In a recent weeks, I have shared with you some of the good news about how my administration is working to make state government more customer-friendly while protecting your taxpayer dollars. Whether we are answering the phones at ACCESSNebraska in a timely manner or finding new ways to save money by using technology, we are committed to running government more like a business. As we have pursued this goal, my administration has looked for opportunities to offer more services through the internet. In an era where you can pay your cable bill from your phone or check the news online, Nebraskans should be able to access government services through their mobile device or at their desktop.

Last week, I joined the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) to announce that Nebraskans can now apply for storm water permits online at http://deq.ne.gov. Additionally in the coming weeks, the agency will launch an online application for a new general air construction permit, which it recently created. Previously, businesses had to submit applications for similar projects. With this new permit, businesses will no longer need to submit duplicative applications for comparable projects. Applicants will be able to answer a few questions online to qualify for the permit if they fall within a specified range of environmental constraints.

With these changes, the agency is able to provide faster service with the same level of environmental protection. Additionally, these changes will not only cut down turnaround time from weeks or months to just a couple of days, but they will also allow the department to focus staffing resources towards accelerating more complex permits and resolving compliance issues. For the businesses seeking permits from the department, these changes cut red tape so that they receive their permits more quickly. As one industry leader in pointed out, putting permits online and reducing turnaround is not only important to businesses as they work to deliver projects on time, but it also helps businesses as they recruit millennials who have been raised in a digital world.

These changes at the NDEQ are also indicative of a fresh direction for the department since the appointment of their new Director Jim Macy. After taking office earlier this year, Director Macy began to examine how the agency could do a better job of delivering services to its customers in a timely manner while still achieving their goal of protecting Nebraska’s clear air and clean water. His focus on timeliness and communication have started to make a difference, and people are beginning to notice. One of the department’s clients, Piyush Srivastav, recently shared this testimonial: “In recent years, my office worked with permit applications that were taking years to process with long periods of time where we saw no sign of progress. Since Director Macy arrived, that has changed, and the Department has opened up lines of communication.”

This is the just the beginning for NDEQ. The agency continues to pursue additional initiatives to streamline other permitting processes as they work to make their services more customer-friendly and timely, and other agencies are doing the same. As you interact with state agencies, I hope you will take the time to share some of your experiences with my office by calling 402-471-2244 or emailing pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov. Your feedback and experiences are helpful as we endeavor to better serve the people of Nebraska.

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