Sunset Advisory Commission
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The Sunset Advisory Commission is an agency of the Texas Legislature, that makes recommendations to the Legislature on the continued need for the existence of various state agencies. It is headquartered in the Robert E. Johnson State Office Building in Austin.
The Commission was created in 1977 under the auspices of the Texas Sunset Act (now codified as Chapter 325 of the Texas Government Code).
The Commission consists of 12 members, ten of whom are legislators and the remaining two are members of the general public. The leader of each chamber of the Legislature (the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, who presides over the Texas Senate) each appoint five legislators and one public member to serve on the Commission. The chair and vice-chair rotate annually between the two chambers. The Commission appoints a Director, who hires staff to carry out the Commission's duties.
Under the Act, every state agency (excluding universities, courts, and agencies mandated under the Texas Constitution) has a specific date on which it will automatically be abolished, unless the Legislature passes specific legislation continuing the agency's existence. This issue came into play during the 2009 Legislative session, when the session adjourned without the Legislature providing for the continued existence of several agencies (among them the Texas Department of Transportation, the state's largest), thus requiring the Governor to call a special session.
Prior to the scheduled cessation date of an agency, the agency's functions are scheduled for review by the Commission. Each agency provides to the Commission a Self-Evaluation Report; the Commission staff prepares its recommendations (coordinating with other state oversight agencies, such as the State Auditor's Office and the Legislative Budget Board) and takes public comments. A final public hearing is held prior to the Commission making its final recommendations to the Legislature. The final recommendation can be any of the following:
- Continue the agency as is
- Continue the agency with modifications (including moving functions from the agency to other agencies, moving functions from other agencies into it, and most commonly, making improvements to the effectiveness and efficiency of an agency's functions.)
- Merge the agency with another agency
- Disband the agency and either transfer its functions to other agencies, or abolish them altogether
If the Commission recommends continuation of the agency, it must provide draft legislation to continue the Agency and to make other recommendations. Generally, the legislation will allow the agency to continue for an additional 12 years (six biennial sessions), but may be shortened in order to equalize the number and size of agencies to be reviewed each biennium. Should an agency be abolished, the Act provides for a one-year wind-down period so the agency may conclude its operations. The Legislature must pass specific legislation to continue an agency's existence and to define its roles and responsibilities, and has complete freedom to amend or reject the Commission's recommendations (either to continue or abolish the agency).
The Commission also performs limited reviews on agencies mandated under the Constitution; however, it cannot recommend that the agency be abolished.
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- "Contact Us." Sunset Advisory Commission. Retrieved on September 26, 2009.