By Lynda Jones
A law allowing the open carry of weapons in Texas goes into effect Friday, Jan. 1.
The law passed by the state legislature last summer has governmental entities across the state asking how it affects existing bans on weapons in courthouses and other county-owned buildings. Houston County is no exception.
Houston County Judge Erin Ford raised the issue during the Tuesday, Dec. 22 County Commissioners meeting.
After Ford reported the Texas Attorney General's Office has issued two opinions on the issue from the Texas Attorney General's Office, County Attorney Daphne Session stated, "That's just their opinion."
According to the correspondence regarding the opinions that Ford received from Allison, Bass & Magee LLP, the Attorney General Opinion notes an "absence of clarity from the legislature".
Session noted the existence of multiple statutes that pertain to weapons in government buildings.
Ford said he feels the current prohibition of weapons (except by law enforcement) in county-owned buildings should continue, and the four commissioners agreed. They voted unanimously to continue the existing ban on weapons in county-owned buildings.
They weren't so quick to act on the question of having weapons in county-owned vehicles or equipment.
This issue will be addressed at the next Human Resource Committee meeting, with input from Session and Precinct 1 Commissioner Roger Dickey.
In other business, the commissioners unanimously approved the renewal of a two-year contract for data processing services with Indigent Healthcare Solutions for inmate healthcare.
After accepting as information the Compensatory Time Report, Ford told the commissioners they can expect the compensatory time to show a significant increase next month due circumstances of the one suspect currently in custody for the Lovelady Bank robbery on Dec. 10.
Ford explained the suspect is still hospitalized in an area hospital where he receives dialysis three times a week. As long as the suspect is there, Ford said, the HCSO must provide around-the-clock watch of that suspect.
Ford suggested thanking those in the HCSO who are sacrificing their holiday and vacation time to perform that service for the community.
The medical expenses for the suspect also were discussed. County Auditor Melissa Mosley explained that, because the suspect does not live in Houston County, the expense must be born by the county as long as he is in custody. If he was a county resident, the expense would be the responsibility of the Houston County Hospital District, Mosley explained.
The county is required to provide minimal healthcare and will pay only what Medicare would pay.