• June 20, 2012

State Agencies Undergo Sunset Review Process – Railroad Commission of Texas

State Agencies Undergo Sunset Review Process – Railroad Commission of Texas

150 150 Elect Todd Hunter

State Agencies Undergo Sunset Review Process – Railroad Commission of Texas

Over the past few weeks, I have been outlining Texas’ sunset review process. The agencies I have covered so far are the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners, Texas Lottery Commission and the Correctional Managed Health Care Committee.  As a reminder, in order to identify and eliminate government waste, duplication and general inefficiencies in state agencies, the Texas Legislature established the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission (Commission) in 1977.  The sunset review process is designed to review each of these agencies every twelve years. This review is done by taking up a certain number of the state agencies each session when the Texas Legislature convenes.

In last week’s article, I covered the Correctional Managed Health Care Committee, which represents one of our state’s smaller agencies.  This week I thought we should take a look at one of our state’s larger agencies, the Railroad Commission of Texas.  The Railroad Commission of Texas was created in 1891, and tasked with regulating the state’s rail industry in the 1800’s.  With the Railroad Commission having been created in 1891, it makes it the state’s oldest existing regulatory agency.  Over the years, since the Railroad Commission’s creation, the agency has been tasked with the responsibility of  overseeing the activities of a number of additional industries.

Today, the industries that the Railroad Commission oversees include Alternative Energy, Gas Services, Oil and Gas, Pipeline Safety and Coal/Uranium Mining.  Now, you may have noticed that the one industry I did not mention was the railroad industry. Beginning in the 1970’s, the Railroad Commission’s role in regulating the rail industry began to change by shifting from economic based regulation to safety based.  As a result of the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970, the responsibility for rail safety was placed with the Federal Railroad Administration. This Act laid the ground work for the Railroad Commission and the federal government to establish a rail safety program in 1983. The following year, the Railroad Commission ceased its historic role in the economic regulation of the rail industry  which it had possessed for nearly a century.   Beginning October 1, 2005, the 79th Texas Legislature in House Bill 2702 shifted the remainder of the oversight of Railroad Safety from the Railroad Commission to the Texas Department of Transportation. This transfer left the Railroad Commission with no regulatory authority over the railroad industry.

The Railroad Commission today is composed of three elected Commissioners, who serve six-year staggered terms.  The six year staggered terms provide for one Commissioner to be elected every two years. If a Commissioner is unable to or decides not to complete their term, the Governor has the ability to appoint a Commissioner until the next General Election.

If you are interested in learning more about the Railroad Commission of Texas you can go to www.rrc.state.tx.us .  I will be reviewing other agencies in the weeks ahead.  They will include the State Preservation Board, Texas Education Agency, Board of Pardons and Paroles, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and a number of others.