Government Military and Veterans Affairs

Agency reporting changes advanced

Lawmakers gave first-round approval March 25 to a bill meant to strengthen state agency reporting requirements.

LB719, introduced by Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford, would add a public comment summary to the required information that a state agency must submit to the secretary of state, attorney general and governor regarding a proposed rule change under the Administrative Procedures Act.

Citizens often travel long distances to testify at hearings on proposed agency rules changes that will significantly impact their lives, Crawford said, and should be assured that agencies are listening to their concerns.

“Our rulemaking system, like our other public systems, should be accountable to the citizens that it regulates,” she said.

Under the bill, 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 Legislature.

A Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment, adopted 31-0, would require the Executive Board of the Legislative Council to refer each written report for review to the chairperson of the standing legislative committee with subject matter jurisdiction over the issue.

In addition, if practicable, each report would be submitted to the senator who was the primary sponsor of the bill or amendment that initially granted rule-making authority to the agency.

Crawford offered an amendment that added provisions of LB720, a bill she also introduced, that would expand an existing complaint process regarding proposed agency regulations.

Current law provides a process for senators to file a complaint regarding proposed regulations on the basis that the proposed rule is in excess of statutory authority, is unconstitutional or is inconsistent with the legislative intent of the authorizing statute.

The amendment would expand that process to existing rules and regulations or their repeal. It also would add the following criteria for filing a complaint:
• a rule or regulation creates an undue burden;
• circumstances have changed since passage of a law that a rule or regulation implements; or
• a rule or regulation overlaps, duplicates or conflicts with other laws, rules or ordinances.

Crawford said the new provisions would strengthen senators’ ability to ensure that the laws they pass are carried out by the executive branch as intended.

“Legislative oversight is one of our most important duties,” she said.

Kearney Sen. Galen Hadley agreed, saying the need for consistent oversight is especially important in the era of term limits. The Legislature soon will lose a significant number of senior members due to term limits, he said.

“And with them goes a lot of information that they’ve gathered over the last eight years. So any kind of process that allows us to … have that information available, I think, is something that can help future legislators as they go about their duties,” Hadley said.

Following adoption of the Crawford amendment 27-0, senators advanced LB719 to select file on a 29-0 vote.

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