Lawmakers flush plumbers’ licenses

State will push oversight to cities, let homeowners absorb risk of shoddy work

The Texas Legislature did some good things in its 86th session, but what they did to plumbing licenses really stinks.

In the rush to “get government out of our lives” (and influence by some financially interested lobbyists), the Texas Legislature washed its hands of the state plumbing code and the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners.

Starting Sept. 1, anyone can claim to be a qualified plumber and the state will push off any municipal regulations onto cities — another one of those “unfunded mandates” we all hate so much. The state code will have a “wind down” period until September 2020.

Plumbers, of course, install our drinking water and keep our waste water and associated gas buildup away from our homes. This move endangers Texans, plain and simple.

Texas has roughly 58,000 licensed plumbers, but a growing population and rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey has led to a shortage in the profession, the Texas Tribune noted. Home builders’ associations also reportedly lobbied for the change, as the shortage affects their build times.

Others complained about wait times for licensing procedures and that all exams must be taken in Austin.

As a partial remedy, one Senate bill sought to fold the plumbing state board into the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration. That was rejected.

So now we will have the Wild West and “I know a guy” as the quality drivers of this important industry.

One local plumber said his license and 30 years of experience had just been rendered useless. His qualified knowledge and work in that field can now be sold to the lowest bidder with little oversight over actual safety. The state has effectively just said, “Oh well — buyer beware” for one of a home’s most important infrastructure features.

Those building a new home with a contractor who insists on unlicensed plumbers can also expect a higher home insurance bill.

Ultimately, the state is pushing oversight of this industry and its qualifications onto municipalities. That will increase local costs as cities and municipalities absorb these inspection and safety costs. So, unless the public is OK with a complete lack of oversight, this amounts to another unfunded mandate from the state.

Meanwhile, blocked septic vents can cause explosions, as can poorly installed water heaters. Guess the state figures our cousin can just look up how to do it on Youtube.

What’s next? Unlicensed electricians?

In those infamous last words, “What could go wrong?” — K.E.C.

Fredericksburg Standard

P.O. Box 1639
Fredericksburg, TX 78624-4228
830-997-2155