San Antonio plans for local plumbing regulation in preparation for state board's abolition

Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners, license requirements end Sept. 1

By Garrett Brnger - Reporter, Adam B. Higgins - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - As the plumbing industry prepares for a future without a state regulatory agency, local municipalities like San Antonio are scrambling to fill the void.

The Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners is set to be abolished Sept. 1 after the Texas Legislature failed to pass bills to extend its operation. Requirements for plumbers to be licensed will cease, which many worry could create possibly dangerous situations.

"When you start talking about salmonella, you start talking about gas in sewer pipes that are blowing up within houses. There's all kinds of things that can happen," said Randy Hunter, a vice president with R.E.C. Industries and a member of the National Association of Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors.

Without the state agency to oversee the plumbing industry, regulation will "largely fall to municipalities, counties and special districts," according to a fact sheet from the board.

In anticipation of that, San Antonio's Development Services Department brought together Wednesday members of the industry, along with representatives of other municipalities, including Boerne, New Braunfels and San Marcos.

"They want to have some consistency when they're working — whether it's in San Antonio, Alamo Heights, New Braunfels — as opposed to having a patchwork of systems that would make it real inconsistent and real challenging," said Michael Shannon, director of Development Services.

Shannon said the plan is to hew closely to what has already been in place.

"We don't want to start from scratch," he said, saying they planned to use the state's licensing rules as a framework. "We don't want to reinvent the wheel, but those changes that are necessary, we'll get those down."

It's possible the regulations won't be necessary. Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted June 4 that he had the tools to extend the board by two years without calling a special session.

Nothing final has been announced, however, and the city and plumbing industry aren't banking on it.

"We're preparing for the worst," Hunter said.

In the meantime, the city plans to hold meetings every two weeks to hammer out details. In order to have something in place for Sept. 1, it will need to have a proposed ordinance for the City Council sometime around mid-August.

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