The Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners is going down the pipes, after state lawmakers failed to pass legislation extending the agency before the end of the legislative session last week. The agency, which oversees licensing and coding for plumbing across Texas, was up for review under the state’s sunset law. That law sets an expiration date for state boards and agencies, requiring the Legislature to actively renew them only after reviewing their usefulness and efficiency. This time, lawmakers couldn't come to a consensus on whether to extend the plumbing board, allow it to die, or move its functions to another state agency. "I think the idea was to abolish the Texas State Board of Plumbing, but then to have us regulated by another state body," says Billy Brown, owner of Houston's Aqueduct Plumbing. "But for whatever reason, that didn't go through."
Brown tells KTRH he and fellow plumbers are stunned and upset at the loss of the board, noting that Texas has some of the strongest licensing requirements for plumbers of any state. "To get licensed was a big deal, it was hard," he says. "So you know if you have somebody who is licensed, they put a lot of effort and money into getting that license."
Currently, Texas has an estimated 58,000 licensed plumbers, but the state is facing a shortage. However, Brown warns this is not the proper way to address that shortage. "On September 1st of this year, nobody has to be licensed any longer...anyone can do plumbing (in Texas)," he says. "I mean, we're talking about people's water systems and gas systems, it's crazy."
Some plumbers groups are calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session to save the agency. Two years ago, Abbott specifically cited two agency renewals under the sunset review law as part of his special session, but he has not indicated any plans to bring lawmakers back this year. "We're threatening the public with this," says Brown. "I mean, this is clean drinking water we're talking about, this is gas in people's houses where kids are sleeping...it's a really bad thing."