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Dec 08

December 8, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #155

Posted on December 8, 2020 at 5:14 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


What is the status of the suspended Open Meetings Act provisions?


On Sunday (December 6), the governor’s office extended the Open Meetings Act suspensions for another 30 days. Previously, on March 16, the governor granted the office of the attorney general’s request for suspension of certain open meeting statutes. The temporary suspension allows, among other things, for telephonic or videoconference meetings of governmental bodies that are accessible to the public in an effort to reduce in-person meetings that assemble large groups of people. The guidance associated with the suspension provides that: “These suspensions are in effect until terminated by the office of the governor, or until the March 13, 2020, disaster declaration is lifted or expires.” The March 13 declaration has been extended for successive 30-day periods, including Sunday’s extension.  That means the relevant open meetings laws remain suspended for at least another 30 days (or until affirmatively rescinded).


We still can’t be certain, but it is highly likely that the governor will continue to repeatedly extend his declarations. We’ve heard from his staff that they have no immediate plans to rescind the suspensions, which are sensible and seem to be working well, but that can’t be guaranteed.


What’s the latest news on how Coronavirus might affect the 2021 Texas Legislative Session?


According to reporting by The Texas Tribune, the Senate and House are considering a number of protocols before witnesses would be allowed to testify at committee hearings, the most significant of which would be a requirement that witnesses must pass a Coronavirus test and register at least three days in advance of the hearing.


If there’s any bright side to such requirements, it’s that both chambers of the Legislature routinely in the past suspended the rules to hold hearings on sometimes a few minutes’ notice.  Unless the rule requiring testing is also subject to suspension, the new requirements would seem to slow down the process and allow more time for deliberation by stakeholders and community advocates.


Is there news on the need for additional federal legislation relating to Coronavirus?


Yes, the National League of Cities has reported the results of a new survey on the harmful effects of Coronavirus on the nation’s cities. Of most significance, over 70 percent of responding cities reported that their fiscal conditions are negatively impacted by Coronavirus. 


Further Updates


How can we have an impact on the legislative issues that affect our community?


With the 2021 legislative session starting on January 12, it’s important to start engaging state lawmakers and citizens in tackling the challenges that directly impact your community. Join the League’s legislative team for our 2021 Legislative Series (four webinars and a workshop) where we’ll discuss the key city issues and our work ahead. Learn more and register.


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


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