Who is eligible to apply to early vote by mail on the grounds of
Section 82.002 of the Texas Election Code provides that a
“qualified voter is eligible for early voting by mail if the voter has a
sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the
polling place on election day without a likelihood of needing personal
assistance or of injuring the voter's health.” (Note: qualified voters 65 years
of age or older are also eligible for early voting by mail pursuant to Election
Code Section 82.003.)
Cities holding May elections should expect an increase in the
number of applications for ballots by mail on the grounds of disability under
Election Code Section 82.002. Under the circumstances, and due to the
subjectivity of the standard for disability in the statute, city election
officials are encouraged to accept applications for ballots to early vote by
mail at face value and process them. The voter, not a city election official,
must make a determination as to whether the disability standard applies to
them. A voter who submits an application for a ballot by mail must acknowledge
on the application that including knowingly false information on the
application is a criminal offense. See Tex. Elec. Code § 84.0041.
Does a city’s business closure order apply to a gun store?
Some cities have enacted non-essential business closure disaster
orders. In response to one city doing so while not expressly exempting gun
stores, State Representative Dustin Burrows (R – Lubbock) has requested an opinion
from the attorney general. The request quotes existing state law
preempting municipal regulation of firearms, and asks whether that existing law
means gun store owners are automatically exempt from a city’s
order. The answer is thus unclear at this time.
Has the Department of Labor issued guidance on the Families
First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)?
Yes. We reported last week that, in response to the
COVID-19 pandemic, Congress adopted new legislation that expands the Family and
Medical Leave Act and provides for paid emergency sick leave. Yesterday,
the Department issued an initial set of questions and answers (Q&As) interpreting
this legislation. Of note is that the Q&A sets the effective date of the
FFRCA provisions as April 1, 2020. Although the Q&A provides additional
information, many questions remain unanswered. As provided under the
legislation, further guidance and implementing regulations are expected in the
near future. We will continue to monitor and report back on this issue.
The Department has also indicated that they do
not intend to enforce the requirements of the Act through April 17, 2020, to
enable covered employers to come into compliance with the new
Has the Department of Labor released a copy of the notice that
an employer is required to post?
Yes. This morning, the Department released a copy of the notice that an employer
is required to post. Each city must post the notice in a conspicuous place
on its premises, and may satisfy this requirement by emailing or direct mailing
this notice to employees, or posting this notice on an employee information
internal or external website. The Department has also issued a set of FAQs related to the
How can a city participate in providing input to the Department
of Labor in regard to the implementation of FFCRA?
The Department is providing an opportunity for employers,
workers, and their advocacy groups to participate in a national
online dialogue through Sunday, March 29, 2020. According to
the Department, “[t]his national online dialogue provides an opportunity for
employers and workers to play a key role in shaping the development of the
Department of Labor's compliance assistance materials and outreach strategies
related to the implementation of FFCRA. The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) will
use the ideas and comments gathered from this dialogue to develop compliance
assistance guidance, resources and tools, as well as outreach approaches that
assist employers and workers in understanding their responsibilities and rights
under the paid leave provisions of the FFCRA.”
Interested cities must register to participate.
If a city decides to issue a shelter-in-place order, should
certain businesses and activities be exempt from the order?
This question was originally addressed in the March 24, 2020, update. Certain “critical infrastructure”
is typically exempted. That list from the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security is fairly broad. In addition, several industry groups (some of
which are already covered in the list) have reached out to the League asking
that we share their information with city officials. One group that
just missed the deadline yesterday is the American Council of Engineering
Companies of Texas, which asked in a letter that engineers be
exempted from state and local orders. We will continue to supplement the
list in future updates.
Is TML still open for business given the City of Austin’s
While the building is closed to all but essential personnel,
most TML staff members are working remotely. The League remains open for
business and is fully ready to serve. Cities are encouraged to call or
email for legal assistance, help with ordinances, or for general advice or
assistance. Let us know how we can assist you and your city.