Texas service technicians should soon be able to change out pump motors with peace of mind.

Two separate bills have been sent to Texas Gov. Rick Perry to enable limited electrical licensing for pool and spa professionals.

“It was a tough fight,” said Kevin Tucker, public information officer at the Aquatic Professionals’ Education Council. “There were all sorts of things that delayed the working of the legislature, so we were truly fortunate to get both bills through.”

The victory comes as welcome news for service techs who need the work and don’t want to saddle their customers with a subcontractor charge.

“We were on pins and needles because we wanted [the bills] to pass,” said Jeremy Smith, owner of Tadpole Pool Services in Carrollton, Texas. “It definitely gave us a scare, especially when everything was going well and all of a sudden, the electricians’ union showed up at one of our hearings and started to raise a fight.”

With resistance from political heavyweight AFL-CIO, as well as other electrical unions, APEC credited lobbyists Jake Posey and Steve Koebele for helping the bills pass.

The original issue is rooted in the state’s adoption of the National Electrical Code in 2003, requiring any professional performing electrical work to hold a license. When the Department of Licensing and Regulation began fining pool technicians in 2007, the industry took action.

“At that point, we got in discussions with [TDLR] and, honestly, they were very easy to work with,” Tucker said. “Their primary concerns were things like grounding and bonding, proper wire size [and the like].”

The department will develop test questions with the help of APEC, the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, and the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association. The license should be ready by September 2010, and the accompanying fee is expected to be under $100.

In the interim, TDLR has indicated it will not to actively pursue fines against unlicensed service techs, provided  no complaints are involved.

Pool builders, meanwhile, will have to wait until the next legislative session in 2011 for licensing. APEC worked to amend a bill that would have included licensing for pool builders under the Texas Residential Construction Commission, an agency that currently is being phased out by lawmakers.

“That commission was a real disaster in the first place,” Tucker said. “APEC’s position is that probably in 2011, we will support some kind of licensing for pool builders. We have two years to work with TDLR and get it right.”

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