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June 4, 2019      5:43 PM

SB: Short special session on plumbing board would do the trick, but Abbott apparently prefers testing reach of executive power

Abbott says he can extend the life of the agency without legislative action, perhaps a convenient short-term fix but it flushes the way state agencies have been handled in Texas

The meltdown over the Plumbing Board at the end of session gave more than one observer flashbacks to 2017 when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick used the failure of Sunset legislation as a springboard to force Gov. Greg Abbott’s hand and call a special session on bathrooms.

Now there could – repeat could – be a special session that’s actually about bathrooms. That plus ensuring drinking water is safe and natural gas lines are connected securely. Without revealing details of the legal gymnastics just yet, Abbott this morning declared on Twitter that he can extend the life of the agency for two years without an act of the Legislature. We should all stay tuned for the details and not worry, Abbott said. During an afternoon news conference in Dallas, he declined to elaborate on how he might accomplish this.

There is already some concern, though, that Abbott is using a legitimate problem to upend the Sunset process and take lawmakers out of the loop for how state agencies are dealt with.

“If he can extend an agency on his own, then the Sunset process just became unnecessary,” said a legislative veteran. “If he can extend one, he can kill one.” Some have noted that when the Dental Board was Sunsetted years ago, it required no special session. But that was a different situation in which more bureaucratic tap dancing could be done because the Dental Board had a two year wind up period. The plumbing board doesn't get that much time.

Keep in mind this is the same governor who unilaterally rewrote portions of the budget in 2015 through creative use of the line-item veto.

By Scott Braddock

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