AUSTIN (KXAN) – Texas lawmakers voted to temporarily attach the state’s Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners to another state agency, in order to help with data collection and management issues.
The legislation, Senate Bill 1414, stems from a review earlier this year by the Sunset Advisory Commission, which found “unreliable and inconsistent” practices persisted at the Board in charge of regulating the state’s animal doctors. Over the last six years, prior Sunset reviews had already highlighted similar problems.
In 2022, KXAN investigators discovered a backlog of complaints and dozens of disciplinary documents missing from the agency’s public licensee look-up website, which could prevent pet owners from seeing a veterinarian’s disciplinary history.
In March 2023, a new executive director at the agency told KXAN it made improvements over the last six months, reducing the backlog of cases and approving more disciplinary orders than the prior two years combined.
Still, lawmakers on the Sunset commission recommended the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) step in and assist for the next four years. According to the Sunset staff report, TDLR would “provide policymaking and administrative oversight” to the Board, as well as provide advice on how to procure a new database.
In April, the Senate passed a bill that would put the Sunset recommendation into law — giving temporary policymaking powers to TDLR and allowing the Veterinary Board to act as an “advisory board.”
The House passed a version of the bill in May, but with a change. Its version allowed the Board to retain its rulemaking power on matters related to “scope of practice” or “health-related standard of care” for veterinary medicine. The earlier, Senate version stipulated that the Board had to, instead, propose these types of rules for approval from the commission that oversees TDLR.
The House version also explicitly allowed that commission to call any member of the board, who is also a veterinarian, to serve as the expert witness on rulemaking issues.
On Saturday, with just two days left in the legislative session, the Senate accepted the House changes, voting unanimously in favor of the legislation. Soon, the bill will be sent to Governor Greg Abbott for review. If he signs it, the legislation will take effect Sept. 1, 2023.