants can be used?
A: We've heard that the provisions related to internet
sales, as well as the use of Chapter 380, will likely be included in the
final rules adopted by the comptroller. But, again, it sounds like those
changes will not be effective until October 1, 2021, putting the ball in
the legislature's court in 2021 to address the issue.
Q: In regards to a County Health Department's disclosure to
the public of the "number of cases only" to cities within the
county, is there a population minimum in which the county can withhold this
information to the public? For example, if a city has a population of
less than 20,000 people, can the county health department refuse to tell
the public the number of cases in that city?
A: There is no threshold like that in the
statute. However, the language of Texas Health and Safety Code Section
81.046 is permissive, meaning it says "may be
released." Medical or epidemiological information may be released
for statistical purposes. I'd suggest working closely with the county to
try to come to an agreement so the city knows if it needs to take any
action. Unfortunately, there is no way to force them to release the
Parks Funding/Dedicated Taxes:
Q: The current pandemic has emphasized the importance of
City parks. City parks create an excellent opportunity for citizens to
practice social distancing. Our community has experienced major
increases in use of our City parks by both residents and visitors. This is
particularly evident in the use of our trails. Our concern is that,
while more citizens are enjoying City parks, funding for City parks will
likely be cut as our City (and likely many other cities) deal with major
revenue reductions. So my question for you is that you are hearing
from other cities on the possibility of changing state law to allow use of
HOT funds as a major revenue source for parks funding?
A: Agreed that parks are a great resource. Both TML
and a number of individual cities have requested that the governor suspend
a number of statutes to allow revenue flexibility. We've not had
success thus far. As with previous answers, it makes sense for mayors
(and their legislative delegations) to continue to make those requests from
the governor's office.
Remember, you can always seek assistance from the TML Legal
Department by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
or calling 512-231-7400 and choosing option 2.
Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus
TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.