Earlier this year, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst (R) issued interim charges for the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee which included a review of the implementation of Senate Bill 321, the NRA-backed employee parking lot protection bill sponsored by State Senator Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) and passed during the 2011 legislative session (previously reported on here). That law took effect on September 1st of last year. To mark its one-year anniversary and to gather information for the expected interim committee hearing on this topic, NRA-ILA reached out to our members in the Lone Star State to ask them if they were aware of any public or private employers who had not modified their employee policies to comply with the act.
We received reports of approximately 50 employers – large and small, located in different parts of the state and representing a wide range of industry sectors – who might not be in compliance with the law. About half of those cases were documented, where copies of specific policies were obtained that limited or banned the possession of firearms in employee vehicles in workplace parking lots. The other half were simply reported to us based on verbal conversations taking place in staff meetings, or between employees and management or human resources.
Prior to the scheduled Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, October 30, Senator Hegar’s office contacted most of these employers to verify whether or not the information shared with NRA-ILA was correct. Some employers had indeed not updated their policies, but indicated to the Senator that they were willing to do so to comply with the law. We will continue to work with the Senator's office to ensure that happens. Others employers had, in fact, modified their policies to comply with SB 321 -- they had just not effectively communicated the changes to their employees. We will work to ensure that the employees who contacted us receive the information they need, so that they can exercise the rights afforded them under SB 321.
However, as a representative from NRA-ILA testified at Tuesday's hearing, there remain a number of employers in the state who are refusing to comply with SB 321 based on a variety of justifications or wrongful interpretations of Texas law. Some are claiming that their federal security plans, which ban firearms in company parking lots, override state law. Others have put 30.06 signs up outside their parking lots in an effort to enforce a trespass ban against Concealed Handgun Licensees -- even though SB 321 allows for any lawful possessor of any firearm to leave it in their locked vehicle while parked at work, except in very limited cases. Senator Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) has requested a ruling from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on these two points, and we expect a formal opinion to be issued in the coming weeks.
Also testifying at the hearing was a representative from the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC). This agency, at the urging of Commissioner Barry Smitherman last year, adopted what can only be considered "model" policy for employees and visitors who wish to transport and carry firearms -- actually going beyond what is required by SB 321. Not only may employees and visitors transport and store any lawfully-owned gun in their personal vehicles while parked on RRC property, but those who are CHLs may lawfully carry their handguns into RRC buildings and facilities. Further, employees who are CHLs may carry their handguns in Commission vehicles while performing their duties. These revised rules were inspired by the permissive policy instituted at Texas' General Land Office after Commissioner Jerry Patterson (author of Texas' CHL law) took the helm.
We encourage you to continue reporting any incidents of alleged non-compliance with SB 321 to NRA-ILA. We will investigate the situation to the best of our ability and make every attempt to affect a policy change through appropriate channels. Please contact NRA-ILA at SLocal@nrahq.org.