Founded in 1977, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is a 12-member legislative commission that is tasked with identifying and eliminating waste, duplication, and inefficiency across more than 130 Texas state agencies.
The Commission, which is made up of five senators, five representatives, and two members of the public, is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House. It also serves to question the need for each agency’s existence, attempts to identify duplication of other services or programs, and considers introducing innovative changes to improve each agency’s operations.
The Commission assesses state agency programs and functions on a 10-year cycle. In the upcoming 88th legislative session, the Commission will submit its recommendations after reviewing 21 state agencies and authorities to evaluate their mission and performance, including:
- The Electric Reliability Council
- The Public Utility Commission of Texas
- The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
- The Texas Water Development Board
HillCo Partners, a full-service public and government affairs consulting firm, will begin sending reports out during this process as they start their review, and for public hearings which started in September 2021. These are set to conclude in January 2023 when they have submitted their recommendations for all agencies subject to review.
The Commission’s review process is designed to provide the Texas State Legislature with an opportunity to examine the mission, priorities, and performance of key state agencies, and take action to address any identified problems. The review process works by setting an expiration date in law for each state agency, and the legislature must pass a bill to “renew” an agency’s expiration date every 10 years.
While the process sounds great in theory, in practice it’s not always followed. HillCo Partners was monitoring the review process in 2019 when the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners did not have its Sunset legislation passed during the 86th Legislative Session, and thus was legally required to shut down by September 2020. However, Governor Greg Abbott stepped in and issued an executive order which delayed its abolishment until the 87th Legislative Session.
When Sunset legislation is passed, this will usually include provision for streamlining agency operations, abolishing inactive committees, or restructuring licensing programs. This legislation will generally extend an agency for 12 years, but dates can be set earlier to ensure that recommendations are followed up on.
Once the Sunset legislation is passed for agencies under review, a safety net bill will pass out of both chambers which confirms the agencies’ timelines for the next review cycle. Once that is confirmed, agencies that are selected for review will submit self-evaluation reports during the fall of an odd-numbered year.
Sunset staff will then conduct evaluations, prepare reports, hold public hearings, and make decisions on which changes to recommend to the legislature. The HillCo team sends out updates and reports during these hearings and as various stages of report are released.
The Sunset Commission will then submit a report of recommendations before it is sent to the legislature so that lawmakers can consider the Sunset bills on agencies under review. These bills go through the regular legislative process and will either pass (i.e., the agency will continue with improvements) or fail (i.e., the agency will be abolished.)
The Sunset review process is highly involved, complex, and long. It requires careful monitoring, and the team at HillCo partners remains engaged throughout the entirety of every new review process to ensure that nothing is missed; HillCo Partners has spent more than 20 years perfecting the critical role it plays in the Sunset process.
HillCo Partners was founded by Neal T. “Buddy” Jones and Bill Miller. It is a full-service firm that provides consultancy services for public and government affairs. The firm opened for business in 1998, and today, it is the top-ranked Texas lobbying firm.