The State of Texas will continue to license plumbers despite the state legislature declining to renew the agency, after Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order extending the agency through 2021, using emergency powers after Hurricane Harvey as his justification for the move.
In the final moments of the 86th Legislative Session in Austin, a bill extending the life of the State Board of Plumbing Examiners was killed in the Texas House, thus resulting in the end of licensed plumbing in Texas and one of the biggest accidental victories in occupational license reform in Texas.
Since then, plumbing trade groups have been vocally demanding the legislature return for a special session in order to protect its occupational license scheme, looking out for their own protectionist barriers to entry and trying to flush out competition.
They got their wish on Thursday afternoon, though Abbott did not call for a special session. Instead, he simply issued Executive Order No. GA-06 relating to necessary assistance from qualified plumbers with disaster recovery and preparedness.
In the order, Abbott claims the agency is necessary for safe infrastructure rebuilding nearly two years after the storm:
WHEREAS, to fulfill the demands for rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey and keeping Texas prepared and able to recover from future disasters, it is necessary to continue the Board to perform its indispensable role in protecting Texans.
State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) quickly took to Twitter to criticize the move by Abbott, saying, “Last I checked Texans elect Legislators and a Governor. Not a King.”
— Jonathan Stickland (@RepStickland) June 13, 2019
Those opposed to occupational licensing—a group which included Gov. Greg Abbott as recently as 2014—argue that no agency is necessary, as consumers can use their own judgement to determine which services to use. If Texas were to abolish the State Board of Plumbing Examiners, it would join states like Ohio and Kansas who do not have an equivalent agency.