Behemoth Bills and Bureaucracies: Texas’ Unique, Cumbersome Sunset Review Process

We need to end the Sunset Commission,” State Assemblyman Tom Craddick (R-Midland) said at a meeting of oil and gas interests last August.

It was an aside in a larger discussion of federal government emissions regulation in the Permian Basin, but it drew lingering concerns and frustration from some lawmakers about the Sunset Process.

The original concept was well thought out and a good concept,” said Craddick, who was in-house at the time of its inception The Texan. “But it’s not that anymore, it’s become a catch-all term. They have just become a Christmas tree for everything.”

The Sunset Advisory Commission (SAC) is tasked with reviewing the effectiveness and value of existing agencies and government programs — a process conducted for each entity every 12 years.

Since its inception in 1977, the Commission has been its own to match shows the elimination of 42 agencies or programs, the consolidation of 52 into other existing entities, $1 billion in tax savings, and an 80 percent success rate of its recommendations going into effect since the turn of the century. Many states do not have such a mechanism for bureaucratic verification and few are as hardy as Texas’.

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In this coming session, there are 21 states entities to be tested – including two headliners are the Public Utility Commission and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Both units were scheduled to undergo sunset testing in 2025, but were pushed back two years to 2023 due to the grid collapse and legislative reforms that followed.

Another agency up for review is the Texas Department of Juvenile Justicewhich has been rocked with controversy after controversy for years and faces a staff bleed.

The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) was born out of scandal, and a decade later it’s still struggling to avoid the limelight,” the Sunset Commission report said. “Since TJJD’s inception, the agency has been caught in a seemingly never-ending cycle of crisis and instability, even after legislative initiatives halved the number of youth it must directly supervise and the facilities it must operate.”

The commission recommends giving the agency a financial boost to help fill vacancies, revamping its oversight and changing internal language to reflect “personal, respectful language”. normsand to continue its charter for six years instead of 12.

The Sunset Process was instituted in the 1970s in response to events during the decade that sowed widespread distrust of government institutions; the Vietnam War, rampant inflation, and Watergate were among those catalysts.

The economic turmoil of that decade also brought public concerns about government spending. 1974 the legislature convened as a constitutional convention — an assembly scheduled three years earlier to revise and replace the state’s current government document — and approved a variety of changes, including a 10-year sunset determination. These proposals fell three votes short of the number required to get in front of voters.

The following year, similar revisions to the constitution were passed by the legislature; this revisions went in Flames at the ballot box 74 to 26 percent.

Two years later, the legislature passed the Texas Sunset Act, which fixed the current lifespan of state agencies at 12 years unless extended by the corporation.

Since then, the SAC has led the review process.

It usually starts in September of odd-numbered years, when the reviewed agencies submit their self-assessment reports.

That starts a year or longer Proceedings agency input and public comment while researching similar institutions in other states.

Sunset beaks are massive, the proverbial haystacks for needles to hide in. In 2019, a provision within the Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission (TABC) extension bill – the 300-sided house Committee replacement by then MP Chris Paddie (R-Marshall) – has been criticized for potentially giving the agency and its staff sweeping powers. The bill would have supposedly done so if the Law has not expressly authorized an action, TABC will consider it unlawful.

State Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) caught the provisional substitution and changed the TABC Act to prevent its enactment.

It’s complicated, bureaucratic jargon to grapple with. But if it had happened, Geren argued, TABC would have tremendous discretion to decide what was unlawful, beyond what the code strictly dictates. And the pandemic has shown just how much authority TABC already possesses; The agency carried out several stitch operations against bars across the state for violating state and local government closure orders.

The TABC sunset fight was initiated by a legal action by liquor retailer Spec’s against the agency for allegedly “unlawful and malicious” attacks on the chain, and it led to a stick fight during the review of the Geren change.

These frigate-sized bills also see previously dead laws attached like barnacles to a ship’s hull.

A month after Senator Charles Schwertner’s (R-Georgetown) 2019. legislation An order for a study on “Alternative Power Vehicles and Gasoline and Diesel Taxes” was sent to the Transportation Committee, the exact same wording was pinned to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TDMV). sunset bill in a (n the change.

Another bill, this one by former State Assemblyman Chris Paddie (R-Marshall) legalize digital number plates, was pinned to the same TDMV renewal legislation after the Senate approves its own Committee replacement.

After his The invoice Authorizing the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) to create a motorcycle training program and pay fees for it was successfully stalled in committee, former Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin). added Many of these provisions were carried over into the Texas Department of Public Safety’s renewal legislation – a comprehensive bill that brought such training programs under the purview of TDLR.

During State Assemblyman Armando Walle (D-Houston) 2019 The invoice Limiting lending companies’ ability to pursue criminal charges in committee, he unsuccessfully attempted to pin the same bill as this year’s Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner bill the change.

At the last regular session, State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) passed a bill that would allow graduates of trade schools or programs to obtain plumbing licenses from the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners the change to the agency extension bill.

State Senator Roland Gutierrez The invoice Establishment of a suicide prevention program for farmers attached to to the Ministry of Agriculture renovation.

Though it wasn’t passed into law, State Assemblyman Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) said tried several just Amend agency renewal laws with wording that forces the company to repeal two regulations for each one it approves.

Much can be shoved into these gigantic calculations.

Former spokesman Joe Straus had hard words for the sunset process seven years ago, in light of the Texas Department of Transportation’s review in 2009. Over 200 amendments were tabled to this extension law, and it unceremoniously collapsed under its own weight.

It mocks the entire Sunset process and makes me question whether or not it still serves a useful purpose,” Straus said Texas Grandstand at that time.

But not only the legislature can falsify the original intention of the program.

According to the BAG80 percent of these Sunset recommendations are accepted.

In many ways it is [sunset] The process has become nothing more than a way of giving the blessing of the concerned authorities’ wishes,” said State Assemblyman Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park). The Texan.

Referring to the fact that commission staff recommendations mostly become law, Craddick added, “The Sunset Commission has basically turned into young staff making laws.”

Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) narrates The Texan“There are certainly improvements to the process that can be made, but I welcome the fact that we have a sunset process where government agencies have to justify their existence from time to time.”

When asked about these potential improvements, Shaheen pointed out that he needed to request a “report” from the agencies[s] about their efforts to improve processes [and] the implementation of best practices and technologies” along with the demonstration of “business cases that show real savings and productivity gains”.

Cain, Craddick and others believe the Commission, like the agencies it evaluates, is ripe for scrutiny.

In 2017, former state congressman Larry Phillips legislation Forcing a review of the SAC went nowhere, despite the clear frustration of some members of the panel, even the spokesman at the time. In the same year that Sunset safety net bill died at the death of the 85th regular session, forcing a special session to prolong the lives of these entities.

Legislators have frequently grumbled about the sunset process, and despite some palpable support for reform, such measures have not had any effect; According to Craddick, that tangible support still exists beneath the pink dome.

I think if you had a bill that would change the Sunset process, it would get a lot of support,” Craddick said.

But no legislation to reform or force a review of the SAC has been tabled so far in this session. Legislators have until March 10 to submit bills.