After a thorough review by a committee of Texas lawmakers found a government agency was failing to perform its duties and needed to be abolished, their colleagues in the Texas House should have accepted their recommendations; instead, a majority voted to reject them.

Senate Bill 621 by State Sen. Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville) would abolish the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners by absorbing the responsibilities of the board into the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

TSBPE oversees the plumbing industry in the state of Texas, handling the licensing of everyone from master plumbers down to apprentices. Up for review by the Sunset Advisory Commission, the board received a scathing report and was recommended to be abolished at the end of this fiscal year and its responsibilities absorbed by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

Sunset’s recommendation was based on finding the board “failed to address long-standing problems within its control to fix, and broader problems, like the workforce shortage, [and such problems] have been exacerbated by TSBPE inattention and unwillingness to change the status quo.”

SB 621 passed the Texas Senate more than a month ago on party lines; but when the bill was heard on the floor of the Texas House on Tuesday, the bill saw a couple of amendments. One amendment authored by Democrat State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (Houston) would extend the board for two years.

Thompson told members the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation has a full load already as they head into a sunset of their own, ahead of the 87th Legislature in 2021. She further advised that the board be left alone for another two years before readdressing their concerns in the following session.

The House sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Stan Lambert (R–Abilene), made a motion to table the amendment, asking members to follow through with the recommendation of their colleagues on the Sunset Commission. When a vote was taken, an 81-member majority voted in support of extending the board.

Rather than abolish a lousy, ineffective, and terribly inefficient government agency and then absorb the core responsibilities of that agency into a broader one, the Texas House voted to continue an unwanted and unnecessary facet of government.

Worse still, should the House request a conference committee to work through differences in the bill, the House could reject their compromise bill. If the bill were to die, the board would continue on as is because the Texas House has already passed a safety-net bill to keep government agencies intact, should enabling legislation fail to pass before the end of the session. The safety net was passed early in the session in an attempt to prevent the occurrence of what happened in the last session when conservatives used sunset bills to force a special session.

Based on the discourse of the body Tuesday—given one layup chance to shrink government—there seems to be little to no appetite in the Texas House to reduce the size, scope, or power of government.

Destin Sensky

Destin Sensky serves as a Capitol Correspondent for Texas Scorecard covering the Texas Legislature, working to bring Texans the honest and accurate coverage they need to hold their elected officials in Austin accountable.