AG Opinions: From professional services to firearms in vehicles

By Mark Whitmore, AAC Chief Legal Counsel

AG OPINION NO. 2019-001

The Attorney General long ago determined that counties may engage certain types of construction management consultants as professional services under Ark Code § 19-11-801. However, use of construction managers by counties has limitations. In Arkansas construction contracts of public buildings and bridges by counties must use competitive bidding. Article 19, § 16, of the Arkansas Constitution explicitly prescribes: “All contracts for erecting or repairing public buildings or bridges in any county, or for materials therefore … shall be given to the lowest responsible bidder, under such regulations as may be provided by law.” Also, public works contracts under Ark Code § 22-9-201 et seq. require counties to use competitive bidding of the actual construction work. The AG has so concluded on many previous opinions. See: AG OP 2013-051; 2009-038 and 2009-033. The recent opinion request seeks to ascertain whether a construction manager selected by a county as a professional service may also serve as a contractor or general contractor for performing the work under the underlying construction project? The answer is no. A construction manager is a professional service, and professional services in Arkansas may not be selected by competitive bidding (but are to be selected by comparative bidding). Also, the AG noted that award of construction contracts by counties to a contractor for the performance of the actual construction work must be made by competitive bidding (to the lowest responsible bidder) as provided by Ark. Const., Art. 19, § 16; and Ark Code § 22-9-201 et seq.

AG OPINION NO. 2018-142

Can the disabled veteran property tax exemption be claimed and applied to two separate homesteads (where the married couple are each disabled veterans)? The AG concluded that disabled veterans can own only one homestead for purposes of claiming a tax exemption under Ark. Code § 26-3-306. The law plainly states that the disabled veteran shall be exempt from payment of all property taxes on the homestead owned by the disabled veteran. The statute contemplates a veteran may claim their homestead property tax exemption on only one homestead, regardless if the disabled veteran spouses both have ownership in more than one homestead.

AG OPINION NO. 2018-137

The AG opined that the disabled veteran property tax exemption does not apply to assessment for local improvements such as suburban improvement districts. The AG explained that it is well established that a constitutional or statutory exemption from taxation is to be taken as an exemption of ordinary taxes of state and local government. Such an exemption does not relieve obligations to pay special assessment of improvement districts, which are assessments charged upon property for the special benefit of the property. A disabled veteran is not exempt from payment of assessments upon their property by suburban improvement districts.

AG OPINION NO. 2018-143

The AG was asked whether a city, by virtue of a city policy, can prevent a city employee from having a firearm in their vehicles parked in parking lots for city buildings. What if the employee has an enhanced carry license? If the city prohibits firearms inside their city buildings, must notice be present at the entrances? Ark. Code § 5-73-122(a) generally prohibits persons from carrying or possessing a firearm in a publicly owned building or facility; and Ark. Code § 5-73-306 prohibits carrying by conceal carry licensees in certain public places. The AG differentiated between a city policy and state law. AG noted that Ark. Code § 5-73-122(a)(3)(C) affirmatively provides that a conceal carry licensee may leave his or her firearm in his or her locked and unattended motor vehicle in a publicly owned and maintained parking lot. The AG further noted that Ark. Code § 5-73-306(18) provides cities may post signs in entryways to public buildings to prevent carrying by employees with a conceal carry or enhanced carry license. The AG noted that subject to these laws and other laws, the city is subject to Ark. Code § 14-54-1411 and Ark. Code § 14-16-504, which constrain the capacity of cities to adopt policies on firearms.

The AG referenced AG OPINION NO. 2018-079, which further outlines the AG’s opinion on the scope of law regarding enhance carry license holders. In AG Opinion 2018-079 the AG opined that Ark. Code § 5-73-322(h) allows persons with an enhanced carry license to carry a concealed handgun into certain places without incurring criminal liability.

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