Texas Is About to Become the Wild West of Plumbing: 'We Can All Become Plumbers'

texas plumbers
A plumber installs a 0.8 gallon per flush ultra-low flow toilet at a home on February 5, 2014 in Novato, California. Plumbers in Texas will no longer have to be licensed after lawmakers voted away its state regulation code. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Aspiring professional plumbers in Texas may soon no longer need to pass exams before entering the trade, or adhere to regulations, after lawmakers failed to extend the life of the state agency which oversees workers, and the state plumbing code is due to expire onSeptember 1.

Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners, the agency that regulates and licenses plumbers, was due for a so-called sunset process; a legislative review in which lawmakers decide on whether to continue running such state entities.

During the review, lawmakers twice failed to agree on a bill which would have allowed the agency to continue running, as reported by The Texas Tribune. The Senate Bill 621 sought to reassign the roles and responsibilities of the agency to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, a larger agency that also oversees dozens of professions.

The recommendation came after a review from the Sunset Advisory Commission which claimed it could take up to eight months for a person to become a licensed plumber. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation estimates that the waiting time could be reduced to around eight weeks under its guidance.

According to a report by the Sunset Commission, Texas needs more plumbers due to a growing population and rebuilding plans in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Lawmakers could not agree on the timing of the proposed transfer to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. An amendment of the bill sought to delay the move of the plumbing board until 2021. However, this amendment was later removed by a conference committee brought in to help reconcile differences, reports The Hay Ride.

After failing to agree on several other issues, the bill was voted down 88-57, and again by 78-68 after State Rep. Chris Paddie urged lawmakers to reconsider. Paddie, who is the vice chair of the Sunset Advisory Committee, noted how voting down the bill has not only doomed the agency, but also the plumbing code which regulates industry standards.

"Congratulations to us all because our plumbing shortage is solved because we can all become plumbers," Paddie said, reported the Tribune.

Roger Wakefield, master plumber and owner of Texas Green Plumbing in Richardson, said the industry is now essentially "completely unregulated" and could result in a surge of unqualified workers.

"We're going to put the safety of the homeowners and the public of Texas in jeopardy," Wakefield told the Tribune. "Plumbers install medical gas, they install the potable drinking water that we have every day. If they're not doing it right, people's safety is at risk."

John Crawson, of Central Texas Plumbing Solutions, told KWTX, "It makes it worse for us, for somebody that's put in years of schooling and on the job training, for that to not mean anything anymore. It's just a big deal to us."

"As plumbers we look at ourselves to protect the health and the welfare of the nation. I mean, getting the sewage away from your house, getting water and gas into your house without any incidents or bodily harm or damage, it's a big deal to us."

Texas governor Gregg Abbott has been urged to intervene and force lawmakers into backing a special legislative session to rectify the situation. Abbott indicated in a tweet that he has no plans to bring back legislators until the next regular session in 2021.

The Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiner will now embark on a "wind down" period before it is abolished in 2020.