The Texas Plumbing Sunset Bill Failed But Governor Abbott Extended Plumbing Regulation Via Executive Order

Here is a summary of the Sunset Advisory Committee Recommendations regarding the regulation of plumbing in Texas.  This post is being updated for each change as events unfold and it is current as of the publication date noted.  The recommendations are either Statutory (requiring the Legislature & Governor’s final approval) or Management (which with TSBPE is expected to begin implementing immediately).

Using the ongoing disaster recovery related to Hurricane Harvey in 2017 as the legal basis, Governor Greg Abbot issued an executive order extending the TSBPE until May 31, 2021.  Since the Sunset Bill was not passed, that means all Statutory recommendations below will not be implemented, but all Management recommendations are still binding.

Senate Bill 621:

  • Referred to Senate Business & Commerce Committee  (Hearing on 03/12/19, Voted on 03/19/19)
  • Passed by the Senate on 04/03/19 (see amendments noted below in red)
  • Referred to House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee on 04/08/19 (Voted on 04/23/19)
  • Amended by the full House of Representatives (Voted on 05/15/19)
    • Amendment 1 encourages plumbing training in high school, identical to HB4296
    • Amendment 2 delays implementation (transfer to TDLR) by two years
  • Senate refused to concur (05/20/19), both chambers agreed to a conference committee (05/22/19)
  • Conference committee removed Amendment 2 but accepted Amendment 1 (05/23/19)
  • Lt Governor objected to Amendment 1, “corrected” Amendment 1 report filed (05/25/19)
  • Senate adopted Conference Committee report (05/26/19)
  • House refused to adopt Conference Committee report on two separate votes (05/26/19)
  • No “Lifeboat” bill was passed, so TSBPE & Plumbing regulation is scheduled to expire on 09/01/2019

House Bill 1670:

  • Referred to House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee  (Hearing on 03/12/19)
  • No action by the Committee, officially abandoned in favor of Senate Bill 621 as amended


All STATUTORY provisions failed along with the entire Sunset Bill.

  • STATUTORY:  Move plumbing regulation to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) by September 2020. (An attempt to extend the TSBPE for 4 years of close scrutiny was defeated 7 to 5 in the final vote of the Sunset Commission.)
    • An alternative proposal (HB 4226) would create a Trades Board (plumbers, electricians, and air conditioning and refrigeration contractors).  This bill has made it to the House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee but was passed over for discussion at the request of the bill sponsor.
    • Amended by the House to delay implementation for two years.
  • STATUTORY:  Transition the current plumbing board to an “Advisory Board” at TDLR with one of the public members being replaced with an additional licensed plumber.
    • The amended Senate bill would have the Governor appoint this Advisory Board rather than the TDLR Executive Director.
  • STATUTORY:  Require the TSBPE (and subsequently TDLR) to obtain fingerprint background checks on applicants and licensees.
    • The TSBPE has already begun researching the details of implementing this recommendation.
  • MANAGEMENT:  Form a 6-month working group to facilitate transition from the TSBPE to TDLR.
    • This has been done, composed of staff members and executive leadership of both agencies.
  • STATUTORY:  Eliminate the current Apprentice endorsements (drain cleaner, utilities installer, etc.).
  • STATUTORY:  Remove the requirement for apprentices to be under “direct supervision” once they have completed an appropriate amount of education and/or experience (to be defined by the TSBPE/TDLR).
    • The amended Senate bill replaces the direct supervision requirements.  However, HB 1781 would expand the ability for apprentices to work unsupervised only on new construction of one-family and two-family dwellings to the entire state (currently limited only to unincorporated portions of the state).
  • STATUTORY:  Allow the TSBPE/TDLR to hire non-plumbers to administer the written exams but retain the requirement that licensed plumbers administer the practical exams.
  • MANAGEMENT:  Authorize TSBPE/TDLR to outsource the creation and administration of exams in at least 7 testing centers around the state.
    • The TSBPE has already begun offering written exams on a limited basis in Houston, DFW, and Lubbock.
    • Additional sites are being implemented in Corpus Christi and El Paso.
  • STATUTORY:  Require TSBPE/TDLR to simplify continuing education approval (content & instructors).
    • The TSBPE has already begun formulating this plan and has discussed ideas with the education providers.
  • STATUTORY:  Authorize TSBPE/TDLR to establish license and endorsement timing (i.e. every two or three years instead of annual), including alignment of endorsement renewals.
  • STATUTORY:  Replace the current RMP designation with a Contractor’s License.
    • The draft bills include provision to transition current RMP’s without additional fees.
    • Senator Nichols’ office, the Sunset Project Manager, and TDLR Director have all affirmed that current RMP’s will simply need to “check a box” during their next renewal after implementation to receive the contractor’s license.
  • STATUTORY:  Authorize TSBPE/TDLR to issue temporary licenses.
  • MANAGEMENT:  Direct TSBPE/TDLR to simplify the continuing education timeframe.
    • The TSBPE has already begun formulating this plan and has discussed ideas with the education providers.
  • STATUTORY:  Remove the requirement that Field Investigators be licensed plumbers.
    • The amended Senate bill now states “For a department inspection or investigation that involves the quality of plumbing work, including whether the plumbing work complies with any applicable plumbing code requirements, the department shall employ or contract with a person who holds a license as a plumber under this chapter to conduct or assist in the inspection or investigation.
  • STATUTORY:  Allow TSBPE/TDLR more flexibility in the make-up of the Enforcement Committee.
  • STATUTORY:  Eliminate the Board’s authority to issue criminal citations (they don’t anyway).
  • MANAGEMENT:  Direct TSBPE to implement risk-based investigation priorities by Sept 1, 2019.
    • The TSBPE has already drafted more detailed rules and will soon publish them for public comment.
  • MANAGEMENT:  Direct TSBPE to use & document informal settlement conferences more thoroughly by Sept 1, 2019.
    • The TSBPE has already drafted more detailed rules and will soon publish them for public comment.
  • MANAGEMENT:  Direct TSBPE to publish disciplinary history online by Sept 1, 2019.
    • This has already been implemented and may be seen in the public license search.
  • MANAGEMENT:  Direct TSBPE to eliminate the high school and GED requirements from licensing.
    • A great deal of discussion surrounded this topic based on large-scale opposition expressed to the Board.
    • The TSBPE amended the rules allowing licensing through the Journeyman level without a diploma or GED, but not the Master or Inspector licenses.
  • STATUTE:  Replace TSBPE’s provisional license authority with reciprocal agreements with other states.
    • The amended Senate bill now states that out of state plumbers receiving Texas licenses must have a substantially equivalent license to do so.
  • MANAGEMENT:  Direct TSBPE to remove or modify exam questions that conflict between the IPC & UPC.
    • This was already the case and no action is apparent.

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