Future of Texas Plumbers' Licensing and Regulation Uncertain After Legislative Impasse

Future of Texas Plumbers' Licensing and Regulation Uncertain After Legislative Impasse

Plumbers in Texas will no longer be subject to state regulations after lawmakers this week flushed the state plumbing code and the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners, a state agency that employed dozens and generated $5.2 million in revenue in 2017. Soon, anyone can call themselves a plumber without completing the agency-required education and tests, said Roger Wakefield, master plumber and owner of Texas Green Plumbing in Richardson. Wakefield, who has been a plumber for 40 years, said the industry is now "completely unregulated," and will lead to more unqualified workers entering the workforce. "We're going to put the safety of the homeowners and the public of Texas in jeopardy," he said. "Plumbers install medical gas, they install the potable drinking water that we have every day. If they're not doing it right, people's safety is at risk." 

Wakefield said he and other plumbers are calling Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and asking him to order lawmakers back to Austin for a special legislative session to remedy the situation. Abbott's press office did not respond to requests for comment, but the governor indicated on Twitter on Monday that he has no plans to reconvene legislators before the next regular session in 2021.

The state plumbing code will cease to exist on Sept. 1 while the state plumbing agency, which had 28 employees as of March, will have a “wind down” period to wrap up operations by September 2020. Several requests for comment left with the state board were not returned.

That entity is responsible for licensing plumbers and enforcing the state plumbing code. The agency was up for what’s known as the sunset review process, when lawmakers periodically assess how efficiently state entities are organized and whether they should continue to exist. Two bills filed during the legislative session that ended Monday would have extended the agency's life.

Senate Bill 621 received pushback from members of the plumbing industry because it would abolish the state board and move its duties under the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, a larger agency that oversees more than two-dozen other professions. State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, voiced her opposition to the bill after a committee of House and Senate lawmakers took out her amendment delaying the move of the plumbing board until 2021. The bill failed 57-88. State Rep.Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, later tried to reconsider the vote, but he failed again, 68-76...

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