Has the attorney general issued more virus-related opinions?
Yes. He issued two formal attorney general opinions
yesterday (August 4). Both opinions are favorable to local government
authority during the pandemic as it relates to masks in their facilities:
-Opinion KP-0323 concludes that “[i]f wearing a facial
covering in a transit authority vehicle or facility is necessary for the safe
and efficient operation of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris
County during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Authority may require any person
medically capable of doing so to wear a facial covering when entering its
vehicles or facilities.”
-Opinion KP-0322 concludes that “[c]ounty authority to
require facial coverings in courtrooms, courthouses, and county buildings can
be found in in the Texas statutes, and in emergency and executive orders.
Judges possess broad inherent authority to control orderly
proceedings in their courtrooms, and pursuant to that authority they could
require individuals in the courtroom to wear facial coverings if necessary to
maintain order and safety. In addition, the Texas Supreme Court has issued an
emergency order requiring all judges to comply with guidance promulgated by
the Office of Court Administration, which requires facial coverings by all
individuals while in the courthouse. Thus, courts may require any person
entering the courthouse in which they preside to wear a facial covering while
in the courthouse.
Government Code section 418.108 authorizes a county judge to
declare a local state of disaster and upon such declaration, vests the county
judge with authority to control the occupancy of premises in the disaster
area. Pursuant to this emergency authority, a county judge operating under a
local disaster order could require a person to wear a facial covering when
occupying a courthouse or other county-owned or controlled building.
Executive Order GA-29 allows local law enforcement and local
officials to impose a fine not to exceed $250 for an individual’s second
violation of a mask requirement. In addition, public officials may require
facial coverings for those entering the courthouse or other county buildings
and may deny entry to those individuals refusing to wear a facial covering
inside those premises.”
Has the Secretary of State’s Elections Division issued
additional guidance for the November election?
Yes. Last Monday (August 3), the Elections Division sent
mass email advisory CSO-3449, “Methods of Filing for Candidate
Applications.” Please note the email relates only to cities that
normally conduct their elections in November (according to previous SOS
guidance, the filing period is closed for cities that temporarily moved their
May election to November). Here’s the text of the email:
“Dear Election Officials:
Many cities, school and other local political subdivisions are
in their candidate filing period for the November 3, 2020
elections. We’ve received a number of questions about authorized methods
of filing for candidate applications. Below is an explanation of the
different filing methods.
Filing Method of Candidate Application - A candidate
application may be filed in person, by mail, by fax, or by email:
-Filing in Person: The Elections Division
recommends that political subdivisions take steps to have someone available
for at least a few hours most days during the candidate filing period to
accept filings, and that political subdivisions post a schedule on their
websites and on the bulletin boards where notices of meetings are posted of
the days and times when someone will be available to accept filings. The
Elections Division also strongly recommends having someone available at the
place of business on the filing deadline, especially from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00
p.m., if you are otherwise closed.
-Filing by Mail: An application submitted by mail
is considered to be filed at the time of its receipt by the appropriate
filing authority. (Secs. 143.007(b); 144.005(b)).
-Filing by Fax or Email: A signed, sworn, scanned
candidate application (and petition, if applicable) may be submitted by fax
or email if there is no filing fee. The SOS recommends that the filing
authority establish a dedicated fax number or email address for the
submission of candidate applications. This fax number or email
address should be posted on the Notice of Deadline to File Applications for Place on the
Ballot or wherever information about filing candidate applications is
posted. Please be advised that an application must be notarized prior to
filing via fax or email.
Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
Christina Worrell Adkins
Legal Director – Elections Division
Office of the Texas Secretary of State
What’s the latest from NLC on the narrative related to the
next stimulus bill?
On Monday (August 3), the National League of Cities reported
that NLC and other groups pushed back at the narrative that Coronavirus
Relief Funds (CRF) monies are widely available for allocation to cities,
towns, and villages, and that providing greater flexibility to states would
solve the problem for smaller and rural cities:
“NLC lays out the case that 70 percent of CRF funds have been
obligated. Mark Meadows, The White House Chief of Staff, said on Face
the Nation that more than $100 billion is still available to be disbursed
from the CRF to local governments. However, data from the Treasury Department
and national organizations representing state and local governments show that
an overwhelming majority – 70 percent – of CARES Act funds allocated for
state and local governments have already been obligated for expenditure
between now and the end of the year. Furthermore, only approximately 10
percent of funds have been obligated for aid to local governments.
The Treasury Office of the Inspector General last week
released a report that showed incurred costs through June 30 for states,
counties, and cities that received direct funds from the CRF. While NLC
welcomed this act of transparency, the uneven use of funds thus far reflects
the uncertainty resulting from "rolling guidance" and the progress
and setbacks in containing the spread of coronavirus. Today, NLC and aligned
groups also issued a joint statement pushing back on the Treasury's OIG
Overall, with less than 30 percent of unobligated funds
remaining, the modest amount of funds available for small local governments
is running out and is not nearly sufficient to meet the critical needs of
cities, which are facing a projected $360 billion revenue shortfall over the
next three years as a result of the pandemic.”
Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus
TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.