I’m worn out trying to read all the virus-related information
coming at me every day. Is there another way to learn what I need to know?
Yes, you’re in luck! On May 21, from
2:00 - 3:30 p.m., the League will host the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update Webinar: What You Need to Know. The
webinar is free to TML member cities. Advance registration is required. We
began email updates regarding COVID-19 over two months ago. From the beginning,
League staff has pushed out important information and analysis through our
written daily updates. In fact, those archived updates total over 150 pages of
information. We know how hard it is to digest all the incoming information,
from the League and others. Because of that, we are offering our city officials
this complimentary webinar update, which will cover the key issues you need to
know to serve your city. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask questions
after the update.
What is happening in Congress regarding additional federal
stimulus funds to combat Covid-19?
House Democrats released a roughly $3 trillion plan today to battle the health and economic
effects in the ongoing battle with COVID-19. The “Heroes Act” includes
$375 billion to assist local governments with the fiscal impacts from the
public health emergency caused by the Coronavirus, as well as an additional
$500 billion in state aid. The bill is almost 200 pages long, and the summary is close to 100 pages.
Although Senate Republicans have said that this bill is dead on
arrival in the Senate, it does begin the negotiations between the two chambers
that should ultimately lead to the next round of stimulus legislation. The
House plans to vote on the measure this Friday.
To help cities and state leagues advocate for additional
stimulus funds, the National League of Cities
(NLC) has launched the Cities Are Essential campaign, a
grassroots advocacy campaign to ensure cities, towns,
and villages are included in the next relief package.
NLC has requested that state leagues ask city officials to share their COVID-19 stories so they can use them in their
communications and federal advocacy work.
In addition, NLC has prepared tweets and letters to members of Congress, along with infographics and sample letters to the editor for your use.
To help convince senators, NLC is asking city officials who
advocate to focus on the overall economic impact to the community, such as how
lack of funding could affect the sanitation in your city, the tourist industry,
etc. In addition, administration officials have stressed to TML staff the
need to differentiate how future monies will be used to alleviate on-the-ground
budget gaps due to Covid-19, such as revenues needed to retain full first
responder employment, versus perceived efforts in other parts of the nation to
remedy “bad decision making” such as unfunded pension
liability. Accordingly, when sharing COVID-19 stories with NLC as
requested above, Texas cities are urged to stress the concrete nature of their
budget shortfalls, especially as they impact important critical services.
What is the status of the suspended Open Meetings Act
Today, the governor’s office extended the Open Meetings Act
suspensions. 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
The March 13 declaration was extended on April 12, and the April
12 declaration was just extended for another 30 days today (May 12). That
means the relevant open meetings laws remain suspended for at least another 30
days (or until affirmatively rescinded).
We 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 make changes.
Do you have an update regarding the state’s response to the
spread of COVID-19 throughout the state’s prison population?
Yes. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice issued the
following press release today (May 12):
“Testing is one key to stopping the spread of
COVID-19. Thanks to Texas Governor Greg Abbott and with the help of the
Texas Department of Emergency Management, the Texas Department of Criminal
Justice (TDCJ) this week is beginning a new expanded testing program.
The agency continues to be agile in its response to the
The state has acquired and is deploying tens of thousands of
COVID-19 oral fluid tests manufactured by Curative, Incorporated. The tests
were given approval in April by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency
use authorization and will be administered at TDCJ prison units across Texas.
These tests are designed to be self-administered by the person being tested.
‘These tests are readily available and deployable,’ said Bryan
Collier TDCJ Executive Director. ‘Increasing the information available to our
medical professionals will help us to further enhance the agency’s ability of
stop the spread of COVID-19.’
The new tests are being utilized by the United States Air Force.
Clinical studies suggest Curative’s oral fluid test has equivalent sensitivity
to nasopharyngeal swab tests that require a nurse. Curative has also deployed
its oral test kit at drive-thru and other centers in Los Angeles, testing more
than 57,000 people at a rate now grown to approximately 5,000 per day.
The agency has 12 strike teams who are being trained to begin
testing this week.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
City officials with a prison unit in or near their city may wish
to reach out to TDCJ for more information.
What action did the Texas attorney general take today (May 12)
with regard to his opinion of certain cities’ disaster orders?
He issued this press release:
“AG Paxton Warns County Judges and Local Officials
on Unlawful COVID-19 Orders
AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today issued letters to
three Texas counties (Dallas, Bexar, and Travis) and two mayors (San Antonio
and Austin), warning that some requirements in their local public health orders
are unlawful and can confuse law-abiding citizens. These unlawful and
unenforceable requirements include strict and unconstitutional demands for
houses of worship, unnecessary and onerous restrictions on allowing essential
services to operate, such as tracking customers who visit certain restaurants,
penalties for not wearing masks, shelter-in-place demands, criminal penalties
for violating state or local health orders, and failing to differentiate
between recommendations and mandates.
‘Unfortunately, a few Texas counties and cities seem to have
confused recommendations with requirements and have grossly exceeded state law
to impose their own will on private citizens and businesses. These letters seek
to avoid any public confusion as we reopen the state,’ said Attorney General
Paxton. ‘I trust that local officials will act quickly to correct any orders
that unlawfully conflict with Texas law and Governor Abbott’s Executive
Read the letter to Bexar County and the City of San Antonio.
Read the letter to Travis County and the City of Austin.
Read the letter to Dallas County.”
What new action has the governor taken with regard to the July
14 primary runoff election?
Yesterday evening (May 11), the governor issued a proclamation that doubled the length of the early voting
period for the upcoming July 14 primary runoff election, which is the first
statewide election to be conducted during the pandemic. This means, for
any election ordered or authorized to occur on July 14, early voting by
personal appearance shall begin on Monday, June 29, and shall continue through
the fourth day before election day, excluding any legal state or federal
Of interest to the handful of cities that will have special
elections on the July 14 date, he further amended their proclamations to
conform to the extended early voting schedule.
Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?
TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.