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The sunset review commissions defined the agency of the Texas legislature. It is dedicated to making recommendations on whether a state agency should continue or change some of its activities. The commission came into existence 1977. It is a product of the auspices of Texas Sunset Act (referred to as chapter 325 of the Texas Government Code) (Curry, 2009). It answers some of the critical questions such as if the agency and its functions are necessary. It works with availing an automatic termination of the agency’s functions (Sunset). The date set to abolish a specific agency is determined by whether the bill is passed or rejected (Pearson & Wigginton, 2008). The other activity that the commissions is entrusted with is making improvements on the way various government sections work. The composition, the relevance and the various functions of the commission are a necessity. A better understanding of the way the commission works is also necessary.
Composition of the Sunset Review Commission
The sunset commission is composed of twelve members. The commission comprises of five Senate representatives, one member from the public (appointed by the lieutenant governor), five from the House, and one representative from the public (appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives) (Pearson & Wigginton, 2008). Public members are required to serve for a two year period, while the members from the Senate and the House of Representatives serve for four years. The chairmanship is obliged to rotate between the House and the Senate after two years. The Chairmanship is also assigned to a House member (2016-2017 review cycle). Staff who carry out the responsibilities of the commission are employed by a director (who is appointed by the sunset commission).
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Relevance of the Sunset Review Commission
The sunset review commission does not manager all the government agencies. Primarily, the sunset process only applies to all agencies in DORA. The process also includes the agencies and boards of registration that are dedicated to regulating occupations and professions. The process also applies to agencies and boards that are specified by the statue (Pearson & Wigginton, 2008). It is good to note that the sunset process is not applicable to the fundamental functions of the government and the principal departments of state such as tax collection. The sunset review is entitled to monitor the effectiveness of about one hundred and thirty agencies. 20-30 of the agencies are mandated to undergo the sunset process during each legislative session (Curry, 2009). The agency that is under review must be automatically abolished unless an objection is raised. This happens when the legislature opts to pass a bill that supports the continued existence of the agency contrary to the sunset review expectations. For example, the 2011 sunset review eliminated the Coastal Coordination Council, which was responsible for managing the coastal resources.
Oversight functions of the Sunset Review Commission
Referring to the Act (chapter 325 of the Texas Government Code), every agency (state) without the inclusion of Universities, agencies that are specifically exempted through other actions (legislative), and agencies enacted under Texas constitution and courts have a specific date for abolition (Trovall, 2018). The date can be disrespected following the legislative passage of specific legislation that favors the existence of the agency. Before the set termination date, the functions of an agency are scheduled for review by the Sunset Commission. It is the role of each agency to provide a report (self-evaluation) which the commission uses to make recommendations. This integrates other oversight agencies such as the Legislative Budget Board, and the State Auditor’s Office; public comments are also needed in the process. Before the commission can make its final recommendations to the legislature, a public hearing is conducted. Some of the recommendations that the commission can make are:
- Continuation of the agency as it is currently
- Merging of the agency with another agency
- Disbandment of the agency and transfer of its functions to other agencies, or abolish them all.
- Modify the agency and continue its existence
The commission must provide draft legislation if it recommends an agency to continue. The agency can recommend a continuation period shorter than the general period (12 years). This makes it possible to maintain the agencies to be reviewed. If the commission opts to abolish an agency, a one year period is given to complete pending operations. However, the legislature has the freedom to amend or reject recommendations (“Texas Sunset Advisory Commission: An Inventory of Sunset Advisory Commission Records at the Texas State Archives, 1977-2005”, 2018).
Recent case of Sunset Review Commission review
A recent review by the commission involved a change in the functions of the Texas Railroad Commission. Sunset review recommends that the Railroad commissions must beef up its oversight of gas and oil drilling, abandoned wells, and pipeline safety (Malewitz, 2018). The commissions also recommend that Texas Railroad Commission should not continue regulating natural gas, and more importantly, it must change its name since it no longer deals with trains. Naming it ‘Texas Energy Resources Commission’ would eliminate confusion and also describe the main activities of the agency (Malewitz, 2018).
To conclude, the agency is more consolidated into the governing system. The fact that it works together with other organs of the state makes it easier to meet its expected outcomes. The roles of the commission make it easier for the nation to eliminate and also introduce new agencies. If an agency fails in its function, the Review Commission is entitled to recommend its elimination. It is an important part of the government that needs to be respected because of its duties.
- Curry, L. (2009). Politics of Sunset Review in Texas. Public Administration Review, 50(1), 58. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/977295
- Malewitz, J. (2018). Sunset Review Suggests Changes, New Name at Railroad Commission. The Texas Tribune. Retrieved 19 January 2018, from https://www.texastribune.org/2016/04/29/panel-suggests-new-name-better-oversight-texas-rai/
- Pearson, W., & Wigginton, V. (2008). Sunset As An Oversight Mechanism:Some Perceptions Of State Legislators. Southeastern Political Review, 14(1), 85-107. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-1346.1986.tb00028.x
- Texas Sunset Advisory Commission: An Inventory of Sunset Advisory Commission Records at the Texas State Archives, 1977-2005. (2018). Legacy.lib.utexas.edu. Retrieved 19 January 2018, from https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/40063/tsl-40063.html
- Trovall, E. (2018). Explainer: How Does a Texas Sunset Review Work?. StateImpact Texas. Retrieved 19 January 2018, from https://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/2012/11/30/explainer-how-does-a-texas-sunset-review-work/