Texas Lobbyist News 2020

Governor Abbott Expands Reopened Services. On May 26, Gov. Abbott issued executive order GA-23 expanding additional services and activities allowed to open under the second phase of Texas’s reopening plan:

  • Effective immediately, driver education programs can resume operations.
  • Effective immediately, food-court dining areas within shopping malls can resume operations.
  • Effective May 29, water parks can open to 25 percent occupancy.
  • Effective May 31, recreational sports programs can resume practice.
  • Effective June 15, recreational sports programs can resume games and competition.
  • Effective June 15, sport program games and competitions may begin.

View the Governor’s full proclamation here.

Governor Announces Extensions To Payment Deadlines For Certain Employers. On May 22, Governor Abbott announced that the Texas Workforce Commission will extend payment deadlines for designated reimbursing employers that are required to pay a share of unemployment benefits. Designated reimbursing employers include non-profits, local governments, school districts and other qualifying employers who reimburse TWC for the full amount of unemployment benefits to be paid to eligible former employees. TWC’s action delays the due date for the June 1 payment to December 31, 2020.  This action also waives interest and penalty charges during the same time period, and does not reduce or eliminate this payment for reimbursing employers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented economic challenges, and the State of Texas is committed to helping both employers and Texans who have lost their jobs through this challenge,” said Governor Abbott. “This payment extension will help these employers address financial setbacks due to COVID-19 and provide them more time to pay their share of unemployment benefits. As Texas continues to respond to COVID-19, we are committed to ensuring employers across the state have the resources they need to recover.”

Governor Announces Funding for Nursing Home Connectivity. On May 27, Governor Abbott and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced $3.6 million in funding for nursing facilities to purchase tablets, webcams, and headphones to connect residents with their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. Texas is encouraging nursing facility providers to submit applications to HHSC to receive up to $3,000 in federal funding per facility for purchasing communication technology devices.

“This program will help Texans in nursing homes stay connected to their loved ones while protecting the health and safety of our most vulnerable populations,” said Governor Abbott. “As we continue to respond to COVID-19 and mitigate the spread of this virus, we are committed to developing effective strategies that protect Texans while keeping them connected.”

Early Voting Periods Extended.  On May 11, Governor Abbott extended the early voting period for upcoming runoff elections and for the special election to replace retired Democratic State Senator Kirk Watson in Senate District 14 on July 14th. Early voting will now begin on June 29th instead of July 6th.

On May 28, Governor Abbott said he would extend the early voting period for an unspecified amount of time during the November election. Early voting for the Nov. 3 election is currently set to start Oct. 19 and end Oct. 30.

“Texas has always had early voting, and what I did for the July time period and what we will do again for the November time period is we will extend the early voting period,” Abbott said in the interview with KCBD in Lubbock. “And what that does — it allows more people to go vote early in settings that are not highly congregated. As a result, you can go vote without having to worry about a whole bunch of people being around you that you could contract COVID-19 from. That makes voting a lot safer [of a] setting than it would otherwise be with the shortened early voting time period.”