AUSTIN — Heading off the prospect of anyone in Texas being able to call themselves a plumber, Gov. Greg Abbott extended the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners on Thursday until 2021 via an executive order.
The Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners was on track to shut down by Sept. 1, 2020, after the Texas Legislature failed to extend its life during the 86th legislative session that ended last month. The board is responsible for licensing plumbers and investigating any claims of unlicensed work or violations of the plumbing licensing law.
In the weeks since, some had called on Abbott to call a special session to extend the agency. Earlier this month, he tweeted that his office had a way to extend the agency without calling lawmakers back to Austin.
Luis Lopez, a master plumber and co-owner of AM Plumbing in Denton, quickly learned of the decision Thursday. He said he was excited to hear about the news, but it isn’t a closed case in his mind.
A rally to show support for the state plumbing industry is planned for Friday morning in Austin.
“As far as I know, the march is still on and they’re expecting 100,000 people,” Lopez said.
He said he is sending seven of his employees to the march to show solidarity, leaving only a skeleton crew in Denton to deal with emergencies.
Abbott stated that the order was necessary because plumbers are needed in Texas to address the destruction from Hurricane Harvey.
“A qualified workforce of licensed plumbers throughout the state, including from areas not directly affected by Hurricane Harvey, will be essential as those funds are being invested in crucial infrastructure, medical facilities, living facilities, and other construction projects,” Abbott said in a statement.
The order will delay the abolishment of the state board until “disaster needs subside” or the 87th legislative session, which is scheduled to meet in 2021, addresses the issue, according to the executive order.
This is the sixth executive order issued by Abbott since he took office in January 2015, according to the Legislative Reference Library.
Abbott’s move came as a happy surprise to Lopez because, as he understood it through talking with others, the governor didn’t have the power to extend the board through an executive order.
“But I guess he does,” Lopez said. “I mean, I’m not going to question it.”
The plumbing board was among a group of state agencies this year up for sunset review, a process in which lawmakers periodically assess the efficiency of state entities and decide whether they should continue to exist. A bill that would’ve extended the plumbing board unexpectedly died on the House floor near the end of the legislative session.
“The major issue is resolved,” Lopez said. “Now we’ve got to deal with what brought us to this spot.”
That includes problems of reported inefficiencies within the state plumbing board. Lopez said Texans just received two more years to sort those out.
Alicia Dover, executive director of the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association of Texas, released a statement Thursday saying the organization was “grateful” for the executive order. The organization was the first to post about Abbott’s executive order on Facebook, about an hour before Abbott’s office released the executive order.
“This option maintains the plumbing certifications and licenses necessary to preserve the health, safety and well-being of all Texans,” Dover said in a statement.