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The Commission met for its regular quarterly business meeting on Monday, May 6th and we had a full agenda.  It was my very first meeting presiding as the newly appointed and confirmed Chair, so it was quite an experience getting prepared in the very short period after my confirmation on April 24th.  At this meeting, we also welcomed two new Commissioners who were confirmed on May 1st - Barbara Russell of Denton and Chief Deputy Sherriff Jason Hartgraves of Dallas County. At our meeting, we elected Commissioner TJ Turner as our Secretary and expressed gratitude to outgoing Commissioners Chart Westcott and Adrian Arriaga for their six and 12 years of service respectively. We also gave a special farewell to our outgoing Chair Avis Wukasch for eight years of serving in this key role, plus two more as Vice Chair, with a total of over 11 years on the Commission. Lastly, we recognized Kerri Lewis who is retiring after serving almost ten years at the Commission with the last six as our General Counsel. The agency accomplished great things under the guidance of each of these contributors and we are grateful for their dedication to its mission.      

The agency staff team did a great job of working hard to enable a smooth and productive transition for the new members on such short notice and were successful in this task.  The meeting, though long, ran smoothly and much was accomplished. From Dr. Jim Gaines of the Texas Real Estate Research Center, we received a general economic and real estate market review and forecast to help us better prepare to shape the agency’s budget for next fiscal year starting September 1st.  We also approved two updated Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with the Real Estate Research Center, and with our independent subdivision and sister agency, the Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board (TALCB). 

I pleased to let you know that the Governor has signed the agency’s sunset bill into law as of May 31st and it will become effective on September 1, 2019.  Anticipating its final passage, at our May meeting, the Commission proposed several rules that will implement key portions of the bill. These include the repeal of a requirement to obtain a separate license for each branch office a brokerage maintains and the transition of individual instructor approvals from an internal agency process that education course providers currently rely upon to a process that will be conducted by the providers themselves under standards set by the Commission.  This transition was proposed and adopted by the Sunset Commission.  Significantly, any residency requirement prior to licensure will also be repealed as of September 1st, and this will be replaced by a strengthened reliance on the requirement for geographic competence.  In other words, not only must you be competent in the type of property and transaction on which you advise a client, but you must also be competent in the unique characteristics of the specific market area. 

Also consistent with Sunset Commission requirements, we proposed a major simplification and a realignment of the real estate inspector qualifying pre-license education requirements to track the national examination structure and topics of emphasis.  We believe this will assist to ensure a more consistently trained and mobile group of qualified inspectors. We also aligned the relevant conflict of interest and RESPA related rules which pertain to inspectors and proposed them to be equally pertinent to brokers who may refer clients or business to them, making such provisions logically reciprocal.

Because it is May, we also spent some time discussing the first draft of our proposed budget for the next fiscal year. While we are making great strides in reducing the call and email response times, the Commission wants to ensure no reasonable expense is overlooked that can make us more effective in our quest for excellent customer service across all functions of the agency. To that end, we required the Executive Director to ensure even more collaboration than usual among all of the division directors to ensure no good idea for improvement is overlooked.  The Budget Committee was charged to review all of the ideas and commit our resources to accomplish as many as possible. We look forward to their next report.   As always, we welcome the input of our license holders on all matters of concern. We are listening!