By BOB PALMER
End-of-session turmoil over the death of the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners could have been avoided, if proposed legislation reforming the board had passed, Chris Paddie, R-Marshall and vice-chair of the House Sunset Committee, said in an exclusive interview with the Jimplecute.
“In no way was this because we didn’t value what plumbers do or respect the critical role that they play in our society,” Paddie said.
Following the Sunset review of the Plumbing Board in 2002, the agency was given a list of needed improvements.
“Without question, of the 32 agencies that we reviewed this time in Sunset,” Paddie said, “it’s not even close, the Plumbing Board was the most poorly run, least effective, inefficient agency by far, and they just never really showed any real admittance of that and any real willingness to correct the problem.”
Paddie also blasted the Plumbing Board for failure to respond to the crisis following Hurricane Harvey as other state agencies had.
Gov. Greg Abbott has said he can use emergency powers to keep the board functioning after legislation reauthorizing its existence failed to pass in the Legislature.
Despite the fracas over plumbing licensing, Paddie believes the Legislature this year successfully tackled major issues confronting Texas.
“It’s one of those sessions that we can kind of look back and there is really a pretty significant list of things that we can look back and say, ‘You know what, we did some pretty big stuff this time, and some things that are going to have a big impact going forward,’” Paddie said. “It was a long session, a very busy session, but a really good one.”
School finance and property tax reform led the parade.
“What I think I’ll most remember about this session is our two key priorities that we came into this, and that is school finance reform and married to that, is property tax reform,” Paddie said. “Ultimately some property tax relief that we ended was achieved. I think we were able to accomplish something that hasn’t been accomplished in decades (on school finance).”
Paddie also took pride in his part in a bill of local interest. One bill was in response to electrocution of three Hallsville Boy Scouts in a 2017 boating accident on Lake O’ the Pines.
“We passed House Bill 4150 this session to add additional requirements for inspection and overall safety improvements in hopes of preventing that type of tragedy from ever happening again,” Paddie said.
The state representative in his fourth term expressed hope that something good could come from a “terrible tragedy.”
“We do a lot of big stuff, but sometimes those types of bills are the ones that you’ll remember longer than some of these others that we do,” Paddie said.
The Marshall Republican also serves on the House Redistricting Committee and has taken a peek at the numbers the Legislature will use in 2021. In 2011, House districts contained approximately 165,000 people. Following the 2020 Census, the size of a Texas House district will grow to about 200,000.
“My district, obviously, hasn’t grown by that many people,” Paddie said. “What that likely means is that we have to figure out where I go grab another 25,000-30,000 people.”
According to Paddie’s figures, a Texas Senate seat will soon represent more than 1 million Texans. A U.S. House of Representative will represent more than 750,000.
As Paddie moves to the chair of the Sunset Committee and continues to serve on Energy and Redistricting, he has become more noticeable in Austin.
“The Sunset process in general is one that you learn so much because you really get an opportunity to peel back the layers and really see how state government works and how these agencies work,” Paddie said. “That’s just a huge benefit going forward.”
Paddie said he and Speaker Don Bonner have an excellent working relationship.
“(Bonner) and I have a lot of similar interests and a lot in common with respect to what we like to do in the legislature,” Paddie said. “We like to be folks that are active and working the floor and be a part of making the place work. I would say that our relationship is even better now than it was coming in.”