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Many of you know that the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) and the Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board (TALCB) is currently undergoing a review by the staff of the Sunset Advisory Commission. But what is a Sunset review and why is it necessary?

In the mid-1970s, many states, including Texas, established Sunset laws as a method to introduce an additional level of accountability for state agencies. Here’s a breakdown of how the process works in Texas:

  • A state agency is essentially given a statutory expiration date by which the agency will cease to exist (sunset) unless the state legislature take action to continue its existence before that date.
  • Before that date, the agency is required to undergo a review of its overall effectiveness and performance by the staff of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission to determine if there is still a need for the agency’s continued existence. During the review process, the agency’s key duties and functions are also analyzed to determine if the agency is effective in carrying out its mission.
  • Before Sunset staff begins their review, the agency is required to conduct a self-evaluation and write a report (SER) which gives the agency a chance to provide Sunset staff with an overview of how the agency operates, what currently works well, and what the agency believes could be changed to help the agency better fulfill its mission. The Agency’s SER is available to download and review on the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission website.
  •  After the SER is provided, Sunset staff conducts its review of the agency. During this process, Sunset staff will review the agency’s work product, documents, conduct interviews with agency staff and the agency’s stakeholders, and seek input from various individuals and entities who have had contact with the agency.  This review process provides the first opportunity for license holders and the public to provide input.
  • Once the Sunset staff has completed the review of the agency, they will compile and publish a report explaining any findings and recommendations arising from the review. The report will recommend the continuation of the agency as is, continuation with changes, or even potential elimination of the agency.
  • After the report is published, a public meeting is set where Sunset staff and the agency under review provide public testimony to the Sunset Commission regarding the report. In addition, members of the public and other agency state holders are able to testify. Once the all testimony has been heard, a second public meeting is held for the Sunset Commission to vote on whether or not to implement some or all of the recommendations in the report.
  • Finally, a bill is filed during the next legislative session based on the final recommendations approved by the Sunset Commission.  The bill then goes through the same legislative process as any other bill: either the legislation will pass and the agency will continue to exist with a new Sunset date established, or the legislation will fail and the agency will be abolished.  

For most agencies in Texas, this process happens every twelve years. As of the date of this article, the Agency has competed its SER and is currently taking part in the initial review by Sunset staff. Sunset staff has determined that their report based on this review is likely to be available sometime in October.  Public meetings to discuss and vote on the report have been scheduled for November and December of this year. For more information on how to provide input on the Agency’s review, please visit the TREC or TALCB websites. You can visit the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission website more information about the process.

In addition to the Sunset Review process, the Agency has recently completed its biennial strategic planning process.  Every two years, the Agency goes through the process of reexamining the agency programs, reassessing the best ways to measure how well the agency operates, and evaluating any future requirements or changes needed to provide the best service possible to the citizens of Texas.   As part of this process, the Executive Director leads a listening tour, visiting several cities across the state to meet with stakeholders in person and receive input on a series of questions intended to help shape direction of the agency over the next two years. This year two additional web-based town halls were added to allow stakeholders who did not live near one of the seven areas visited to provide input.   

This year, the Agency’s strategic planning process was closely tied to the Agency’s Sunset review. The Agency had already completed its Self-Evaluation Report for Sunset, and the questions asked of the stakeholders during the listening tour incorporated issues and areas of improvement cited in the SER to allow stakeholders to provide the agency insight on these topics.

After the listening tour, agency staff reviewed and collated all of the feedback received and drafted the 2019-2023 strategic plan, a document that provides a road map for the agency for the next five years.  This year’s document incorporates many aspects of the agency’s SER. In addition, the document took a close look at the agency’s customer service deficiencies, and provides not only short-term methods to correct those deficiencies, but recommendations to further enhance the agency’s stakeholder customer service experience in the long-term.

For more information and to review the Agency’s 2019-2023 Strategic Plan, please visit the TREC or TALCB websites and be sure to check out the Facebook Live Town Hall we hosted last month on the topic.