Just as the Nebraska Legislature passes laws under the authority granted to it by the Nebraska Constitution, state agencies adopt or promulgate regulations under the authority granted to them by the statutes passed by the Legislature. Regulations are adopted in order to clarify and define processes and requirements outlined in state law. Properly adopted regulations have the force of law.
For example, state law provides that it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level over .08 percent. Regulations define how testing for blood alcohol content is conducted.
Commonly referred to as “rules,” “regulations” or "rules and regulations," the official name for the compiled rules and regulations of the state is the Nebraska Administrative Code.
A regulation is created, amended or repealed through the hearing and adoption process. This can take anywhere from weeks to months from start to finish. The purpose of the hearing and adoption process is to ensure that the public has an opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process and that the regulation is properly authorized by law. Unless there are special circumstances, each proposed regulation goes through a mandatory adoption process.
This adoption process is as follows:
Rule drafting period. The rule drafting period is the amount of time used by the agency to draft the proposed regulation and solicit input from interested parties as appropriate. Interested parties may include the public, industry associations, or persons or groups affected by the regulation. Because it is difficult to significantly change a regulation once it has been set for hearing, the drafting period is an important phase in the development of a regulation.
Thirty-day publication notice. Notice of the rulemaking hearing must be published at least 30 days prior to the hearing to inform the public of the proposed changes. Contents of the notice include date, time and place of the hearing, as well as a short explanation of the purpose of the proposed regulations. Notices are generally published in a newspaper of general circulation. Notices and text of the proposed changes are available on the rules tracking system and in the Secretary of State’s Office. There is a waiver provision for the 30-day notice requirement for hearings in emergency situations.
Public hearing. The public hearing is an opportunity for the public to comment on proposed regulations. Agencies may take online comments as well if they choose to enable the online comment function of the rules tracking system. The public hearing shall be held within 12 months after the effective date of the legislative bill.
Submission for review. After the hearing, the regulations and the accompanying material must be submitted to the attorney general and governor. The attorney general reviews the regulations for compliance with statutory and constitutional authority. The regulations then go to the governor for policy review and final approval.
Adoption of regulations. Upon completion of these steps, the regulations are then forwarded to the secretary of state and become law five days following receipt.