The 86th Legislature ended without the renewal of the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners (TSBPE). Since then, an effort was launched by plumbers throughout the state to persuade the governor to renew the TSBPE’s charter by any means necessary.
Yesterday, Governor Greg Abbott did just that by issuing an executive order, rather than calling for a special session.
Posted on his official website, Abbott referenced his “imminent disaster” declaration in the wake of 2017’s hurricane clarifying that “a qualified workforce of licensed plumbers throughout the state, including from areas not directly affected by Hurricane Harvey, will be essential” to complete the recovery from Harvey.
Citing the TSBPE’s mission statement of “protect[ing] Texas citizens against the health and safety hazards that can result from improperly installed plumbing, gas, and medical gas systems,” Abbott stated the renewal of the board is essential to helping Texans recover from the 2017 disaster.
The board that was to sunset on September 1, 2019, is now renewed through May 31, 2021.
Abbott said his power to “suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business . . . if strict compliance with the provisions . . . would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster” is awarded to him by Section 418.016(a) of the Texas Government Code.
Stating “Texas must also be ready for future disasters,” Abbott eluded to the necessary permanence of the TSBPE, presumably nullifying the sunset process.
Not only did Abbott cite Harvey, but every potential storm to come as a reason to preserve the TSBPE, even by executive action if necessary.
In a press release, Governor Abbott said, “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.”
“It’s totally illegal,” Tony McDonald, a lawyer who practices constitutional law, told The Texan of the executive order issued by the governor.
“It also appears to be a thin veneer designed to avoid calling a special session,” McDonald continued. McDonald mentioned the debate among legal experts as to whether or not disaster exceptions in statute are constitutional to begin with, let alone in this instance.
Abbott’s move, McDonald says, is even more questionable as it “links to a disaster that occurred more than two years ago to which the [plumbing board] is not tied at all.”
Texas plumbers flooded the Capitol grounds today to voice their support for reinstating the plumbing board that was, quite nearly, flushed down the drain.
With legislators having returned to their districts for the interim and the executive order already instated, the rally may be somewhat of a victory lap for a group relieved the board didn’t take its final plunge.
Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.