The Commission held its regular quarterly meeting on Monday, May 7 at our HQ in Austin. The Executive Director was delayed for about an hour arriving for the meeting due to air travel delays on Sunday that resulted in a cross-country reroute and pushed his final flight to Monday morning. So our very able Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Kerri Lewis delivered the Executive Director’s report.
Our agency has been extraordinarily busy since we last met in February. The Executive Director sent an open letter to our stakeholders in April outlining the multiple steps that are being taken to address the lapses in our customer service standards. After several incremental fixes did not produce the required improvements, more extensive measures are now being implemented. Thanks to our staff for their exceptional commitment to be retrained, work overtime, add more staff, find process improvements and implement new technology to address every reasonable alternative for making improvements. We will continue to explore and implement every step that we assess will make a positive difference. We are highly encouraged that this multi-dimensional approach will more rapidly produce many reliable improvements. We will not rest until we restore the levels of service we hold ourselves accountable to.
Over the last three months, all of the Commission’s advisory committees and working groups met to advance work in their assigned areas of responsibility and we heard reports from each of them. Our internal auditors and the State Auditor’s office have completed their work on some of our personnel-related policies and their findings were presented as well. After considering guidance from the Governor’s office and other state leadership, we accomplished the most extensive strategic planning listening tour in agency history in March and staff compiled the draft plan for our consideration. Based on a request that staff integrates some supplementary data into the draft, the Commission voted to hold another meeting on May 30 to review and approve the final report. At the same time, we received a presentation on the first draft of the Fiscal Year 2019 budget. The second draft will follow in July.
On April 2nd we held our 2nd Annual Residential Realty Issues Summit focused on the effects of disasters on the real estate market. With our event partners from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M and the Austin Board of REALTORS, panels of market participants and related experts explored relevant aspects of the issue. Many positive comments were received from those in attendance, so we look forward to next year!
The information gathering and detailed observation phase of our Sunset Review process kicked off in April with a long and wide-ranging introductory meeting followed by several in-depth interviews with our key operating divisions. Staff from the Sunset Advisory Commission were with us for the meeting to observe in full all that we do to carry out the requirements of our mission. They have also been present for many of the advisory and working group sessions prior to this meeting. Posted on our website is a letter from Ken Levine, the Executive Director of the Sunset Advisory Commission explaining the steps in the Sunset Review and inviting all who wish to be a part of the process. They will welcome your input.
Our quadrennial Rule Review process continues, and we adopted some rules to remove barriers or add clarity, including an amendment to the advertising rules that will be effective on May 15th. We also approved some amendments to the current contract with our exam provider Pearson VUE, and learned about an opportunity to potentially reduce the long-term cost of fingerprint-based background checks. After the meeting adjourned, we saw a short demonstration of the online Names Management Tool we will launch by May 15th. Look for a training video and a Facebook Town Hall on the topic next week.
We covered a lot of ground during our meeting, and we hope you will take the time to review the video minutes posted on our website or to stop by for one of our future meetings. We love having license holders stop in to see how the agency team and the policymakers work together. Thank you!