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This past week the Nebraska Legislature crossed the halfway point of the session. Full day floor debate will begin as committees wrap up their work and priority bills advance to the floor for debate. In addition to my Appropriations Committee work, this past week I had public hearings for three bills I introduced. On Tuesday I had the public hearing for LR 378CA, the Right to Farm Constitutional Amendment. Later in the week I presented two bills that address issues I am also passionate about, transparency in government and protection of citizen privacy.
If adopted, LB 792 prohibits state officeholders from becoming lobbyists until two years after leaving office and prohibits certain employees engaged in policymaking from becoming lobbyists until one year after leaving their positions. Commonly referred to as a “cooling off period” or “stopping the revolving door”, LB 792 would provide a waiting period to reduce the influence of personal connections and relationships developed while in office or working as a public employee in lawmaking and policy development. The public offices that would be impacted are the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, Auditor of Public Accounts, member of the Legislature, member of the Public Service Commission, member of the State Board of Education, or member of the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska and the policy-influencing employees of those offices.
LB 792 was written to mirror federal statute that was passed in 2007 for federal office holders and their staff, although in Washington D.C. versions of revolving door statutes have dated back to as early as 1872. In addition, 33 other states have enacted “cooling off periods”, yet Nebraska has none. Restriction of policymakers from becoming lobbyists immediately following the end of their terms is the norm nationwide.
It is my belief that government should be open, transparent, and responsive to the will of the people. In the process, it should be devoid of undue influence. I want to be clear and up front this proposal is not directed at any particular individual or institution, nor is it an accusation of existing inappropriate behavior. However, my own experience has indicated this is a concern among voters. When running for office, I was often questioned if candidates expected a pay-out at the end of their service with a lobbying position as part of their motivation for serving.
Maintaining the trust and confidence of the voting public is essential to a functional democracy. The perception of impropriety can be damaging to the credibility of elected officials and cast doubt upon the fairness of the policy making process. For a state that prides itself on transparency, I believe Nebraska is falling short when it comes to public expectation in this regard. Based on the reception from several committee members during the public hearing, I do not expect the Government, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee will advance LB 792 to the legislature for consideration. Nevertheless, I will continue to introduce legislation for consideration by my colleagues to increase the transparency and accountability of the legislative process throughout my term in office.
If you have any questions concerning the revolving door bill or any other piece of legislation impacting the Legislature, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 402-471-2732 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For daily updates during the session, please follow me on Twitter at @JohnKuehnDVM.
Senator John Kuehn, District 38