Over the last 20-plus years, the Texas Air Conditioning Contractors Association (TACCA) has enjoyed many successes at the Texas State Capitol, as well as maintaining constant defense. Along the way, TACCA worked to increase the number of investigators dedicated to the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (ACR) contractors department at Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR), through the Appropriations process, and successfully fought off a proposed rule which would have required air conditioning units sold in Texas to be treated with a substance that would theoretically turn carbon dioxide to oxygen. The rule would have increased the cost to contractors and the substance was not effective. We never know what we might face next.
Currently, TACCA continues to work on the issue of the regulation of plumbing, which will be before the Legislature again in 2021. We are also working on the review of TDLR by the Sunset Commission, including provisions to eliminate municipal registration fees for HVAC/R contractors, and opportunities to achieve efficiencies and better governance through TDLR.
Government Affairs Update
from Shannon Noble, Government Affairs Counsel
Uncertainty is the byword of the political landscape heading into the 87th Legislature. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the interim House committees are conducting studies via written submissions instead of holding hearings, and only one Senate interim hearing is currently scheduled. Adding to those changes, a new House speaker will be elected when the Legislature convenes in January, and virus protocols for conducting the legislative session are being discussed.
TACCA is closely following the Sunset Commission (“Sunset”), as the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) is under Sunset review. It was one of the agencies which was scheduled to be heard by Sunset in August before those hearings were canceled. Sunset and TDLR staff advise that the hearings will be rescheduled.
In anticipation of the upcoming legislative session, the biggest issue TACCA is currently following is what will happen to the regulation of the plumbing industry. Because the Governor’s extension of the Plumbing Board was temporary, a decision must be made by the Legislature whether to re-create the Plumbing Board, or move regulation of the industry to TDLR.
Another issue which may be raised again is TACCA’s bill from last session to eliminate the municipal registration fees that HVAC contractors are required to pay in many jurisdictions.
TACCA’s Legislative Committee is considering these and other issues as the date for early bill filing to begin approaches on November 9.
Do you have an established relationship with your legislator?
If so, we would love to hear from you. Personal contact with legislators helps build relationships and establish lines of communication that ensure the concerns of the HVAC/R industry are
heard and addressed. Contact us today.
TACCA Final 2019 Legislative Update
from Shannon Noble, Government Affairs Counsel
Of the 100 bills on TACCA’s tracking list for this session, only five passed that are of note for TACCA. There were also two notable failures:
1. Unfortunately, TACCA’s own bill, HB 4249, which provided that municipalities could not continue to charge registration fees to HVAC contractors, did not pass. Although it was sent to the drafters in October, 2018, it was not back from them and ready to file until March 8, 2019, which was the filing deadline. There is no explanation for the delay, and it did put the bill in an uphill battle for time. Then, instead of being referred to the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, where TACCA’s bills have always gone, it was referred to Urban Affairs, where the bill’s author, Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin), had never appeared. Even so, it was voted out of committee with only one no vote, from freshman Rep. Jessica Gonzalez (D-Dallas). That one no vote made it ineligible for the Local and Consent Calendar, which is much faster than the regular House calendar. So it was sent to the House Calendars Committee, where it died.
The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) is up for Sunset review in 2021, and that process will begin this fall. The next goal is to include the language of HB 4249 in the TDLR Sunset bill in 2021.
2. The Plumbing Board Sunset bill, SB 621 by Sen. Nichols (R-Jacksonville), had its own series of unfortunate events, and ultimately it also failed. That bill would have abolished the Plumbing Board and moved the regulation of plumbers to TDLR. PHCC opposed SB 621, and had Rep. Nevarez (D-Eagle Pass) file another bill, HB 4226, which created a new agency – a trades board governing plumbers, electricians, and HVAC contractors. That bill did not even get a hearing.
TACCA pitched to TDLR, and to Sen. Nichols and Rep. Nevarez, a compromise proposal of creating a trades board under the TDLR umbrella, for the same three license groups. The Governor would appoint members of the three trades to serve on the independent trades board, its rules would be reviewed by the TDLR commission, and TDLR would perform all administrative duties required for issuing and investigating those licenses. This was not adopted but was not negatively received, and will be pitched again to the Sunset Commission and its staff during TDLR’s Sunset review.
Ultimately, the Governor resuscitated the Plumbing Board by executive order and extended it for two more years, which means it will be the subject of Sunset legislation again in 2021. His rationale for the executive order was the ongoing need for licensed plumbers in the aftermath and rebuilding from Hurricane Harvey, and the need to stay prepared for the next hurricane or other disaster.
Bills that passed:
1. HB 1342 by Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) provides that a conviction within the past five years for an offense that does not directly relate to the duties and responsibilities of a licensed occupation is no longer grounds for disqualification for the occupational license. The bill also expands the list of factors a licensing authority has to consider in determining whether a criminal conviction directly relates to the duties and responsibilities of a licensed occupation to include whether there was correlation between the elements of a crime and the duties and responsibilities of the occupation.
2. HB 2452 by Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth) allows the TDLR to contract with a qualified individual to assist with reviewing and investigating complaints. Except for an act involving fraud, conspiracy, or malice, the contractor would be immune from liability and could not be subject to a suit for damages for acting in the contracted capacity. This should speed up the complaint review process.
3. SB 237 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) provides that each agency that licenses an occupation or profession shall determine the type of license holders’ personal information that the agency should make available on its website, based on the following factors:
4. SB 1217 by Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) provides that, for purposes of determining a person's fitness to perform the duties and discharge the responsibilities of a licensed occupation, a licensing authority may not consider an arrest that did not result in the person's conviction or placement on deferred adjudication community supervision.
5. SB 1531 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) removes the requirement that applicants for electrician licenses demonstrate their honesty, trustworthiness, and integrity. These types of bills seek to make it easier for Texans to obtain and retain their licenses.
TACCA is a member of the ACCA - Allied Contractor Organization network that monitors legislative matters at the national level. Visit ACCA at www.acca.org for more information on these matters.