Attorney general says Dallas County judge can’t regulate pawn shop operations

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during a news conference in Austin, Texas, on May 15, 2018. (KPRC)

Attorney General Ken Paxton said Friday that Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins does not have the authority to regulate pawn shops as part of local government efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19

Paxton issued his opinion after state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, requested the guidance April 20 and asked if Jenkins had the authority to preempt the Texas Pawnshop Act by changing interest rates, limiting the number of people inside the shops and extending the number of days pawn shops could hold goods.

“While local officials possess certain limited emergency powers, those powers do not authorize a county judge to amend state law that the Legislature has expressly removed from local control,” Paxton explained in his nonbinding opinion. “To the extent that the Dallas County Order attempts to do so, a court would likely find it invalid and unenforceable.”

The restrictions on the Dallas-area stores were included in Jenkins’ amended order last month. Jenkins said the pawn shops could resume operations if they followed consumer-protection orders and mandated social distancing, The Dallas Morning News reported. But Paxton’s opinion concluded by saying that the local order is superseded by Abbott’s directive on store operations. — Julián Aguilar