What can mayors do right now to support congressional
efforts for additional federal funding to all Texas cities during COVID-19?
Include your signature on the letter addressed to our Texas congressional delegation urging Congress
to provide direct and flexible financial assistance to Texas cities. Please
email your name, city, and electronic signature to firstname.lastname@example.org by 9:00 a.m.
tomorrow morning (Tuesday, April 14) to be included.
Has the governor extended his disaster proclamation for all
Yes, the governor extended his original disaster declaration for all Texas
counties. The order is unclear on its face, but it presumably extends the
declaration for 30 days pursuant to Texas Government Code Section
418.014(c). The disaster declaration is not the same as his stay home/work
home executive order GA-14. That order will expire on April
30, unless renewed.
Must a local health authority disclose information about
COVID-19 to first responders?
Yes. A local health department or health authority shall
provide to first responders the physical address of a person who is being
monitored by the local department or authority for a communicable disease for
the duration of the disease’s incubation period. Id. § 81.046(c-1). The local
health department, health authority, or other governmental entity, as
applicable, shall remove the person’s physical address from any computer-aided
dispatch system after the monitoring period expires. Id. The League previously reported on required disclosures, and the Department
of State Health Services recently released this Q&A reaching the same conclusions.
Reports, records, and information relating to cases or suspected
cases of diseases or health conditions may be released to the extent necessary
during a public health disaster, including an outbreak of a communicable
disease, to law enforcement personnel and first responders solely for the
purpose of protecting the health or life of a first responder or the person
identified in the report, record, or information. Id. § 81.046(f). Only the
minimum necessary information may be released under this subsection, as
determined by the health authority, the local health department, or the
How can cities prepare locally for a “new normal” when the
re-opening of business and other activities begins?
City officials may want to consider forming a local taskforce
composed of local business leaders, religious and civic leaders, and healthcare
professionals. The taskforce can assist a mayor or city council with
communications with the public and serve as a united front between government
and the private sector. League staff will compile and share ideas as they
Has the governor or attorney general provided any further
information regarding golf courses?
Yes. At a press briefing last Friday (April 9), the
governor further explained his position on golf courses. City officials
can watch the video of his explanation, read a formal letter issued by the attorney general last Saturday
(April 11), and decide what action to take. Apparently, the formal letter
will be the only written guidance on the issue. Mayors who submitted their
own clarification request are receiving an email referring to the form letter
or a call from the attorney general’s office to discuss their unique
One thing bears mention. In the video above, the governor
said that “people are free to walk along, or even with a golf club and a golf
ball, go along a golf course.” Of minor concern, he said that on “a public golf
course anybody can,” and on a private golf course “members who are authorized
to be on those premises, can walk along the golf course even with a golf club
and a golf ball.”
This portion of his answer is imprecise: He states that
“anybody can go on a public golf course.” If a city authorizes the public
to use its course, that’s correct. But a city, as owner of its course,
maintains the right to close, open, partially open, or any permutation thereof,
its golf course or other parks.
How would anti-TML legislation that died last session have
affected cities during and after this emergency?
For the past several legislative sessions, legislation has been
filed and moved through the process that would have prohibited a city from
paying dues to the League if we advocate on your behalf. (The same bills
would have prohibited cities from hiring outside lobbyists.)
In 2019, the legislation came in the form of Senate Bill 29 by Bob Hall (R – Rockwall) and House Bill 281 by Mayes Middleton (R –
Wallisville). Senate Bill 29 made it all the way to the House floor (one
vote away from passing), where it died on a 58-85 vote. The restrictions
in the bills morphed as they moved through the legislative process, but they
essentially would have eliminated the League’s ability to advocate on your behalf.
Could such bills, if passed, prohibit League staff from working
on your behalf during the virus emergency? Most certainly. We have
advocated on your behalf for the governor to suspend certain laws, such as the
Open Meetings Act and election-related laws. We have advocated on your
behalf for more federal stimulus funds to come directly to cities. We have
advocated on your behalf that the state process for distributing those funds
include cities of all sizes. We have interacted with the governor’s office,
numerous state legislators and their staff, leadership and staff of multiple
state agencies (TDEM, DSHS, Workforce Commission, etc.), coordinated advice and
messaging with other local government associations, and dealt with dozens of
industries and their representatives and associations.
The League, which is nothing more than each of you working
together for the betterment of your city, region, and the state, is your
With cities moving their general election to November, should we
be aware of legal issues related to regulating political signs?
Yes. When it comes to regulating political signs, cities always
face two critical questions. Does our sign ordinance run afoul of the
constitution? Does our sign ordinance conflict with state law?
To insure the city does not abridge the constitutional rights of
the sign’s owner, a city should not regulate a political sign based on the
content of the speech. See, e.g., Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 135 S.Ct. 2218
(2015); City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. 43, 58 (1994). Even if
content-neutral, a city still needs to examine its sign ordinance to make sure
it doesn’t conflict with state laws regarding political signs. See, e.g., Tex.
Elec. Code §§ 61.003 (addressing the regulation of posting political signs at a
public building used as a polling place); 259.003 (addressing the regulation of
political signs by a city).
This is only intended to be a reminder of the legal issues
related to political signs, and is not meant to suggest that your city’s sign
ordinance may never reach such signs. For instance, political signs are often
impacted through a city’s larger regulatory scheme of all temporary signs,
residential signs, and signs in the right-of-way.
In sum, cities should use caution and seek the advice of local
legal counsel when attempting to regulate political signs.
Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?
TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.