A new process to review complaints that allege violations of the state’s One-Call Notification System Act would be established under a bill given first-round approval March 11.
The act is enabling legislation for Nebraska811, which is a free service for anyone who is planning an excavation project, including homeowners and professional excavators. Nebraska law requires anyone who digs to place a locate request at least two full business days before digging so that utilities can locate and mark their lines.
Under LB344, as introduced by Henderson Sen. Curt Friesen, the state fire marshal and two utility operators and two excavators appointed by the governor would form a committee to review complaints alleging violations of the one-call system. Currently, the state attorney general handles all such complaints.
Friesen said a filter is needed so that the attorney general’s office can focus on the most serious violations. Some groups have expressed frustration with how long it takes claims to be adjudicated and resolved, he said.
“Real world consequences happen when the one-call laws don’t get followed,” Friesen said. “There has been one recurring theme with one-call that keeps coming up — and that is, the process that we currently have in the law enforcement of one-call violations doesn’t work very well.”
An amendment offered by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee would add two locator representatives to the committee.
Before a vote was taken on the committee amendment, Friesen offered an amendment that would strike the provisions establishing a review committee. Under his amendment, the state fire marshal, rather than the attorney general, would investigate reports of violations of the One-Call Notification System Act.
Seward Sen. Mark Kolterman offered a motion to recommit the bill to the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. He said he was not necessarily opposed to the process outlined in Friesen’s amendment, but that stakeholders should have the opportunity to weigh in on the proposal.
“[The Friesen amendment] is essentially a new bill that the public and our state agencies should and need to comment on in a public hearing,” he said. “I don’t think it’s been properly vetted.”
Gothenburg Sen. Matt Williams supported the motion, saying that such a significant change from the original proposal should require a public hearing.
Kolterman withdrew the motion after assurances from Friesen that a public hearing would be held on his amendment. Senators then voted 42-0 to adopt the committee amendment and 41-0 to adopt Friesen’s amendment.
LB344 advanced to select file on a 39-0 vote. A hearing on the Friesen amendment is scheduled for March 22.