Opinion AGO 11-504.
|Case Date:||December 26, 2012|
California Attorney General Opinions 2012. Opinion AGO 11-504. TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL REPORTSOFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL State of CaliforniaKAMALA D. HARRIS Attorney GeneralOPINION of KAMALA D. HARRISAttorney General DANIEL G. STONE Deputy Attorney GeneralNo. 11-504 December 26, 2012THE HONORABLE BOB HUFF, MEMBER OF THE STATE SENATE, has requested an opinion on the following questions:1. If a county's population exceeds 45,000, does the Community Recreation Act permit the use of school buses to transport persons for purposes of community recreation that is not directly controlled by a public authority?2. How are the transportation provisions of the Community Recreation Act enforced?CONCLUSIONS 1. If a county's population exceeds 45,000, the Community Recreation Act authorizes the use of school buses to transport persons for purposes of community recreation only if that recreation is under the direct control of a public authority, except that a school district which, on July 25, 1983, already had in place "established practices, policies, and procedures" permitting school bus use by nonprofit organizations "for purposes consistent with community recreation" is authorized to continue such historically permitted use. 2. A school district's use of its school buses for community recreation purposes not authorized by the Community Recreation Act may subject the district to oversight by the Department of Education, and to legal actions to compel the district's compliance with statutory and constitutional standards. ANALYSIS We are asked to determine the extent to which school districts may lawfully use school buses to transport persons for purposes of community recreation activities and programs which are not under a public authority's direct control, and to explain the means by which such restrictions may be enforced. We conclude that the use of school buses for recreation purposes is permitted only under specific, statutorily defined circumstances, and that a school district's use of its school buses in unauthorized circumstances may subject the district to penalties including withheld revenue, or legal actions to compel compliance with the law. Question One: Use of School Buses for Community Recreation As their name implies, school buses are used primarily to transport school pupils to and from school and school-related activities.(fn1) A "school bus" is defined as:
any motor vehicle designed, used, or maintained for the transportation of any school pupil at or below the 12th grade to or from a public or private school or to or from public or private school activities.(fn2)Certain other uses of school buses are also permitted. For example, school buses may be used to transport school district employees and pupils' parents to and from educational activities;(fn3) to transport pupils to and from summer jobs connected with summer employment programs for youth;(fn4) to transport government employees to and from their places of work under certain circumstances;(fn5) and, during wars or other national emergencies, to transport pupils to and from harvest sites when they are engaged in the harvesting of crops.(fn6) Our focus here is on the use of school buses for "community recreation." Authority for this use is provided in Education Code section 39835(a):
The governing board of any school district may use school buses to transport persons for purposes of community recreation as provided in Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 10900) of Part 7. The transportation may be provided on any day or days throughout the school year.Accordingly, we look to Chapter 10 of Part 7 of the Education Code-the Community Recreation Act ("Act")(fn7)-to determine the extent to which such use is permitted. In examining these provisions, we apply standard principles of statutory construction. Our goal is to ascertain the Legislature's intent so as to effectuate the law's purpose.(fn8) We begin by examining the words used in the statutes, giving them their usual and ordinary meaning.(fn9) We avoid constructions that would render any part of a statute redundant or superfluous.(fn10) If we encounter ambiguity, we may look to extrinsic aids, including "the ostensible objects to be achieved, the evils to be remedied, the legislative history, public policy, contemporaneous administrative construction, and the statutory scheme of which the statute is a part."(fn11) On the other hand, if a statute is clear and unambiguous, resort to extrinsic sources is unnecessary, and "the Legislature is presumed to have meant what it said."(fn12) Under the Act, counties, cities, schools, and other public agencies may conduct community recreation programs.(fn13) For purposes of this statutory scheme, Education Code section 10901(d) defines "community recreation" and "public recreation" as:
. . the recreation as may be engaged in under direct control of a public authority, or any camping or outdoor recreation activity which is (1) sponsored by a nonprofit organization, (2) for the benefit of disadvantaged or handicapped school age children, and (3) in a county with a population less than or equal to 45,000 according to the most recent federal census.We construe the word "or," following "public authority," as having its usual and ordinary meaning,(fn14) which is disjunctive. This indicates an "intent to designate alternative ways of satisfying the statutory...
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