After talking with Governor Abbott on a conference call today, I am more sure than ever that Texas is on the right path in response to #COVID19. To help my constituents better understand some of the changes made by the Governor in the past two weeks, here is a recap summary:
THE FIRST STEP
Governor Greg Abbott on March 13th signed a proclamation for a statewide disaster declaration, giving him the authority to take necessary action in response to COVID-19.
EXECUTIVE ORDERS
★ Order No. 1: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, every person in Texas shall avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.
★ Order No. 2: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, people shall avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts, or visiting gyms or massage parlors; provided, however, that the use of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options is allowed and highly encouraged throughout the limited duration of this executive order.
★ Order No. 3: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, people shall not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.
★ Order No. 4: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, schools shall temporarily close.
Under Chapter 81 of the Health and Safety Code, Commissioner Hellerstedt’s Public Health Disaster Declaration triggers a number of important tools for state and local officials to respond to COVID-19:
▶︎ Texas and local health authorities can more easily require property owners to disinfect, decontaminate, and seal off property that might be contaminated.
▶︎ It authorizes health authorities to take additional control measures that they see fit to control and eradicate the threat to public health.
▶︎ It streamlines the process for state and local health authorities to invoke the courts to enforce quarantines of individuals.
▶︎ Activates enhanced tools for DSHS to collect disease and health information and to share that information with law enforcement personnel and first responders as appropriate.
SCHOOLS & TESTING
Governor Greg Abbott waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year. Additionally, Governor Abbott is requesting that the Department of Education (DOE) waive federal testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year.
TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said during Tuesday’s Town Hall that schools will be able to grade students based on local proficiency standards.
DEREGULATING TRUCKING
Governor Greg Abbott waived state laws that prohibit trucks from the alcohol industry from delivering supplies to grocery stores. This provides grocers with another private-sector option to keep their shelves stocked.
Three sets of statutes are suspended, subject to federal law and DMV safety limitations:
● The oversize and overweight permitting requirements under Transportation Code, Chapters 621 through 623, as well as Title 43, Chapter 219 of the Texas Administrative Code, for all divisible and non-divisible vehicles and loads;
● The International Registration Plan (IRP) vehicle registration under Transportation Code § 502.091 and 43 Tex. Admin. Code § 217.56, as long as the vehicle is registered in one of the 48 contiguous states of the United States; and
● The 72-hour and 144-hour temporary registration permits under Transportation Code § 502.094 and 43 Tex. Admin. Code § 217.40(b)(3), as long as the vehicle is registered in one of the states of the United States.
BUSINESS SUPPORT & RELIEF
The Small Business Administration (SBA) approved Governor Abbott’s request for an Economic Injury Disaster Declaration in order to access the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program for the entire state of Texas. The SBA program provides long-term, low-interest loans to qualifying businesses across the state.
All small businesses who believe they may be eligible for an SBA EIDL should visit the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) website: https://tdem.texas.gov/covid-19/. They will be directed to the SBA website where they can apply for assistance.
TEMPORARY SUSPENSION OF EVICTION PROCEEDINGS
Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order suspending residential eviction proceedings through April 19, 2020, unless there is a threat of physical harm or criminal activity.
DRIVER’S LICENSE RENEWALS SUSPENDED
Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Driver License Offices across the state are closed immediately. This temporary closure will not apply to those seeking an initial Commercial Driver License (CDL). DPS offices that provide CDL testing will remain open solely for the purpose of providing initial CDLs. Visits will be by appointment only, and can be scheduled by emailing cdlappointments[@]dps.texas.gov. This exception will allow commercial drivers to continue to ship goods across the state of Texas.
Department of Public Safety (DPS) will temporarily waive expiration dates for Driver Licenses, Commercial Driver Licenses, and other identification forms. This suspension will be in effect until 60 days after the DPS provides further public notice that normal Driver License operations have resumed.
TITLES & REGISTRATION LATE-FEES SUSPENDED
Texas is waiving certain rules relating to vehicle registration, parking placards for persons with disabilities, and titling to aid the state’s efforts to combat COVID-19. These suspensions will allow Texans to avoid penalties for failure to timely title or register a vehicle, or renew a parking placard.
RESTAURANTS & SERVICE INDUSTRY
Restaurants with a mixed beverage permit may sell beer, wine, or mixed drinks for delivery as long as they are accompanied by food purchased from the restaurant. The buy-back waiver allows alcohol distributors and manufacturers to repurchase excess inventory from restaurants, bars, and clubs affected by event cancellations due to COVID-19.
POSTPONED MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
A proclamation suspending provisions of the Texas Election Code allows political subdivisions to postpone their 2020 local elections. This means local governments now have the ability to postpone their May 2, 2020 elections until November 3, 2020. We will provide an update on the decisions by local governments when those details become available.
HEALTHCARE & TELEMEDICINE
Governor Greg Abbott waived certain regulations and directed that the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) issue an emergency rule, all relating to telemedicine care for patients with state-regulated insurance plans to help doctors across Texas continue to treat their patients while mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
The suspensions and emergency rule will work together to allow telemedicine visits for patients with state-regulated plans to be paid the same as in-office visits for insurance purposes. These actions build upon waivers the Governor issued last week of portions in the Occupations Code to expand provider flexibility in providing medical services over the phone.
HEALTHCARE COSTS WAIVED AT TDCJ FACILITIES
Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) will temporarily suspend inmate fees for health care services related to COVID-19. While incarcerated Texans housed within TDCJ facilities are never denied access to health care due to an inability to pay, this temporary waiver will encourage timely reporting of COVID-19 symptoms so that offenders are given the treatment they need.

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