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History of Sunset in Texas

The Sunset Advisory Commission was created by the Texas Legislature in 1977 to make state government more efficient, effective, and accountable.   The creation and expansion of sunset processes in the United States happened in a time of widespread concern during the 1970s about the growth of federal and state agencies and a need for tools to give legislatures more control over state agencies and programs.  The timeline below capsulizes major events in Sunset’s 40-year history.  You can learn more about Sunset’s foundation and the most significant changes made to the Sunset’s process over time in The History of Sunset in Texas.

Selected Significant Events in the History of Sunset in Texas 

1974

Texas Legislature meets as a constitutional convention and considers, but fails to adopt for submission to voters, a proposed constitution containing a Sunset provision.

1975

Proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution, including a Sunset provision, fail at the polls.

1977

Joint Advisory Committee on Government Operations (Hobby-Clayton Committee) recommends enactment of Sunset.

Texas Sunset Act signed by the governor. The act places 177 agencies under Sunset review, creates an eight-member Sunset Advisory Commission with four House and four Senate members, and designates the Legislative Budget Board as staff of the commission.

1981

Two public members added to the Sunset Commission, bringing its membership to 10.

Sunset Commission provided its own staff separate from the Legislative Budget Board.

Sunset Commission directed to make recommendations on the consolidation, transfer, or reorganization of programs in agencies not under review that duplicate functions in agencies being reviewed.

Sunset required to review implementation of Sunset recommendations from the prior biennium (compliance review).

1985

Sunset required to review and comment on legislation creating a new regulatory agency. Later amended in 2007 to expand the review to state agencies generally.

River authorities added to the Sunset schedule for review but not abolishment in 1991.

1987

Sunset Commission required to forward management recommendations to the state auditor for implementation review. Amendments in 2003 make the State Auditor’s review permissive.

Harris County and Corpus Christi transit authorities placed under Sunset for review in 1989, and the Austin transit authority placed under Sunset for review in 1991.

1989

Dallas transit authority placed under Sunset for review in 1991.

Restrictions on the definition of “state agency,” a term clarifying entities under Sunset, amended a final time to simply include those agencies “expressly made subject” to the act.

River authorities removed from Sunset before their scheduled 1991 reviews.

1999

Sunset required to consider agency compliance with purchasing guidelines and programs for historically underutilized businesses.

2001

Requirement to review Harris County, Corpus Christi, Austin, and Dallas transit authorities repealed.

2003

Sunset working papers excepted from public disclosure.

A fifth House and Senate member added to the Sunset Commission, bringing its membership to its current complement of 12.

2007

Sunset required to consider an agency’s effectiveness; authority relating to fees, inspections, enforcement and penalties; and hearing process in its reviews.

2011

Sunset required to recommend continuing or abolishing each statutory reporting requirement imposed on an agency under review.

2013

Additional criteria for Sunset to use in evaluating occupational licensing agencies added to the Sunset Act.

Self-directed semi-independent agencies, currently numbering eight, required to pay the cost of their Sunset reviews.

Authority of the Sunset Commission and its staff to attend any public or private meeting of an agency or its governing board in connection with a Sunset review; and to inspect any privileged or confidential documents of these agencies subject to appropriate safeguards, statutorily affirmed.

2015

River authorities placed under Sunset a second time for staggered review in biennia ending in fiscal years 2017, 2019, 2021, and 2023.

2017

Additional criteria for Sunset to use in evaluating an agency's compliance with cybersecurity best practices added to the Sunset Act.