I find it hard to believe it is almost the end of 2019 already! We have been so busy that the time truly seems to have flown by. The Holiday Season is now upon us and we are looking forward to the New Year with great anticipation. Let me wish each of you all the very best during this special time of year!
I am happy to report that the Commission met for two full days in November and accomplished a great deal. One day was a workshop jam-packed with tasks we needed to accomplish before year end, as well as discussion of the direction of the agency going forward. Our agency staff helped us facilitate a very productive day. First, we completed some newly required annual refresher training, ensuring as policy makers that we are up to date on the various rules that govern our volunteer public service commitments. Next, we reviewed and discussed a wide variety of actions we have taken as an agency to implement all of the recommendations that were generated by our recent Sunset review. We also received the year over year results on key measures and metrics we use to gauge the success of our work implementing our legislative charter and furthering our mission statement. Both of these reviews showed great progress. For example, our contact center phone average hold time has consistently been under two minutes for the last four months, even with higher call volume. Our average time to issue licenses and to resolve complaints has continued to improve as well. In many ways we are doing quite well, but there is always room for improvement. Additional improvements will remain our focus in 2020.
In October, Governor Abbott asked every agency to explore additional alternatives for removing barriers to obtaining and maintaining a license in Texas, enhancing reasonable license portability, and reducing fees. Our in-depth exploration served as a recognition that our agency had taken many steps in the last two years which served to respond to the Governor’s requests. We were able to both provide a robust report on some of these accomplishments and commit to exploring additional future steps to implement these initiatives. We filed our responsive report with the Governor before the December 1 deadline. Also at the November 18 workshop, we began the tough job of charting the direction for our agency over the next five years. In the spring of 2020, we will undergo a formal strategic planning process as outlined by state leadership to be finalized by early summer. Together we discussed trends and alternatives, issues and opportunities. We have lots of work to do in 2020 and I know the Commissioners and staff are up to the task. We look forward to getting your input as we survey stakeholders to identify issues and discuss potential action.
The second day of our meeting consisted of our normal business meeting. We adopted several rules to finish out our Sunset commitments, including eliminating branch office licenses, and separate license for instructors – though we still set qualifying criteria. At the direction of the Legislature, we also eliminated the need for any period of residency in Texas as a qualification for a license and substituted a requirement for geographic competence. Most importantly, we eliminated almost $1.4 million in annual fees, including many of our “miscellaneous” fees, which simplifies our overall fee structure. Most notably, effective in January 2020, there will no longer be fees charged for establishing sponsoring relationships. Also, to begin in January, we will no longer collect a fee on behalf of DPS and FBI at each license renewal for rechecking criminal history, permanently saving license holders almost $2.1 million per year. These two accomplishments are major items that we are very proud of and are happy to celebrate with you!
I am also pleased to announce that we hired Chelsea Buchholtz, TREC’s current General Counsel, to be the next Executive Director beginning in January. Douglas Oldmixon will remain with the agency until March to help achieve a smooth transition. Welcome Chelsea; we look forward to your leadership.