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Summary: In 1999 (and officially in 2001) the Texas Legislature passed the Self-Directed Semi-Independent Agency Project Act (SDSI Act) to place several agencies further outside of the normal state agency rules in order for them to act more efficiently and better monitor the professions each agency was tasked to regulate. Under this act, the agencies are responsible for setting their own budgets and raising their own funds. The only accountability they have is to the Sunset Review Commission.
HB 1685 would transfer the SDSI Act to the Government Code and extend the act past Sept. 1, 2013 (when it is currently set to expire). SDSI agency status is currently given to the Texas State Board of Accountancy, Texas Board of Professional Engineers and Texas Board of Architectural Examiners.
Analysis: TPPA opposes the Self-Directed Semi-Independent Agency Act and recommends that legislators vote AGAINST extending or renewing the Self-Directed and Semi-Independent provision for these agencies. The agencies given SDSI status are not accountable to the legislature the way most agencies are. Most agencies are held accountable by the taxpayers because the legislature has the power to set their budget and can reduce the budget if it believes the agency is overstepping the bounds of its directive. However, the SDSI agencies are not held to these standards. Unelected officials (appointed by the governor) are allowed to set the budget for their own agency and then are able to charge fees to accountants, professional engineers, and architectural examiners to meet their needs. Members of these professions are forced to pay the fees in order to be regulated by these agencies unaccountable to the legislature or the public. This type of free reign given to an agency offends the principles of limited government.
The US Constitution set up the checks and balances system to ensure that no branch of government could act outside of the reach of the other branches. Agencies with boards appointed by the governor and not subject to a legislative budget review exist in opposition to this principle. Citizens, in their roles both as voters and taxpayers, have no power to defend against any actions taken by these agencies.
Amendment Recommendation: We do not recommend that these agencies be abolished, simply that they cease to be Self-Directed Semi-Independent Agencies and that they be brought under the regular oversight and review of the legislature. We would support an amendment to this affect and with the successful adoption of this amendment, we would revise our recommendation to support for the overall bill.