Will you ever run out of information to put in these daily
virus update emails?
It doesn’t seem like it, does it? The challenges (and
sometimes the absurdity) just seem to keep on comin’. As city officials
continue to deal with virus-related logistical issues, The Texas Tribune
reported a sobering revelation yesterday (July 27). According to the Tribune, “After months of undercounting
coronavirus deaths, Texas’ formal tally of COVID-19 fatalities grew
by more than 600 on Monday after state health officials changed their method
According to the updated Department of State Health Services dashboard,
the virus has taken the lives of almost 6,000 Texans thus far. That’s a
staggering number by any measure.
We at the League keep those who have been affected in our
Has the U.S. Senate released its proposal for the next
Yes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY)
released the proposal yesterday afternoon (July 27). The bill is called
the HEALS (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and
Schools) Act, and the Senate Finance Committee has prepared a 12-page summary of the bill’s provisions.
According to CNN, “the bill will include a variety of
component parts, which GOP senators and committee chairmen rolled out in a
series of floor speeches Monday evening, including liability protections, a
second round of direct payments to Americans, and a second round of Paycheck
Protection Program loans intended to help keep the hardest-hit small
Perhaps the most immediately controversial aspect of the
Senate Republican plan is that it includes a cut of $400 to the enhanced
unemployment benefit for out of work Americans – the benefit expires at the
end of this week.”
The National League of Cities reported that, “according to
Senator Chuck Grassley (R – IA) the bill will provide greater flexibility in
how states can use their monies from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF),
including backfilling lost revenue.”
The bill allows CRF funds to cover a revenue shortfall if a
state government has distributed 25 percent of the money “downstream” to
local governments, says NLC. No governmental entity may use more than 25
percent of allocated money to backfill lost revenue.
Last May, the House passed the HEROES Act – a $3.5 trillion
stimulus bill. Reconciling that bill and the HEALS Act – once it passes
the Senate – will likely take weeks.
If your city is interested in flexibility for existing federal
funds or in additional funding, you should contact Senators Cornyn and Cruz
and your congressional delegation now.
What’s the latest on school reopening this fall?
Oddly, the attorney general issued “legal guidance” on school reopening today (July 28), a
field that is usually the purview of the Texas Education Agency. The legal reasoning in the
guidance letter is likely not binding as it was issued outside of the formal
attorney general opinion process, and therefore represents nothing more than
one attorney’s opinion on the subject matter.
As always, city officials (and county, health authority, and
school officials for that matter) should rely on the advice of their
attorney, who has a fiduciary and ethical responsibility to them.
Nevertheless here’s the press release that accompanied the
letter describing its intent:
“Attorney General Ken Paxton today issued guidance on the
opening of local schools for the upcoming school year, during the ongoing
COVID-19 pandemic, responding to a request from Stephenville Mayor Doug
Svien. While playing an important role in protecting the health of school
children and employees, local health authorities may not issue sweeping
orders closing schools for the sole purpose of preventing future COVID-19
infections. Rather, their role is limited by statute to addressing specific,
actual outbreaks of disease. School officials, both public and private, are
the appropriate ones to decide whether, when, and how to open
‘Education of our children is an essential Texas value and
there is no current statewide order prohibiting any school from opening,’
said Attorney General Paxton. ‘While local health authorities may possess
some authority to close schools in limited circumstances, they may not issue
blanket orders closing all schools on a purely preventative basis. That
decision rightfully remains with school system leaders.’”
Did the governor take additional action in relation to the
November 2020 election?
Yes, the governor extended the early voting
period. Yesterday (July 27), the governor issued the following press
release to that effect:
“Governor Greg Abbott today issued a Proclamation extending the early voting period for the
November 3rd Election by nearly a week. Under this proclamation, early voting
by personal appearance will begin on Tuesday, October 13, 2020, and continue
through Friday, October 30, 2020. The proclamation also expands the
period in which marked mail-in ballots may be delivered in person to the
early voting clerk’s office, allowing such delivery prior to as well as on
‘As we respond to COVID-19, the State of Texas is focused on
strategies that preserve Texans’ ability to vote in a way that also mitigates
the spread of the virus,’ said Governor Abbott. ‘By extending the early
voting period and expanding the period in which mail-in ballots can be
hand-delivered, Texans will have greater flexibility to cast their ballots,
while at the same time protecting themselves and others from COVID-19.’”
Did the Secretary of State’s Elections Division following up
the governor’s proclamation extending the early voting period with further
Yes, the Elections Division issued “MASS EMAIL (CSO- 3332) -
Proclamation regarding Early Voting for November 3, 2020 Election.” It
provides as follows:
“Dear Election Officials:
Yesterday, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation suspending Section 85.001(a) of the Texas
Election Code to expand the early voting period for the November 3, 2020
elections. Pursuant to the Governor’s proclamation, the early voting period
for any election authorized to occur on November 3, 2020 will begin on
Tuesday, October 13, 2020 and last through Friday, October 30, 2020. As the
proclamation recognizes, this expansion will allow for increased in-person
voting opportunities for the November 3, 2020 elections while maintaining
appropriate social distancing standards in response to the COVID-19
disaster. Additionally, the proclamation suspends a portion of
Section 86.006(a-1) to allow a voter to hand deliver their marked mail ballot
to the early voting clerk’s office before election day.
In connection with the Governor’s proclamation, we would like
to provide additional guidance on several items:
-Extended Early Voting Days and Hours: As a
reminder, in addition to the increased number of early voting days pursuant
to the Governor’s proclamation, the Texas Election Code allows you
flexibility to offer voters extended early voting hours. Specifically, you
can provide extended hours beyond the minimum number of hours required for
weekdays during early voting, as set forth in Section 85.005, in order to
allow persons more opportunities to vote after work. You can also
provide for more than the minimum of weekend hours, if petitioned for
additional weekend voting, as detailed in Section 85.006.
-Expansion of In-Person Delivery for Mail Ballots: We
will be providing more detailed guidance about procedures related to this
part of the Governor’s proclamation as well as providing updated forms.
-Updated Resources: As a result of the Governor’s
proclamation, there are a number of SOS resources that will be
updated. Here is a list of resources that you can expect updates to this
week: (1) November 3, 2020 Election Law Calendar; (2) Important Election
Dates; (3) “Dear Voter” Letter; (4) Information about Returning Your Carrier
Envelope (Carrier Insert) (Form 5-22a); (5) Information about Returning Your
Carrier Envelope (FPCA Carrier Insert) (Form 5-35); (6) Roster for Voters
Hand-Delivering Carrier Envelope (Form 5-11a); (7) Ballot Envelope (Form
5-21f) (will provide language for sticker if envelopes already printed); and
(8) Selected VoteTexas.gov pages.
As the updates become available, we will be notifying you via
email and/or web updates.
Please let us know if you have any questions or
Christina Worrell Adkins
Legal Director – Elections Division
Office of the Texas Secretary of State
Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus
TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.