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Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha suggested Thursday the administration of Gov. Pete Ricketts has been "slow to comply" with legislation that Krist sponsored to open up testing of water for drinking purposes to private laboratories in the state.

The law, enacted in 2016 by a unanimous vote in the Legislature, is designed to end "a monopoly on dozens of required tests of public drinking water in Nebraska" held by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and expand those testing opportunities into the private market, Krist said.

Ricketts suspended all rule-making by agencies under his control on July 6, 2017, and had informed officials at Midwest Laboratories in Omaha last month that the 2016 law was included in that executive order.

The regulations finally went into effect Nov. 14, Krist said at a news conference at the Midwest site.

"Taking two years to implement important water safety regulations is no way to run government," Krist said.

Krist has changed his voter registration from Republican to nonpartisan and is planning to mount a third-party challenge to Ricketts' re-election next November.

Responding Thursday evening to Krist's remarks, Leah Bucco-White, public information officer for HHS, said the bill was "implemented in an orderly fashion."

"Public input on the implementation of the bill required an extended rule-making process," she said. 

"After the regulations were drafted and stakeholder input was sought, the public hearing yielded comments significant enough that a second public hearing was required so all interested parties could provide feedback."

The governor's executive order that froze the rule-making process for most "red tape" had no impact on the implementation of the law, Bucco-White said. 

"The governor provided for exceptions in his executive order for time-sensitive rule-making and (that bill) was granted that exception," she said. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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