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Jul 07

July 7, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #79

Posted on July 7, 2020 at 4:15 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


If a person knowingly refuses to obey a control order issued by a local health authority (LHA), can local law enforcement enforce the LHA order given the language in the governor’s recent executive order generally prohibiting jail time as a penalty for violating local orders?


Likely so. A city recently received an email from the attorney general’s office indicating that criminal penalties are an option when a person refuses to obey an LHA control order. According to the email, “GA-26 does not prohibit local authorities from enforcing Chapter 81 of the Health and Safety Code when a person with positive COVID-19 diagnosis knowingly refuses to obey a control order by the local health authority.” (Note: GA-26 has since been superseded by GA-28. But GA-28 contains essentially the same language regarding preemption of local orders.)


The email above is not a formal ruling from the attorney general’s office, so the exact reasoning supporting the statement is unclear. That being said, one possible reason for this conclusion is spelled out in detail in the request for the opinion from Maverick County and the City of Eagle Pass. This request explains that Chapter 81 of the Health and Safety Code, Subchapter E, gives LHAs the ability to issue orders with control measures for individuals who have been exposed to, or are carriers of a communicable disease. The statute provides that an individual commits a Class B misdemeanor if he or she knowingly refuses to comply with an LHA’s control order. Although the governor’s executive order suspended Health and Safety Code Chapter 81, Subchapter E “to the extent necessary to ensure that local officials do not confine people in jail for violating any executive order or local order issued in response to the COVID-19 disaster,” an arrest under Health and Safety Code Chapter 81 for knowingly refusing to comply with control measures is authorized pursuant to state statute, not a local order.


Any city that has appointed an LHA should consult its city attorney prior to taking any action regarding the enforcement of an LHA control order.


Further Updates


Can we view a list of the businesses in our city that received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)?


Yes, at least for those businesses that received more than $150,000. Yesterday the SBA released data on all recipients of PPP loans over $150,000 nationwide. That data can be accessed here. (Note: some Excel fluency is required to navigate.)


According to The Texas Tribune, 51,250 companies in Texas received more than $150,000 in federal loans under the program. Of that amount, nearly 6,300 Texas companies received over $1 million.


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


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