News & Press: Member Update

ACEC Texas Member Update - May 1, 2020

Thursday, May 7, 2020  
Posted by: Michael Hancock
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ACEC Texas







Member Update

May 1, 2020





















“Phase I” of Reopening Texas Begins Today

“Phase I” for reopening the Texas economy officially begins today. This comes following Governor Greg Abbott and the “Strike Force to Open Texas” announcing at a Monday press conference that the state will take a phased-in approach in allowing certain businesses to reopen with restrictions beginning May 1st. This includes allowing all retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, museums, libraries and shopping malls to reopen but at a limited 25% occupancy and requiring strict social distancing measures. Governor Abbott stated that following “Phase I” and after reviewing new COVID-19 medical data, there may be an opportunity to open additional businesses and allow business capacities to increase to 50% in mid-May.

For additional details, please visit the
ACEC Texas COVID-19 homepage.

Attorney General Issues Guidance on Non-Essential Businesses

The Texas Attorney General’s (AG) Office issued a guidance letter regarding reopening non-essential businesses. This comes following Governor Abbott issuing three new Executive Orders for reopening certain Texas businesses and reports suggesting the Governor’s order is “vague” or “unenforceable.” In a letter dated April 30, 2020 and addressed to Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta, the Deputy Attorney General for Legal Counsel states, “…local governments are prohibited from allowing businesses to reopen unless they are recognized as essential or reopened services under the Governor’s order.” The letter also states that the Governor’s new Executive Order requires, “all Texans to ‘minimize in-person contact with people’ who do not live in the same household, ‘except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services or reopened services.’”

To view the AG letter, please click on the following link:
Texas AG Letter on Non-Essential Businesses

Transportation Commission Approves I-35 Funding

The Texas Transportation Commission on Thursday approved updates to the 2020 Unified Transportation Program (UTP), which includes allocating $3.4 billion in funding to the I-35 Capital Express Central project through the Austin district. With over 3,800 public comments received, the Commission voted 3-1 to approve the updated UTP. Commissioner Alvin New was the sole “Nay” vote, who expressed, “…I believe there is a better way we can fund this project effectively and keep it on track without doing what we are doing today.” In addition to public comments received, a number of elected officials also voiced concerns about the potential impacts to the state budget from COVID-19 and volatile oil prices, and whether or not using these funds for this project is appropriate at this time.

Most of the discussion around the I-35 project has, for the past few years, centered around whether it would be done as a toll project. Governor Abbott and Commission Chairman Bruce Bugg have continued to express that TxDOT will operate in a “non-tolled environment,” and today’s decision was obviously no exception.

With the allocation of $3.4 billion in funding now approved, the unfunded portion of the I-35 project would be reduced from $4.34 billion to $940 million. The remaining unfunded portion is expected to be addressed by reprioritizing $633 million in existing TxDOT funds allocated to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) and using $307 million from Category 12 funds during the 2021 UTP.


News from the Public Policy Council

ACEC Texas wanted to provide member firms with a condensed update and news from our Public Policy Council (PPC). The Summer Public Affairs Conference scheduled to take place June 11-14, has been postponed until the summer of 2022. The Winter Public Affairs Conference is still scheduled to take place November 11-15, 2020.

Governor Greg Abbott has announced that the 2020 Primary Runoff Election originally scheduled for May 26th will be postponed to July 14th due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Texas Democrats have been pushing for expanding voting-by-mail for the primary runoff. This month, a state district judge issued a temporary injunction allowing all voters who risk exposure to COVID-19 if they vote in-person to be allowed to ask for a mail-in ballot. This ruling will very likely be appealed by the state. There are several primary races headed to a runoff, and the ACEC Texas Public Policy Council has been tracking and will be participating in many of those races.

The PPC will likely meet in June to discuss the upcoming primary and general election races as well as ACEC Texas’ legislative priorities for the upcoming session which begins in January 2021. If you are interested in being a part of those discussions or receiving more news from the PPC, including legislative and political updates, please contact Scott Stewart at Scott@acectx.org for more information on how to join the PPC, or please click on the following:
ACEC Texas PPC Membership Information.


Comptroller: State Sales Tax Revenue Totals $2.6 Billion in April

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar reported today that state sales tax revenue totaled $2.58 billion in April, 9.3% less than April 2019. These numbers mark the steepest decline since January 2010. The majority of the April sales tax revenue is based on sales made in March and remitted to the Comptroller’s office in April.

“State sales tax collections declined as a result of efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 through business closures, crowd limits and stay-at-home orders adopted in the state, as well as a precipitous drop in worldwide demand for oil,” Hegar said. “The steepest declines in tax remittances were from businesses most quickly and dramatically affected by social distancing: restaurants, performing arts venues, movie theaters, theme parks and fitness centers, as well as department stores and boutique retail shops. However, those losses were, to a degree, offset by increases from big-box retailers, grocery stores and online vendors. Remittances from oil- and gas-related sectors also fell significantly as oil and gas exploration and production companies slashed capital spending in response to the crash in oil price.”

To read the complete press release
, please click on the following:
Comptroller’s Sales Tax Press Release.

ACEC National Complimentary Webinars For Next Week

ACEC National continues to offer members free online classes and roundtable opportunities as we continue to work through COVID-19. Next week’s webinars available to register for are below:

 

For regular industry news and updates regarding COVID-19,
please visit the ACEC Texas and ACEC National
webpages by clicking on the following:













ACEC Texas: COVID-19 Homepage







ACEC National: COVID-19 Homepage





























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