Changes coming to law enforcement and utilities agencies

This is a preview of our Texas 2036 newsletter about the Sunset Commission’s recent adoption of recommendations to improve state agencies. To receive this weekly highlight of our work, sign up here.

Last week, the Sunset Advisory Commission adopted recommendations to improve the Public Utility Commission and the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Here’s a look at our recommendations and what’s next.

Sunset Advisory Commission 101 ✅

Setting the scene: Through the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, the Legislature looks closely at the performance of state agencies.

How it works: Once every decade, Sunset starts a review process for specified agencies and asks the basic question: Is the agency still needed?

A closer look: During the review, staff evaluate an agency’s programs, operations and public services and recommend ways to make the agency more effective and efficient.

Moving it forward: Sunset releases a report that lays out its findings if an agency should continue to exist. If so, it will also make recommendations for how to improve the agency.

Making it law: Commission members then vote to adopt or modify recommendations. Following a final report to the Legislature ahead of session, the chosen changes are filed through a Sunset Bill, which follows the normal legislative process.

Texas Commission on Law Enforcement 👮

Time for Action: In the final report for TCOLE, which oversees licensed peace officers, the Sunset Commission’s primary finding for the second consecutive review was that the regulation of law enforcement is “ineffective.”

  • By recommending another 12 years before TCOLE is reviewed again—with no panel or commission on law enforcement professionalism and training—the Sunset Commission put its trust in Texas lawmakers to find answers to some of the biggest questions about regulation.

Work to do: On the table for law enforcement stakeholders and the Legislature: replace the F-5 system for “wandering officers,” improve motor vehicle stop data issues and chart a path forward to raise standards on law enforcement professionalism and training.

  • The Sunset report recommended abolishing the F-5 report, but the Commission did not propose a replacement. This means that, unless the Legislature can agree on a replacement, the state may end with less transparency over wandering officers.

👉 For context: A wandering officer is a peace officer who is fired or resigns in lieu of getting fired and is then rehired to work at another agency. The F-5 separation report is used to describe how an officer leaves an agency. 

Making headway: From improving hiring and licensing background checks to agency creation standards and data transparency, the Sunset report shows signs of progress for TCOLE.

Keep reading.

Public Utility Commission of Texas 🔌

A bit of background: In the wake of Winter Storm Uri’s devastation in February 2021, the Legislature adopted multiple reforms relating to PUC’s oversight, including a review of the agency by the Sunset Commission.

  • The PUC oversees Texas’ electric, water and telecommunications utilities.

Need for improvement: The Sunset report called for more agency staff and appropriated resources in order for the agency to keep pace with its growing regulatory—and critically important—workload.

One more thing: We also suggested that each recommendation include a corresponding performance measure in the state budget to assess and track the PUC’s efforts in utilizing funds if approved by the 88th Legislature.

  • Taxpayers and budget writers deserve to see—and measure—the value they get in return. Good performance measures are key.

Dive deeper. 

👉 Bonus read: Budget priorities for the PUC and other natural resources agencies for the 88th legislative session.

Texas 2036 In the News 🗞️

Policy Advisor Luis Soberon spoke to KXAN about the Sunset Commission’s recent action to reform the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Read more.

The Water Blueprint 💦

In 2022, Texas 2036, the Texas Water Foundation and the Water Finance Exchange collaborated to host a series of stakeholder meetings to discuss the challenges facing Texas’ water and wastewater infrastructure and the opportunities presented by the U.S. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

We since created the Legislative Blueprint: Addressing Texas’ Water Infrastructure Crisis as a roadmap to meet this moment. Learn more.