Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton is the lawyer for the State of Texas and is charged by the Texas Constitution to:
- defend the laws and the Constitution of the State of Texas
- represent the State in litigation
- approve public bond issues
To fulfill these responsibilities, the Office of the Attorney General serves as legal counsel to all boards and agencies of state government, issues legal opinions when requested by the Governor, heads of state agencies and other officials and agencies as provided by Texas statutes.
The Texas AG sits as an ex-officio member of state committees and commissions and defends challenges to state laws and suits against both state agencies and individual employees of the State.
Many Texans look to the Office of the Attorney General for guidance with disputes and legal issues. The agency receives hundreds of letters, phone calls and visits each week about crime victims’ compensation, child support, abuse in nursing homes, possible consumer fraud and other topics.
To find out more about the Texas Attorney General, visit the official website at https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/.
AG Paxton Releases Statement on SCOTUS Agreeing to Consider Question of Obamacare Validity
AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider whether a legislative change to Obamacare’s unlawful individual mandate renders the entire law unconstitutional.
“Now that the individual mandate can no longer be preserved as a tax, the constitutionality of Obamacare must be determined. The Fifth Circuit correctly applied the existing U.S. Supreme Court precedent when they ruled that the individual mandate itself was unconstitutional. Without the individual mandate, the entire law becomes unsupportable. The federal government cannot order private citizens to purchase subpar insurance that they don’t want, and I look forward to finally settling the matter before the U.S. Supreme Court.”
When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obamacare in 2012, a majority of the justices agreed that Obamacare’s individual mandate was constitutional only because its accompanying tax penalty could justify forcing individuals to purchase health insurance under Congress’ taxing power.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 removed the penalty, meaning Obamacare’s intrusive individual mandate cannot be preserved as a tax and rendering it unlawful.
AG Paxton Leads 20-State Coalition Defending Religious Freedom of Little Sisters of the Poor at SCOTUS
AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton led a 20-state coalition in a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the United States Supreme Court in support of the Little Sisters of the Poor’s right to an exemption from the contraceptive mandate imposed by the Obama-era U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The mandate required all employers to offer insurance coverage for contraceptives; however, the Trump administration recently issued a rule that allowed the Little Sisters and similar religious employers to claim a religious exemption from the mandate.
“To deny this exemption is to deny the religious liberty and rights of conscience granted to all citizens. The Trump administration did the right thing by granting a religious exemption necessary to protect the Little Sisters and others like them,” said Attorney General Paxton. “Federal law requires the government to respect religious beliefs, and we have faith that the Supreme Court will uphold this core tenet of our Constitution. To force others to violate their religious beliefs is not just unconstitutional, it is unconscionable.”
The Little Sisters, a Pennsylvania-based group of Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor, defied the Obamacare mandate to subsidize the provision of contraceptives to their employees and have waged a years-long battle against the Obamacare mandate all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned lower court rulings against the Little Sisters; however, California and Pennsylvania both challenged the Little Sisters’ religious exemption from the mandate under the Trump administration rule.
According to the mandate, if the Little Sisters do not provide contraceptive coverage to employees, they will be required to pay thousands of dollars in government fines.
In November 2019, Attorney General Paxton led 16 states in a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of this exemption.
View a copy of the filing here.
AG Paxton Files Lawsuit and Obtains TRO Shutting Down Illicit Massage Business in Houston
AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit asking a court to stop Happy Foot Spa in Houston from operating an illicit massage establishment without obtaining the license required by state law and in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
The illegal activity alleged in the lawsuit is in addition to various other criminal and civil violations the spa is believed to have committed.
The Houston Police Department has made multiple arrests for prostitution at Happy Foot Spa. The lawsuit was served today with the assistance of Harris County Constables.
The Office of the Attorney General obtained a temporary restraining order from Harris County District Court, effectively shutting down the illicit spa.
“The history of this business clearly demonstrates a pattern of prostitution and illicit operations. Illegal businesses that abuse and enslave the most vulnerable among us will not be allowed to stand,” said Attorney General Paxton. “I am committed to protecting Texans from dangerous criminals by ending the hideous trafficking of women that takes place in establishments like this one.”
An estimated 9,000 illicit massage businesses currently operate in the United States, 700 of which are believed to be in Texas.
These harmful businesses are prevalent in major cities but have also begun spreading into smaller towns, cities, and suburbs. Countless women are trapped in these storefronts and forced to provide sexual services.
Not only are these women enslaved in a system of human trafficking, these businesses often function as fronts for other organized criminal activities such as money laundering, immigration fraud, smuggling, tax evasion, and wage violations.
In 2017, the 85th Texas Legislature passed several statutes addressing illicit massage businesses, including Senate Bill 2065, which made the operation, maintenance or advertisement of an unlicensed massage business a violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
House Bill 2552 also amended the common nuisance statute to allow law enforcement to send a notice of arrest for prostitution or maintaining an unlicensed massage business.
Notification of Opinion
Official Request RQ-0306-KP
Whether the Texas Pawnshop Act preempts municipal regulation of dealers in secondhand personal property who also transact business as a pawnshop.
Official Opinion KP-0293
The Pawnshop Act generally vests the Legislature with exclusive authority regarding the operation of pawnshops.
The Legislature included a pawnbroker’s purchase of personal property, without condition of future redemption by the seller, within the scope of pawnshop operations preempted by the Act.
As part of its exclusive governance, the Pawnshop Act creates procedures for pawnshops to record the sale of personal property and cooperate with law enforcement to prevent transactions in stolen property. A municipality, therefore, has no authority to create its own procedures for that purpose.
A municipality does have authority to reduce the amount of time pawnbrokers must retain purchased goods to a period of less than 20 days.
Notification of Opinion
Official Opinion RQ-0304-KP
Whether a school district may purchase real property outside its boundaries for the purpose of constructing and operating a school.
Official Opinion KP-0291
A court would likely conclude that section 11.167 of the Education Code does not expressly permit a school district to purchase land outside of its boundaries for the purpose of building and operating a middle school.
Given the constitutional and statutory language referencing the construction and maintenance of public school buildings “in the district,” we cannot predict with certainty whether a court would conclude that section 11.167 implies the power to do so.
Notification of Opinion
Official Request RQ-0305-KP
Authority to establish salaries of the staff of a multicounty court at law.
Official Opinion KP-0292
Under section 25.2702 of the Government Code, the judge of the 1st Multicounty Court at Law does not possess the authority to set the salaries of the official court reporter and the court administrator.
The commissioners court may reduce the salaries of the court reporter and the court administrator of the multicounty court at law without giving the judge specific notice before adopting the budget.
The commissioners court must set reasonable salaries for the court reporter and the court administrator, subject to judicial review in district court for abuse of discretion.
Notification of Opinion
Official Request RQ-0303-KP
Whether a nonprofit organization leasing a publicly-owned property may qualify for and obtain the state tax credit for certified rehabilitation of certified historic structures on behalf of the public owner.
Official Opinion KP-0290
A nonprofit lessee applicant may generally qualify for and obtain a state tax credit for certified rehabilitation of certified historic structures pursuant to chapter 171, subchapter S, of the Tax Code, but the qualifying costs and expenses must be borne directly by the applicant.
An applicant’s status as a nonprofit tax-exempt entity and a lessee does not generally disqualify the applicant from eligibility for the tax credit pursuant to sections 171.901(4) and 171.903, provided the applicant meets certain requirements, including the length of time remaining on the lease when the rehabilitation is completed.