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Since When Does the AG Give Oral Opinions?

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So Greg Abbott gave Jane Nelson an informal opinion about whether Rick Perry had the authority to issue an order to Albert Hawkins to mandate that sixth grade girls be vaccinated for the HPV virus. Is that all there is to this, an informal opinion? Anybody can have an opinion. I have opinions. Hey, Mr. AG, why don’t you get yourself a blog and tell us (and Judge Justice) what you think about the Frew case.

This is ridiculous. Abbott was asked formal questions, which he so far has chosen not to answer. It’s one thing to advise the Legislature on the law (as with the constitutionality of proposed laws dealing with illegal immigrants) and quite another to respond verbally to an official request. This is a serious question of state constitutional law, which Abbott chose to deal with as if he were responding to a law professor’s hypothetical.

The AG used to be on the Texas Supreme Court. He knows that the judicial system does not give advisory opinions. When acting on a request for an attorney general’s opinion, he is serving in a quasi-judicial capacity. Is he ever going to issue a formal opinion, or is he just going to duck it? After all, Perry has demonstrated that he’s capable of vetoing budget items.

Now, as to the substance of what he said: Abbott is correct that an executive order does not carry the force of law. That means nothing. In practice, officials (especially those that Perry appointed) will do his bidding every time. The governor cannot compel, but he can punish those who do not comply. The big change that Perry has made is that, unlike all of his predecessors with whom I am familiar, he injects himself into the functioning of the executive branch on a regular basis (except, apparently TYC). The result is that the executive branch is creating substantive law. It would have been simple enough to ask the Legislature to pass a bill that was already filed. That’s the way we have always done things.

While he was expounding his ideas, Abbott might have mentioned whether the governor has the authority to commit funds. Whatever happened to the idea that the Legislature holds the purse strings?

Abbott has generally been a straight shooter on AG’s opinions, but he really ran and hid on this one.

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