The Sunset Advisory Commission
is an agency of the Texas Legislature
The Legislature of the state of Texas is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Texas. The legislature is a bicameral body composed of a 31-member Senate and a 150-member House of Representatives. The Legislature meets at the Capitol in Austin...
, 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
Austin is the capital city of the U.S. state of :Texas and the seat of Travis County. Located in Central Texas on the eastern edge of the American Southwest, it is the fourth-largest city in Texas and the 14th most populous city in the United States. It was the third-fastest-growing large city in...
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
The Texas House of Representatives is the lower house of the Texas Legislature. The House is composed of 150 members elected from single-member districts across the state. The average district has about 150,000 people. Representatives are elected to two-year terms with no term limits...
and the Lieutenant Governor of Texas
The Lieutenant Governor of Texas is the second-highest executive office in the government of Texas, a state in the U.S. It is the second most powerful post in Texas government because its occupant controls the work of the Texas Senate and controls the budgeting process as a leader of the...
, who presides over the Texas Senate
The Texas Senate is the upper house of the Texas Legislature. There are 31 members of the Senate, representing 31 single-member districts across the state with populations of approximately 672,000 per constituency. There are no term limits, and each term is four years long. The Senate meets at the...
) 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
The Constitution of the State of Texas is the document that describes the structure and function of the government of the U.S. State of Texas.Texas has had seven constitutions: the constitution of Coahuila y Tejas, the 1836 Constitution of the Republic of Texas, the state constitutions of 1845,...
) 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 Texas Department of Transportation is a governmental agency in the U.S. state of Texas. Its stated mission is to "work cooperatively to provide safe, effective and efficient movement of people and goods" throughout the state...
, the state's largest), thus requiring the Governor
The governor of Texas is the head of the executive branch of Texas's government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The governor has the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Texas Legislature, and to convene the legislature...
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.