The Urban Law Bulletin: COVID-19 April 8, 2020
The Urban Law Bulletin is a bi-weekly e-newsletter highlighting significant news and legal developments in the field of urban law. Below is a small selection of critical insights into the urban-legal dimensions of the unfolding COVID-19 crisis. We will continue to share similar stories as the situation develops.
As cities in South Carolina have begun issuing “‘stay at home’ orders to . . . reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus”, Attorney General Alan Wilson announced that “local governments do not have the authority to exercise emergency powers that are delegated to the Governor by state lawmakers.” In support, Wilson cited a 1980 state government opinion, which concluded that “the Governor’s emergency powers preempt those of counties and municipalities under [SC Code §] 25-1-440 . . . .”
On April 1st, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an order requiring local governments to “follow the state’s shutdown order . . . .” This order was issued to “provide clarity” to the governor's initial mandate earlier in the day superseding “all local government shelter-in-place restrictions.” However, this first order “allowed local governments to impose or keep their own stricter requirements if they wanted.” The Mayor of Sunrise responded that this “is a very clear indication that the governor is ordering that all of our local orders that we entered are preempted and invalidated [and] [a]s a result a number of issues are implicated.”
In March, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development “put an immediate moratorium on foreclosures and evictions for the next two months for single-family homeowners.” Additionally, homeowners with loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are authorized to “skip their mortgage payments for as long as a year . . . [A] moratorium on foreclosures and evictions will help address the immediate public health emergency by keeping people in their homes, Mark Calabria, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, said . . .”
Shawn Thew/ Bloomberg/ EPA
Law and Justice #justice
State legislatures are seeing a surge in proposed bills responding to COVID-19. In Louisiana, HCR 23 adopts “suspending provisions of law that establish deadlines in legal proceedings . . . [to] ‘any state or municipal criminal, juvenile, wildlife, or traffic matter within the state.’” New Jersey’s A3846, passed by both Houses, “calls for the appropriation of $20 million . . . to allow workers to file claims for wages lost due to COVID-19 and to assist employers that pay wages to workers that have been ordered to quarantine . . . .”
City Administration and Urban Governance #administration
In response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic, municipal governments across the country are closing meetings to the public or operate meetings remotely. “[M]any municipalities are using teleconferencing or video-streaming services to provide . . . live access to council, board and commission meetings.” Other states have instead loosened their accessibility laws, allowing government activity to continue while gatherings of people are prohibited.
City Administration and Urban Governance #administration
As non-essential businesses across the country have been ordered to close, state and local government employees have also been affected through unprecedented layoffs and furloughs. Cincinnati, for example, issued a temporary emergency leave program, in which hundreds of municipal workers must take “unpaid temporary emergency leave” or use “any sick days, vacation, or other paid leave that they’ve accumulated . . . A big part of what is driving the furloughs is that Cincinnati is trying to rein in costs as the coronavirus interrupts the regular flow of tax revenue . . . .”
Scholarship Corner #scholarship
Law and the New Urban Agenda (Nestor M. Davidson & Geeta Tewari eds., Routledge 1st ed. 2020) #international
The New Urban Agenda (NUA), adopted in 2016 at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador, represents a globally shared understanding of the vital link between urbanization and a sustainable future. At the heart of this new vision stand a myriad of legal challenges – and opportunities – that must be confronted for the world to make good on the NUA’s promise. In response, this book, which complements and expands on the editors’ previous volumes on urban law in this series, offers a constructive and critical evaluation of the legal dimensions of the NUA. As the volume’s authors make clear, from natural disasters and resulting urban migration in Honshu and Tacloban, to innovative collaborative governance in Barcelona and Turin, to accessibility of public space for informal workers in New Delhi and Accra, and power scales among Brazil’s metropolitan regions, there is a deep urgency for thoughtful research to understand how law can be harnessed to advance the NUA’s global mission of sustainable urbanism. It thus creates a provocative and academic dialogue about the legal effects of the NUA, which will be of interest to academics and researchers with an interest in urban studies. This book is available for pre-order from Routledge here.
We thank the Urban Law Center’s Urban Law Student Fellows for assisting in preparation of The Bulletin, which provides news in major areas of urban law, and categorizes the stories as follows:
· City Administration and Urban Governance #administration
· City-State Relations and Preemption #preemption
· Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion #equality
· Environment and Sustainability #sustainability
· Housing and Development #housing
· International/Global Urban Law #international
· Law and Justice #justice
· Public Health #health
· Technology #technology
· Transportation and Infrastructure #transportation
· Urban Mobility #mobility
· Urban Planning and Space #planning
If you have an article, legal decision, or commentary that you would like to share in an upcoming Bulletin, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Nestor M. Davidson
Faculty Director, Urban Law Center
Director, Urban Law Center
Urban Law Student Fellow Contributors