The Little Elm Town Council was critical of the legislative session in Austin this year. Mayor David Hillock brought attention to a multitude of bills that he said would make a negative impact on the community going forward. Highlighting the lack of action in plumbing, a taxation cap and others, the council said they will try hard to overcome the hand they were dealt.
“I have been on council since 2006, and I can’t recall any legislative session having this big of an impact on the local community, a negative impact,” Hillock said.
Of the many bills that were passed over the 140-day session, one that was not passed actually took center stage. The legislative body did not take any action on the Plumbing Licensing Board which means the agency will dissolve at the end of the summer. Currently, the agency issues plumbers official licence to perform their duties in the state.
“The Plumbing and Licensing Board will sunset in September. It will no longer be a requirement for a plumber to be licensed in the state of Texas,” Town Manager Matt Mueller said.
Hillock called to attention that the effects of something like this could put safety at risk. He highlighted people that hire plumbers for pressurized systems in their homes, sprinkler systems that the town requires and even gas pipes that are connected to the town. With inexperienced, or even unqualified, plumbers doing the bidding it may cause unnecessary risk.
“It may not do anything in year two or three because people will be able to see who had a license. In five years, though, that won’t be there,” Hillock said.
Mueller indicated that Little Elm requires any contractor that works in the town to be registered with the government. However, the town is not capable of administering tests to plumbers to see their qualifications or providing a continued education to ensure they are working with current information.
It is within the Governor Greg Abbott executive powers to keep the board open for another two years without the vote of the legislature. That might open up a legal situation, but it is something that can be explored. Whether or not Greg Abbott will elect to take any action of this topic is still up in the air.
“The Legislature has given the Governor many tools in my toolbox to extend the State Board of Plumbing Examiners for two years without needing to call a special session. We will let you know very soon. Don’t worry,” Abbott said.
Another concern was the tax cap that was instituted in Austin. Senate Bill 2 will cap the rollback tax rate to 3.5 percent. This is down from eight percent prior to 2019. If a town would like to increase the rate beyond this figure, an automatic election will be snapped into place. Hillock said the cap will have a harmful effect on the future. In order to properly maintain the peace, by hiring police, the town needs to generate funds.
“They reduced our revenue by reducing the property tax cap. This will absolutely have an impact on our ability to generate revenue in the future,” Hillock said.
The red light cameras were another source of contempt from the council to the legislature. House Bill 1631 will ban all read light cameras in the state effective in September. The work now, for Hillock and the team, will be to find ways to get around these “bad laws”.