February 4, 2022, Number 5
Download the full .pdf version here: TML Legislative Update Number 5
federal infrastructure bill update
In November 2021, the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was signed into law. The IIJA is altogether a $1.2 trillion bill that will invest in the nation’s core infrastructure priorities including roads, bridges, rail, transit, airports, ports, energy transmission, water systems, and broadband.
The League will monitor state and federal agencies and work with the National League of Cities (NLC) to access the latest information relating to the IIJA. We will be providing periodic updates in the Legislative Update on resources for Texas cities on how to access IIJA funding for local infrastructure projects.
The White House recently released its Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Guidebook. The guidebook is meant to serve as a roadmap for state and local governments to use to access funding from the more than 350 programs included in the IIJA. The guidebook has 13 chapters separated out by issue area and will be updated to reflect emerging details and deadlines for the different programs. Interested city officials can read more about the guidebook here and access additional information on the guidebook from NLC here.
The White House also released this fact sheet for local governments to use to prepare for funding opportunities under the IIJA.
Bureau of Reclamation
The Bureau of Reclamation recently announced a blueprint for use of the $1.66 billion it received under the IIJA to address drought and water infrastructure in 17 western states, including Texas.
Health and Human Services
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the release of roughly $100 million from the IIJA to fund the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP is designed to help vulnerable households pay their outstanding heating and cooling bills. Over $9 million was allocated towards LIHEAP in Texas under the IIJA, and that is on top of the nearly $135 million allocated to Texas under the American Rescue Plan Act earlier in 2021. Information for individuals interested in applying for energy assistance can be accessed using the link above.
Federal Highway Administration
Updating an item from a previous Federal Infrastructure Bill Update, the Federal Highway Administration recently launched the new Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection, and Construction Formula Grant Program, which in total will provide $537 million to repair Texas bridges. The National League of Cities recently published a helpful article on the program, which includes some steps to follow to find out if bridges in your city qualify for funding.
don't forget: mandatory hotel occupancy tax reporting
The 50-day window for reporting local hotel occupancy tax information opened January 1, 2022. The reporting deadline is February 20, 2022.
Tax Code Section 351.009 requires cities to file an annual report with the comptroller that includes the city’s hotel occupancy tax rate, the amount of revenue generated by the tax, and the amount and percentage of the revenue spent for each of the following purposes:
• Convention or information centers
• Convention delegates registration
• Advertising to attract tourists
• Arts promotion and improvement
• Historical restoration and preservation projects
• Signage directing the public to sights and attractions
Cities have two reporting options: (1) use the comptroller’s online reporting form to submit all required information; or (2) clearly post and maintain all required information on the city’s website and provide the comptroller’s office with a link to the information. For cities selecting the second option, the comptroller provides an optional format template to post on the city’s website.
covid-19 update (no. 216)
All pandemic-related updates, including information about the American Rescue Plan’s city-related provisions, will be in the Legislative Update Newsletter from now on.
County and City Mask Mandates Upheld in Three Courts of Appeals
On November 10, 2021, November 22, 2021, and January 6 of this year, three Texas Courts of Appeals upheld injunctions against enforcement of Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38. These injunctions allow local government mask requirements to stay in effect for now, pending full trials of the facts of the cases. The opinions issued by the Third, Fourth and Fifth Courts of Appeals can be found here, here, and here, respectively.
Among other things, the courts concluded that the Governor’s emergency authority to suspend certain statutes under Section 418.016 of the Government Code does not include the authority to suspend Section 418.108 or other public-health statutes relied on by local officials in issuing their respective face-covering requirements. On January 25, the State of Texas, through the attorney general, appealed the decisions from the Fourth and Fifth Courts of Appeals to the Texas Supreme Court for review.
OSHA Withdraws its Vaccine and Testing Requirement
On January 26, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) withdrew its Vaccine and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for large employers in response to an earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision that stayed implementation of the ETS for large employers. (Click here for more information regarding the OSHA ETS.) In that 6-3 opinion, the court explained that while OSHA is empowered to regulate workplace dangers, the kind of “universal risk” created by the threat of COVID-19 is outside OSHA’s regulatory authority. At this point, there is no OSHA COVID-19 vaccine or testing requirement affecting Texas cities.
Texas entities are now subject to CMS’s COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement
On January 19, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas dismissed the State of Texas’ complaint challenging the enforcement of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for staff of certain medical facilities (the “Rule”) promulgated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Click here for more information regarding the CMS vaccine requirement. Recall that on January 13, in a 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court of the United States lifted several lower court injunctions that blocked enforcement of the CMS Rule. At that time, the case in Texas was still pending and was not decided by the Supreme Court’s action. With the dismissal of the compliant, affected facilities in all 50 states – now including Texas -- are subject to the Rule, although the timelines for compliance are slightly different, depending on when the Rule went into effect.
On January 20, CMS released updated guidance for Texas facilities in response to the ruling. Affected facilities in Texas have until February 19 to have their vaccination processes and plans in place and demonstrate that their staff have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and by March 21 all staff at affected facilities must be fully vaccinated or have received an exemption.
TML member cities may use the material herein for any purpose. No other person or entity may reproduce, duplicate, or distribute any part of this document without the written authorization of the Texas Municipal League.