Politics & Policy

Texas Eyes Major Deregulation

State commission says rules are unnecessary and inefficient.

Texas is looking to deregulate nineteen state programs, twelve of which are for health professions.

The Sunset Commission, which evaluates state agencies to identify and eliminate waste and inefficiencies, has recommended the discontinuation of nineteen regulatory programs currently housed at the Department of State House Services, and the transfer of twelve of these programs to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

The twelve-member commission has abolished 79 state agencies since its founding in 1977, saving the state around $945.6 million, according to its website.

In a staff report released in May, the commission analyzed DSHS’ regulatory programs and concluded that many of the occupational licensing programs could be deregulated “with little risk to public health.” Others, they found, would be better placed at the TDLR as they “distract DSHS from its primary public health responsibilities.”

The DSHS, in addition to its public health responsibilities, administers more than 70 regulatory programs. The report claims that there is “little rationale” for placing these programs at DSHS “beyond a vague connection to health and a misguided attempt at administrative efficiency and improved regulatory effectiveness.”

The report took into account the impact on public health and safety, the degree of regulation in which the practitioners operate, the availability of another state or regulatory program, along with other factors.

Some of these professions that require licenses are indeed involved in important medical procedures, and so regulation may seem necessary to ensure patient safety. But these professionals, the report says, are in a highly regulated environment that “obviates the need for a state license.” Professionals can receive their training in private sector programs.

The regulatory programs for occupations such as dietitians, certified food managers, and mold assessors, could be safely eliminated, the report says. It also notes that licenses for dietitians and opticians should be eliminated because anyone can already perform those jobs as long as they don’t use those titles.

The report also notes that the DSHS regulation is often on top of existing regulation, from local, private, national, or other state regulatory authorities. It cites as an example companies in Texas that sell bottled water. These companies are required to hold a DSHS-issued food manufacturer license in addition to employing a person with a separate DSHS-issued bottled and vended water certification.

Some activists oppose the deregulation. Mark Barch, president of the Texas Society for Respiratory Care, doesn’t believe hospital and private agency oversight would protect patient safety.

“These are vulnerable patients, so if you’re not licensing people and doing criminal background checks on them every two years — which is what’s currently happening — you have no idea whether they’ve committed crimes, sexual assaults,” he told KVUE.

The commission says attempts to make these agencies more efficient by scaling back state regulation are often “fought by those who enjoy business advantages from the perpetuation of regulatory programs.”

Because the licensees pay more in fees than the amount the legislature provides to administer the regulatory programs, the deregulation of the nineteen programs would cost the state approximately $1.6 million per year, the report says.

The decision will be announced in August.

– Molly Wharton is an intern at National Review.

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