I thought there wasn’t going to be an update today so we could
take a break for TGIF and enjoy the beautiful Texas summer weekend?
We thought so too! But we received so many inquiries about
the Open Meetings Act suspensions that we need to report on the next question
early today for those cities that are posting agendas for next week’s
meetings. Maybe we’ll skip next Friday to make up for it.
What is the status of the suspended Open Meetings Act
Yesterday (June 11), 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 has been extended for successive 30-day
periods, including yesterday’s extension for 30 days. That means the
relevant open meetings laws remain suspended for at least another 30 days (or
until affirmatively rescinded).
The governor’s disaster declaration extensions have typically
been posted on his website under “News” or “Proclamation” on the evening the
previous declaration expires. His office didn’t do that this time, even
though the declaration was officially filed at 11:00 a.m. yesterday. That
caused many city officials to question whether he had ordered an extension at
all. However, the declaration was posted on the Texas Legislative Reference
Library’s website. That site is an alternative place for
interested city officials to look in the future.
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 rescind the suspensions, which are
sensible and seem to be working well, but that can’t be guaranteed.
What information does TML have for cities as
they start to prepare for the upcoming budget year?
TML has developed a special-edition, mid-year
fiscal conditions survey to help cities navigate the upcoming budget planning
process. With an unexpected public health crisis and an economic recession,
most cities will have to make difficult decisions over the next coming months.
Survey questions center on current budget shortfalls, as well as the
anticipated impact on next year budgets.
The full text of the survey is available here, but we prefer that you complete it online.
We ask that one official from
each city complete the survey no later than Friday, June 19. Please
contact JJ Rocha with questions at email@example.com or
Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?
TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.