The Future of Plumbing Regulation in Texas

Two competing bills have been filed in the Texas Legislature to continue plumbing regulation and the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners.

Remember, the Legislature must reauthorize plumbing regulation this session before the Governor’s previous executive order expires, otherwise the TSBPE will again face closure and plumbing regulation will revert to the various municipalities.  Both competing bills would continue plumbing regulation and the Board, but the bill originally filed in the Senate proposes significantly greater changes.

The original House Bill (HB 636) was filed first by Representative Thompson of Houston and it has moved through the committee she chairs, which allowed her to guide it back to the floor for a vote.  You will recall Rep. Thompson (D) was one of the two faces of the final Sunset battle in 2019 and a member of the Sunset Commission.  Interestingly, she had faced off against Rep. Paddie (R) who was also on the Sunset Commission, but Paddie (along with follow Republican Sunset member Lambert) have now signed on as Co-Authors of her bill.  So, apparently an agreement has been reached to achieve (or force) alignment, which greatly increases the likelihood of eventual passage this time.  An identical Senate companion bill (SB 1196) also indicates broad support and likely passage.

It is also interesting to note the original Senate bill (SB 871) is authored by Senators Nichol and Buckingham who were both members of the Sunset Commission during the TSBPE’s review.  This helps explain why many of the provisions in their bill mirror the Sunset Bill from 2019 (but without the provision moving regulation from the TSBPE to TDLR).

What’s In The Plumbing Bills?

While I encourage you to read them yourself, here is my summary of just the most pertinent points to be found in each bill (there are several more technical points I have skipped).  You will see there are significant differences, so either one of these will have to take over as the lead bill in both chambers at the expense of the other, or they will undergo a significant conference committee reconciliation process after passage in each chamber.

HB 636/SB 1196

  • Extends the TSBPE until September 2027 (6 years, or half the Sunset cycle)
  • Eliminates the RMP course requirement
  • Specifically allows contracting (3rd party) for examination delivery
  • Expands availability of information around disciplinary actions
  • Requires fingerprinting and criminal background checks for all plumbers
  • Allows issuance of a 30-day temporary plumbing license
  • Aligns license and endorsement expirations/renewals
  • Allows the Executive Director more authority for education provider approvals

SB 871

  • Extends the TSBPE until September 2027 (6 years, or half the Sunset cycle)
  • Eliminates Apprentice endorsements and allows Board to set what Apprentices may do without direct supervision based on their experience & education
  • Replaces the current RMP Designation with a Plumbing Contractor License, maintaining approximately the same requirements and responsibilities
  • Removes the requirement that Field Representatives be licensed plumbers, but requires that a licensed plumber be on staff to support them when the enforcement activities involve plumbing code rather than regulatory violations
  • Requires fingerprinting and criminal background checks for all plumbers
  • Incorporates the substance of HB 1650 to define, authorize, and encourage plumbing education in Texas high schools
  • Eliminates the RMP course requirement
  • Defines reciprocity with plumbing licenses from other states
  • Allows issuance of a temporary plumbing license
  • Allows license renewals to be every one OR TWO years

Other Bills Of Interest To Plumbers

Representative Schaefer has refiled his bill from last session to define, authorize, and encourage plumbing education in Texas high schools.  HB 1650 is also incorporated into the larger Senate Bill 871 mentioned above regarding plumbing regulation.

Senate Bill 1409 and the identical House Bill 3803 propose to make the International Plumbing Code (IPC) the sole approved plumbing code state-wide, while allowing municipalities the amend it for local concerns.

As is always the case, we encourage industry professionals to become educated on the issues moving through the state legislature affecting our industry, then contacting their elected officials to express their perspective professionally.  You may determine who represents you here.


[Constructive comments worthy of licensed professionals are welcomed below.]