Agency reporting changes considered

The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony Jan. 24 on two bills that would change agency reporting requirements.

LB718, introduced by Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford, would require agencies subject to the Administrative Procedure Act to publish an agenda for rules under development or revision on a semiannual basis. The agenda would be published within 30 days following the end of each regular legislative session and by Oct. 15.

Crawford said decisions regarding regulations often are made when the Legislature is not in session, and the bill’s reporting requirements would allow for greater oversight of how agencies carry out laws in practice.

“Rulemaking, like lawmaking, should be democratic, accessible and transparent,” she said.

Under the bill, agencies also would be required to post fiscal impact statements on the Nebraska secretary of state’s website and to provide specific statutory authority for each new rule or regulation.

An agency would be prohibited from adopting, amending or repealing a rule or regulation not included on the semiannual agenda except when the rule or regulation is:
• in response to a natural disaster or declaration of emergency;
• required by federal law;
• related to the loss of or access to additional federal funds; or
• the result of a state or federal court decision.

Nick Faustman of the Nebraska Health Care Association testified in support of the bill. Heath care providers are among the most regulated industries in the state, he said, and keeping up on regulatory changes is essential.

“[It] can mean the difference between staying in business or shutting down,” Faustman said.

Ron Jensen of Mosaic agreed, saying rule changes sometimes are put in place before being officially adopted.

“It is a challenge to stay abreast of those rules and to stay in compliance,” he said.

Also introduced by Crawford, LB719 would add a public comment summary to the required information that an agency must submit to the secretary of state, attorney general and governor regarding a proposed rule change.

Agencies would be required to attach a written summary of testimony offered at the public hearing that lists any specific issues or questions presented at the hearing or in written testimony.

The report also would be required to contain written responses from the agency and a copy of the public comment summary would be submitted to the Executive Board of the Legislative Council.

Julie Kaminski of LeadingAge Nebraska testified in support of the bill, saying public hearings often are held by agencies after rule changes already have been implemented and posted on agency websites.

“The public hearings seem more like a perfunctory obligation,” she said.

Robert McEwen of Nebraska Appleseed also testified in support of LB719, saying it would provide additional oversight and help hold agencies publicly accountable for their decisions. He said citizens who testify at hearings often are frustrated and confused when their concerns go unaddressed by agencies.

No one testified in opposition and the committee took no immediate action

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