Must-pass sunset bills one step from Gov. Abbott’s desk

Updated Aug 10, 2017
State Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, speaks with lawmakers on the House floor Thursday after approval of Senate versions of must-pass sunset bills he shepherded through the House. JONATHAN TILOVE/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The House Thursday gave preliminary approval to sunset legislation, already approved by the Senate, to extend the life of the Texas Board of Medical Examiners, which licenses Texas physicians, and four other agencies, for another two years.

By voice vote the House passed both measures — one to extend the life of the agencies and another to extend their funding. With final passage on Friday, the sunset bills, the only must-pass legislation of the special session, will become the first bills of the session to arrive at Gov. Abbott’s desk.

“With that, everything sunset-related and the purposes for which we were called is done,” said Rep. Larry Gonzales, the Round Rock Republican who was charged by Gov. Abbott with shepherding the bills through the House.

The action takes off the table the possibility that the legislation could be held hostage by either the House or the Senate for negotiating purposes as the two bodies iron out substantial differences on other legislation before the special session ends at midnight Wednesday, or be used to force another special session.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was able to do just that during the waning days of the regular session, forcing the governor to call the special session at which Patrick hoped the Legislature could address transgender bathroom and property tax legislation that are priorities for him.

Abbott added 19 other items to the special session agenda beyond the sunset legislation, and continues to call on the House and Senate to go 20-for-20 in approving his priorities.

The sunset bills will allow the continued operations of the medical board, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors and the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners.

Gonzales had said that if the licensing board shuttered as of Sept. 1 there would be nothing to stop anyone from practicing medicine with impunity.