How Did We Get Here?
I watched in disbelief over the holiday weekend as an already gut-wrenching process involving our industry went horribly wrong–a perfect storm turned into a total disaster. Here’s a quick recap of this slow motion train wreck:
- Over months and years, the TSBPE fell behind on exam scheduling, investigations, exam modernization (content & methods), and responsiveness (phones & email).
- The Texas Legislature failed to allow the budget to keep up with industry growth.
- The Sunset Commission performed its review at the height of TSBPE struggles.
- Appropriately passionate industry professionals unintentionally repeated misinformation, alienating some lawmakers and emboldening others.
- At the direction of competing interests and their lobbyists, the Legislative process fell into procedural maneuvering (points of order, snap votes, motions to reconsider, etc.).
- The push by industry organizations paying the lobbyists achieved their desired goal of “killing SB621,” but they did so without having the “safety net” provision in place. Rather than keeping the TSBPE from being merged into TDLR, the result was its entire elimination (effective September 1, 2019).
Is There Still An Option?
We have been inundated with calls, emails, texts, and social media messages asking what can be done. Legislatively, the last resort is for the Governor to call a special session with extension of the TSBPE as one of the stated purposes. I have spoken to one legislator, heard from another indirectly, received feedback from a Capitol staff insider, spoken to the TSBPE as well as TDLR Executive Directors, and seen the Governor’s own tweet with the same recurring theme: There will not be a special session.
None-the-less, this is politics and “it ain’t over till it’s over,” so here is the link to contact Governor Abbot and request a special session to restore plumbing regulation. Large numbers of plumbers are pursuing this route on social media and we know the organizations whose lobbyists overshot their intended goal are trying to have direct meetings with the Governor’s staff. As a sign of the understandable panic and frustration, plumbers online are suggesting lawsuits against the state, industry walkouts state-wide, and even requests for federal intervention. While I empathize with each sentiment, the inconvenient truth is that the Texas Legislature created our plumbing regulation and they can take it away (which they just did).
What If This Stands?
In the midst of this morning’s chaos, the TSBPE Executive Director was kind enough to take my call and confirmed the following points.
- While the TSBPE has until September 1, 2020 to “wind down” its affairs, their legal authority to regulate ends September 1, 2019 (just over three months from now).
- That means effective September 1 of this year, the TSBPE will stop renewing licenses, delivering exams, investigating complaints, etc.
- At that point, regulation of plumbing reverts entirely to municipalities, who will determine their own licensing requirements. Many mistakenly believe they have another year before this happens, but the TSBPE is contacting them to clarify.
- When I asked her about our clients who usually complete their CE in July or August for the next year, she indicated they could still renew their licenses before September 1st (for renewals Sept 1, 2019 – Aug 31, 2020) with the benefit being easier transition to any municipal license requirements adopted over the next year.
I also spoke with the Executive Director of TDLR this morning who is as stunned as we are at the outcome. However, he strongly believes plumbing regulation will return within a couple of years. He has seen this happen with several agencies over the past decade and most have returned after a period without them. That may be little consolation, but it is something.
So What Now?
I realize your livelihood is at stake, as is mine and that of our extended family. As we all face massive business decisions, I repeat what I said at the beginning of this entire process: No matter what happens in Austin, plumbing will still be necessary, it will still be regulated [although perhaps at the municipal level], and good plumbers will still be in high demand. After all, state government doesn’t guarantee job security, only customers can do that.
We will keep you posted as this continues to unfold. As always, we appreciate the opportunity to serve you.
[Constructive comments worthy of licensed professionals are welcomed below.]