Recent Texas Attorney General Opinions of Interest to Cities

Note: Included opinions are from April 14, 2020 through May 10, 2020.

KP-0308 (Vacation Homes): The Texas and U.S. Constitutions prohibit governmental action that unlawfully discriminates on the basis of residence; thus, to the extent a local ordinance restricting access to or limiting occupancy of private property exceeds these boundaries, it is unconstitutional.

KP-0307 (Appraisal Review Board Hearing): Tax Code Subsection 41.45(o) and 34 Texas Administrative Code Subsection 9.805(d) do not allow appraisal review boards to require protest hearings to be conducted by videoconference in lieu of in-person hearings when requested by a property owner.

KP-0306 (Local Disaster Authority): The Dallas County Judge does not have authority to regulate the operation of pawnshops during the COVID-19 disaster declaration.

KP-0305 (Drivers’ Licenses): A Texas driver’s license that on its face lists an expiration date of March 13, 2020, or later is not expired under the governor’s suspension of laws and related DPS guidance until 60 days after the DPS provides further public notice that normal driver’s license operations have resumed.

KP-0304 (Local Disaster Authority): Section 418.108 of the Government Code authorizes the presiding officer of the governing body of a political subdivision to declare a local state of disaster and grants local authorities certain powers to respond to the disaster. Section 418.108 does not authorize a county judge, a mayor of a municipality, or any other local government official to commandeer private property to respond to a disaster.

(But see footnote 6: “Our conclusion does not foreclose the possibility that local government officials could possess authority to commandeer private property in certain limited circumstances when serving as the Governor’s designated agent to respond to local disasters. The Governor, through the disaster declaration, could authorize the designated “emergency management director,” which is the presiding officer of the governing body of an incorporated city or a county, to “commandeer or use any private property” upon determining that it is necessary to cope with the disaster subject to the compensation requirements. Id. §§ 418.017(c), .1015(a)–(b), .152. . . . ).

KP-0303 (Forfeiture Funds): A sheriff may donate Code of Criminal Procedure Article 59.06 forfeiture funds to a county service center without violating Texas Constitution Article III, Section 52(a) if the donation serves a public purpose with sufficient controls to ensure accomplishment of the public purpose and will provide a return benefit to the public.

KP-0301 (Candidacy): Constable’s statements to run for office were not made in requisite public setting, and without more, a petition with the minimum number of signatures to waive the filing fee for a place on the ballot does not amount to an announcement of candidacy.

KP-0300 (Open Meetings): Government Code Subsection 551.007(b) requires certain governmental bodies to permit public comment on an item on the agenda for an open meeting either before or during the body’s consideration of the item. A governmental body may satisfy Subsection 551.007(b)’s requirements by holding a single public comment period at the beginning of an open meeting to address all items on the agenda.

Government Code Subsection 551.007(c) authorizes a governmental body subject to its provisions to adopt reasonable rules regarding the public’s right to address the body, including time limitations. Pursuant to Subsection 551.007(c), a governmental body may adopt a rule capping the total amount of time a member of the public has to address all items on the agenda if the rule is reasonable.