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Texas Plumber Regulatory Board Shut Down By State Lawmakers

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Soon anyone will be able to work as a plumber in the state of Texas.

The Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners was flushed down the drain this week when legislators decided to shutter the agency on September 1, 2019.

By inaction, lawmakers effectively abolished the regulatory agency and the licensing laws it enforces.

After September 1, state law will not require plumbers to renew their licenses, pursue continuing education or carry commercial general liability insurance if they operate a business.

"Have they lost their minds?" said Mike Joyner, who owns Joyner Plumbing.

Joyner has been a plumber since the 1970s. He, along with other plumbers, are asking Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session.

The governor's office did not return a request for comment by deadline. But on Monday, Gov. Abbott tweeted, "See you in 2 years, NO SPECIAL SESSION," in response to the end of the 86th regular session.

Convening such a session would be the only way lawmakers could revisit the issue.

Eliminating TSBPE means no government agency will be able to collect or investigate complaints about plumbers after Sept. 1, according to Tela Goodwin Mange, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

"If you don't have that regulation, who's gonna check these people?" Joyner asked.

Joyner said as it stands, it already takes a plumber ten years to achieve the status of a "master" plumber, which is the industry's highest level of licensure based on extensive training and experience.

Under current state law, plumbers need to complete a minimum of 4,000 hours of on-the-job training in order to perform work in someone's home. Abolishing the oversight board means plumbers can do the same job without any training or education.

A Sunset Advisory Commission report called for change to current plumber regulations, citing plumber shortages due in part to Hurricane Harvey and population growth.

Dillion Patterson, who works for SWAT Plumbing, said a common complaint is how long it took for the state board to schedule licensing exams, which he estimated could take anywhere between six and eight months.

"We went from the strictest state in the U.S. to being unregulated," Patterson said.

State Rep. Chris Paddie, the commission's vice chairman, shared his thoughts on Twitter Monday.

He wrote, "Agency got flushed…years from now, will be telling stories to my grandchildren about how we used to regulate plumbers & have a Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners, until we abolished them in 2019. I will also tell them you shouldn't call the bluff of someone who isn't bluffing."

Chris Hultz didn't want just anyone replacing his broken water heater at his home in Fort Worth. He wanted a plumber who had previously performed the task.

"As a homeowner, if I don't know who's been certified or licensed to perform the repairs being done to my house, then I don't know what quality a plumber that isn't certified will be able to meet," Hurtz said.

Patterson said above all, regulation is a health and safety concern.

"The model is we protect the public's safety and health," Patterson said, referring to plumbers' frequent interactions with water and sewage lines.

"We do hospitals," Patterson said. "Water heaters can blow up, there's lots of things in the plumbing industry people don't consider dangerous."

The Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

Plumbers are planning a rally at the State Capitol in Austin on Friday, June 14 at 11:00 a.m.

Under state law, TSBPE will adhere to a "wind-down" period of one year. The agency issued a notice stating they hope to create a database showing which plumbers were previously licensed.

For the time being, you may verify a plumber's license by clicking here.

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