While this newsletter should have been the September edition, we intentionally waited so we could include the October TSBPE meeting and potential impacts from the November election (at least as they relate to the Texas legislature). Sticking to our strategy of just a few select topics, the sections below will cover:
- Latest information related to the TSBPE
- The election’s potential impact on plumbing regulation
- A balanced and practical perspective on COVID
- New services from Winn’s CE
Please be sure to click the boxes below to open each article as we’ve moved The Texas RMP to this new virtual format in hopes of speeding its delivery and flexibility. As always, let us know anytime we can serve you and we appreciate the opportunity.
CEO, Winn’s Career Education
Founder, Trade Professionals Network
November 2020, Volume IV, Issue III & IV
Austin At A Glance (TSBPE)
The TSBPE has resumed regularly scheduled meetings and held three since our last update. The following are key points from those meetings:
- Addressed 7 reapplications after license revocation (primarily for incarceration)
- Addressed 20 Cease & Desist orders (most related to plumbing without the proper license)
- Addressed 36 Default Final Orders (against individuals who did not respond to Board actions)
- Discussed effectiveness of newly allowed online Continuing Education (plan to continue)
- Discussed budget reductions mandated state-wide due to COVID impact
- Addressed 2 reapplications after license revocation (primarily for incarceration)
- Addressed 13 Cease & Desist orders (most related to plumbing without the proper license)
- Addressed 13 Default Final Orders (against individuals who did not respond to Board actions)
- Adopted amendments to RULE §361.1 (Definitions), in this case removing “performing a camera inspection through a code-approved existing opening” from the definition of plumbing. This means camera inspections may be done by someone who is not a licensed plumber (a concern to the Attorney General’s office regarding overreaching restrictions on home inspectors appears to be at the heart of this change). This rule amendment was effective August 16th.
- Adopted amendments to RULE §367.10 regarding Display of RMP Name and License Number. The greatest change is removing the prohibition against magnetic signs on vehicles (which means they will now be allowed). This rule amended was effective August 16th.
- Addressed 8 reapplications after license revocation (primarily for incarceration)
- Addressed 17 Cease & Desist orders (most related to plumbing without the proper license)
- Addressed 28 Default Final Orders (against individuals who did not respond to Board actions)
- Adopted amendments to RULE §361.3 (Fees), lowering the initial and renewal fee for each RMP to $300 effective November 13th
- Proposing expansion of fingerprint requirements from Tradesman to include all Apprentices next (placed in the Texas Register for comment)
- Noted plumbing exams (not hands-on) are now offered in Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Ft Worth, Houston, Lubbock, and the Valley
Since these meetings, the TSBPE has discontinued exams again due to the impact of COVID and experienced significant challenges with their primary computer system (which is shared by 7 agencies comprising the Health Profession’s Council).
Election's Impact on Texas Plumbing Regulation
As of the publication date of this article, the US Presidential Election is still being contested, but the Texas state results have become clear. Here are several ways the election results will likely affect plumbing regulation.
November Election: Texas’ move toward “battleground” political territory proved to be overstated, with the Republican Party maintaining significant majorities in both the Texas House of Representatives and Senate. This reduces the likelihood of any significant change with regard to regulation when the next Legislative session begins in January. The race is now on to determine who will be the new Republican Speaker of the House, a process of internal politics through which representatives try to back the “winning horse” who will determine committee appointments and leadership roles in the 87th Legislature. New committee chairs mean great uncertainty about which legislative priorities will even see the light of day.
TSBPE Appointments: Now that the election is over, the Governor’s office has made almost daily appointments to state agencies. Although the TSBPE remains with three positions empty and three expired (but continuing), we have been contacted by the Governor’s office as they return to the task of filling at least 6 of the 9 Board seats. As part of those discussions, we were told the Governor fully supports continuing the regulation of plumbing but expects the legislature will still transfer that regulation from the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners (TSBPE) to the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation (TDLR).
Legislative Priorities: Remember that the Governor’s executive order maintaining plumbing regulation expires on May 31st, meaning the Legislature MUST TAKE PROACTIVE MEASURES to continue plumbing regulation at the state level. However, plumbing regulation will be fighting for attention against these developing issues:
- A projected $4.6 billion budget shortfall due to COVID-19
- Conflicting responses to COVID-19 (shut-downs, masks, distancing, etc.)
- Once per decade redistricting process (which will influence political majorities until 2031)
- Bills already filed to legalize, regulate and tax personal cannabis use
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So what does this all mean for plumbing regulation in Texas?
We are basically right back where we were at the beginning of the 2019 legislative session, but this time everyone is more aware of the stakes. With regard to plumbing, we need the Texas legislature to answer two questions:
- Will we continue regulation of plumbing at that state level (vs deferring back to the municipal level)?
- If so, which agency will provide that regulation (TSBPE, TDLR, or some new agency)?
You may recall that on the last day of the 2019 Legislature, the bitter political battle over the second question (which agency) led to a failure to answer the first question (regulation at all). Once again, if the legislature deadlocks over this issue and fails to agree (i.e. pass a bill continuing plumbing), plumbing regulation at the state level will again expire on May 31, 2021 and it will fall upon each municipality to determine their own plumbing regulation. If the fight shapes up as it did two years ago, it would be very easy for state legislators to focus on the broader priorities listed above to just ignore the plumbing regulation issue. As I have come to learn, there are a thousand ways to kill a bill in the Texas legislature, but only one way to get it passed.
This means it is incumbent upon our industry to unite around the almost universal support for maintaining plumbing regulation while seeking an agency decision that conflicting political parties can accept–that’s the only way for it to pass both chambers and make it to the Governor’s desk.
The COVID Dilemma
I’m not going to wade into the issue of what, if any, mandatory response is appropriate for government officials to place on Texas citizens. That is a highly personal topic fraught with political landmines.
What I would like to share is the impact we see within our clients and our own team:
- We have had one client who lost a plumber to COVID and had another in intensive care with it.
- We’ve had multiple clients with several staff contracting the virus. Most missed a week with minor symptoms while others were out longer with more serious issues.
- One of our team contracted the virus with minimal impact over a few days.
- Another of our team has contracted it with more significant challenges but not requiring hospitalization.
- I know people who have been in close contact with infected individuals without contracting it themselves.
- I also know people who have been exceptionally cautious but still contracted the virus.
The virus is certainly real and we are past the point of asking if we know anyone who has contracted it as many of us did earlier this year. It is also unpredictable, both with regard to transmission and severity, which could be a function of the individual’s health as well as the strain/variation of the virus. Regardless, COVID-19 and the reactions to it are certainly having a profound impact on our lives personally, socially, physically, and economically. Resolution seems to be materializing via a unique mRNA vaccine approach (which many of us don’t trust) or herd immunity (which most of us would prefer to avoid).
Personally, I don’t live in fear over it but I chose to take reasonable precautions against contracting it. I’m not as concerned about myself as I am my immediate and extended family (since the 80-year olds in my life are certainly at higher-risk of life-threatening complications). I take personal liberties very seriously but I also feel obligated to protect others around me with reasonable precautions. After all, and perhaps in this case more than any other, we are all in this together.
BPAT in Texas, CPE in Louisiana
While devoting a tremendous amount of effort toward providing options for training (live, online, correspondence) and helping our clients reschedule around COVID restrictions and illnesses, we’ve managed to move forward on select new services.
- BPAT in Texas: Winn’s CE is now approved by the TCEQ to provide the required 40-hour course and hands-on exam necessary to pursue their Backflow Prevention Assembly Tester (BPAT) license. We have added one primary instructor in North Texas to get us started while he also provides the assistant teaching requirements for other instructors on our team who will eventually serve the entire state. BPAT has been the number one request for additional classes from our clients for several years and it took us a full year to navigate the requirements to achieve this approval. Our inaugural course is January in Irving and we would love to have any of you join us (with other parts of the state intended for late in 2021 after our additional instructors are certified.)
- CPE in Louisiana: Many Texas plumbers also have Louisiana licenses and our Texas CPE credit has been accepted in our neighboring state for several years. However, we have been selected as the sole publisher of the Continuing Education materials that will be used throughout Louisiana beginning in 2021. We will NOT teach in LA, but provide a manual unique to their state and “train-the-trainer” services to the several CPE providers who actually deliver the courses. We are thankful for this new opportunity to serve several thousand more plumbers as a partner, rather than competitor, with our fellow instruction providers in The Pelican State next door.
We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to serve each of you as well as your support and encouragement through this crazy year.
© 2020 without warranty or liability, not for legal or professional advice.
[Constructive comments worthy of licensed professionals are welcomed below.]