Raise your hand if you are a plumber.
If you don’t already have your hand high in the air, get ready to. In order for the Texas Board of Plumbing Examiners to continue regulating the state’s plumbing industry, which includes licensing plumbers in the state, a bill needed to be passed this legislative session to extend the life of the board. That didn’t happen.
Unless Gov. Greg Abbott is right and can keep the board’s regulatory power alive, the board will be no more come September 2020. That means anyone will be able to call themselves a plumber, regardless of their qualifications.
Let’s hope the governor does have a plan, because as much as people hate regulation, it does play an important role in making sure the person installing pipes or fixing a leak knows what they are doing.
Among the many things the board is responsible for, the main focus is on examination, licensing, enforcement and administration of features that support and regulate the plumbing industry. The board’s mission, according to the group’s website, is to “protect Texas citizens against the health and safety hazards that can result from improperly installed plumbing, gas and medical gas systems.”
While it might be tempting to have that friend of a friend with a wrench and a toolbox fix that leaky commode, it’s usually best to call a professional. This licensing board is the one who will hold that professional accountable for substandard work.
There were several attempts at keeping the board operating during the legislative session, according to the Texas Tribune, but each bill fell short before the legislative deadline.
The board wants Abbott to call a special session just for this issue, but the governor recently said that won’t be necessary.
“TEXAS PLUMBERS: We’ve got this,” the governor said in a tweet, according to the Texas Tribune. “The Legislature has given the Governor many tools in my toolbox to extend the State Board of Plumbing Examiners for two years without needing to call a special session. We will let you know very soon. Don’t worry.”
His office has remained tight-lipped on how it plans to jury-rig a functional oversight agency, but the issue hasn’t gone unnoticed. Alarms are being tripped around the state by experts afraid of losing business to bottom-dollar, bottom-quality competitors who don’t know the difference between a pipe wrench and a pipe cleaner. Property owners should worry, too, since they’re the ones who will pay the price for incompetent, unregulated work.
Having the board gives customers an avenue to file complaints and have confidence in the abilities of the person coming into their homes. And as the board points out, plumbers do far more than fixing sinks. They can be the ones responsible for ensuring safe drinking water makes it to the tap or medical gas is properly delivered to patients.
Abbott said there is no need for a special session, and we hope he is right, but how he plans to tackle the issues appears to be a mystery to most outside observers.
Let’s hope whatever fixes he envisions hold water.