Attorney General Opinions

September 01, 2016

Legislative News

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TAC has highlighted recent Attorney General Opinions and Requests for Opinions of interest to counties.

Attorney General Opinions

KP-0108: Whether a nonprofit entity that has offices on land owned by a municipality may restrict the licensed carrying of handguns on the property. (RQ-0097-KP) Summary: Section 411.209 of the Government Code creates a civil penalty for a state agency or a political subdivision that provides notice that a license holder carrying a handgun is prohibited on property owned by the governmental entity unless carrying a handgun in such locations is expressly prohibited under the Penal Code. Section 411.209 applies only to a state agency or political subdivision of the State and does not address whether a private entity, including an independent nonprofit entity, may provide notice to license holders that the carrying of handguns is prohibited in the private entity's offices. As long as the state agency or political subdivision leasing the property to the private entity has no control over the decision to post such notice, the state agency or political subdivision lessor would not be the entity responsible for the posting and would therefore not be subject to a civil penalty under section 411.209.

A court would likely conclude that a license holder who carries a handgun on property that is owned by a governmental entity but leased to a private entity and that is not a premises or other place from which the license holder is prohibited from carrying a handgun under sections 46.03 or 46.035 of the Penal Code is excepted from the offenses in subsections 30.06(a) and 30.07(a) of the Penal Code.

KP-0109: The constitutionality of a volunteer justice court chaplaincy program and opening daily judicial proceedings with prayer. (RQ-0099-KP) Summary: A Justice of the Peace does not violate the Establishment Clause by opening a court session with the statement "God save the State of Texas and this Honorable Court."

A court would likely conclude that a Justice of the Peace's practice of opening daily court proceedings with a prayer by a volunteer chaplain as you describe is sufficiently similar to the facts in Galloway such that the practice does not violate the Establishment Clause.

A court would likely conclude that the volunteer chaplain program you describe, which allows religious leaders to provide counseling to individuals in distress upon request, does not violate the Establishment Clause.

KP-0110Whether section 49.052 of the Water Code disqualifies an employee of the county attorney’s office from serving as a member of the board of a water control and improvement district in the same county, when the county attorney also provides professional legal services to the water district. (RQ-0102-KP) Summary: A court would likely construe subsection 49.052(a)(2) of the Water Code to disqualify an employee of the county attorney from serving as a member of the board of a water control and improvement district in the same county, when the county attorney also provides professional legal services to the water district.
  
KP-0111: Whether a commissioners court may impose a vehicle policy that regulates the use, deployment, recording, and tracking of vehicles used by the sheriff. (RQ-0100-KP) Summary: A commissioners court may enact county vehicle policies applicable to a vehicle used by the sheriff only to the extent that it does not unreasonably interfere with the sheriffs constitutional or statutory duties. Whether the sheriff or the commissioners court possesses final policymaking authority with respect to a specific vehicle policy will depend on specific facts and applicable law, the determination of which is not within the scope of an attorney general opm1on.
  
A county auditor may access county records pertaining to the use of county vehicles and impose vehicle use requirements on other county officers only in aid of the auditor's fiscal examination and reporting duties and only to the extent the requirements do not unreasonably interfere with the officer's constitutional or statutory duties.

Requests for Attorney General Opinions

RQ-0123-KPThe Honorable Timothy Mason, Andrews County and District Attorney, Authority of a reserve deputy sheriff to act as a surety on a bail bond.

RQ-0124-KP: The Honorable J.D. Sheffield, Chair, Joint Committee on Aging, Texas House of Representatives, Whether the proposed Upper San Saba River Management Plan unlawfully delegates legislative power to a private entity.

RQ-0125-KP: The Honorable Dee Hobbs, Williamson County Attorney, Access to court records containing criminal history record information that is subject to an order of non-disclosure under chapter 411 of the Government Code.

RQ-0126-KP: The Honorable Wiley B. McAfee, District Attorney, 33rd & 424th Judicial Districts, Election questions related to ballot image storage, the production of tally lists by election judges, and remedies for the unauthorized exclusion of a poll watcher.