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What to know about the state of plumbing regulations in Texas

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HOUSTON – On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott vowed to find a solution that would extend the window a state agency would remain open, after a bill aimed at addressing the agency's future failed in the Texas Legislature.

Plumbers said legislators left the state without any plumbing regulations.

"Plumbers protect the people in their homes and in their workplaces," said Stanley Briars, who has been a licensed plumber for over 55 years.

While that may be true, critics of the plumbing board said the agency makes the process of becoming a state-licensed plumber harder than it should be.

Here's what you need to know:

What is the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners?

The plumbing board is the state authority on all things plumbing. That includes all state plumbing laws and exams issued for plumbing licenses. The body also oversees the licensing process. Click here for more information.

The nine-member board is appointed by the governor. It consists of a mix of plumbers and people from other professions, according to Briars, who is a former plumbing board member.

There are four different ranks of plumbers, according to the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners:

  • Tradesman Plumber-Limited
  • Journeyman Plumber
  • Master Plumber
  • Plumbing Inspector
  • Why was the agency on the chopping block?

    The plumbing agency's future had been in question since the agency was scheduled for a sunset review process. The process allows lawmakers to assess the efficiency of a state agency and decide whether it should exist.

    Critics argued the process proved too cumbersome for someone to become a state-licensed plumber. They accused the board of being another example of government bureaucracy.

    Those in support of keeping the agency said their fight is about public safety.

    “It’s always too much regulation when we don’t have a problem," Briars said. "What that particular regulation and the plumbing ordinance does is protect the people in their homes, workplaces."

    What did the Legislature do?

    It failed to pass Senate Bill 621.

    S.B. 621 would have dissolved the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners, the agency that regulates plumbing, tasking the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation with its responsibilities. The bill failed, following pushback from plumbers and disagreement among lawmakers over compromises. One such compromise was a proposed amendment that would have extended the plumbing board through 2021.

    The legislative session ended May 28 -- a buzzer-beating defeat, it seemed, for the regulatory authority.

    Plumbers lobbied Abbott to call a special session to address the matter. Abbott said Tuesday that wasn't necessary.

    What did the governor say?

    "The Legislature has given the governor many tools in my toolbox to extend the State Board of Plumbing Examiners for two years without needed to call a special session," the governor wrote on his Twitter account.

    "We will let you know very soon. Don't worry," the governor said.

    What's next?

    It was unclear what avenue Abbott would take on resolving the matter.

    The Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners is scheduled to dissolve Sept. 1.