Q: Is it O.K. for a photographer to use a drone to photograph the city’s Fourth of July fireworks event and then send us the photos to publish?
A: Press time for this column is weeks after Independence Day, so let’s not go into the First Amendment/prior restraint side of your question.
Instead, let’s look at House Bill 1643 — a bill signed into law by the governor on June 15 — “Relating to the regulation of the operation of an unmanned aircraft and the prosecution of a related criminal offense.”
You can read the text of the bill, the official bill analysis, the fiscal note and a list of people who testified on, for or against the bill, by clicking the “Text” tab at this link:
Here’s an excerpt from the bill, giving the process for allowing drone photography. Please note that the law does not take effect until Sept. 1.
I strongly suggest you contact Alicia Calzada of Haynes Boone LLP by going to www.haynesboone.com. Calzada is a nationally recognized expert in the developing legal field that concerns civilian use of unmanned aircraft, otherwise known as drones. Tell Calzada it’s a TPA hotline call and I suggested you contact her.
Meanwhile, here’s a part Government Code Chapter 423 that may shed light on what you’re wondering about, and help you organize your thoughts before you call Calzada:
(c) A political subdivision may adopt and enforce an ordinance, order, or other similar measure regarding: (1) the use of an unmanned aircraft during a special event; (2) the political subdivision’s use of an unmanned aircraft; or (3) the use of an unmanned aircraft near a facility or infrastructure owned by the political subdivision, if the political subdivision: (A) applies for and receives authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to adopt the regulation; and (B) after providing reasonable notice, holds a public hearing on the political subdivision’s intent to apply for the authorization. (d) An ordinance, order, or other similar measure that violates Subsection (b) is void and unenforceable. SECTION 4. Section 423.0045, Government Code, as amended by this Act, applies only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of this Act. An offense committed before the effective date of this Act is governed by the law in effect on the date the offense was committed, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose. For purposes of this section, an offense was committed before the effective date of this Act if any element of the offense occurred before that date. SECTION 5. This Act takes effect September 1, 2017.
Q: Do you have anything in the TPA files that addresses the use of public property and public employees for personal or private purposes?
A: Texas Attorney General Opinion GA-0480, rendered in 2006, addresses questions relating to: “Whether a deputy sheriff may use a county patrol vehicle to perform off-duty security work.”
The summary at the end of the opinion is worded as follows:
“Article III, section 52(a) of the Texas Constitution prohibits the state and its political subdivisions from granting a thing of value for private use. An exception is made where the grant’s predominant purpose is to accomplish a public purpose, not to benefit private parties; where there is public control over the assets to ensure that the public purpose is accomplished and to protect the public’s investment; and where the public receives a return benefit. Thus, a sheriff may authorize the sheriff’s deputies to use county patrol vehicles for off-duty employment without reimbursing the county only if the predominant purpose is to conserve the peace within the county, the sheriff retains control over the vehicles in a manner that ensures the peace will be conserved, and the county actually receives this public benefit.
“There is no authority for a sheriff or a commissioners court to contract with a deputy sheriff to guarantee reimbursement to the county for the deputy’s private use of a county patrol vehicle. Thus, neither a sheriff nor a commissioners’ court may set a rate for reimbursement.
“The sheriff, and not the commissioners court, is responsible for seeing that the sheriffs deputies use patrol vehicles only for lawful purposes.”
Q: A local group is asking us to place a raffle ad in the newspaper. Can we sell them some space?
A: It’s a good thing you’re checking first. See Occupations Code Sec. 2002.054 at this link:
Second, here’s a link to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s stand on raffles:
Q: Is there a program offered by TPA for anyone who works for a member newspaper who would like to take journalism classes?
A: Journalism training through the Texas Center for Community Journalism at TCU in Fort Worth offers training to TPA members. Visit https://tccj.tcu.edu/. Class sizes are limited and there is online registration for courses offered.
Texas Newspaper Foundation (http://tnf.net/) a non-profit affiliate of TPA, helps fund the courses.
Q: A local beer and liquor store owner wants to run ads. She asked me about rules and regulations relating to newspaper advertising, and about the advertising of brands in particular. Is there anything I can share about that with this prospective advertiser?
A: Yes. You can point her to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s Marketing Practices Frequently Asked Questions at this address: https://www.tabc.state.tx.us/faq/cooperative_advertising.asp.
Now, check FAQ no. 2 under the header, Cooperative Advertising.
The question is: “When a retailer publishes weekly specials in the newspaper, is it legal for the retailer to advertise specific brands of alcoholic beverages or include a recipe that calls for a specific brand of alcoholic beverage?”
And the answer is: “Yes, as long as the retailer does not receive a benefit of any kind from the manufacturer or distributor for stating the brand name in the advertisement. The retailer must bear all cost associated with the advertisement. See sections 102.15, 108.05, 108.06 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code.”