6 months ago by Dave Overfelt
While Washington, D.C. has developed a reputation for partisan politics, there are still some issues where consensus can be reached. Regulatory reform—which is a high priority for small-business owners like the members of the Missouri Retailers Association—is one of those issues that enjoys broad bipartisan appeal.
From my position as president of the Missouri Retailers Association, I have seen firsthand the effects of burdensome regulations on business and economic growth. The Office of Management and Budget says the number of new regulations costing business $100 million or more has increased by 60 percent since 2006.
Earlier in 2013 the professional services company BDO found that 97 percent of retailers say concern over regulations is a risk to their businesses. It ranks as the No. 2 risk they face after the general state of the economy.
Regulations hit businesses like small retailers especially hard. We do not have the luxury of large staffs that large corporations can employ to ensure that our operations comply with new rules. It is the job of the owner and maybe a few other employees to sift through the 175,000 pages of regulations that make up the 2013 Code of Federal Regulations (which is 21 percent longer than the Code issued in 2003). We do not have staffs of attorneys to dig through pages of dry regulatory language and then determine whether the “one-size-fits-all” rules actually apply to our businesses.
Sometimes the challenge of taking off from the store just to go apply for a new permit or fill out and file more paperwork is more trouble than it is worth. So we might not expand our retail line, open a second facility, hire a new employee, or enter a new line of business such as online retailing. The economy suffers.
Federal lawmakers and regulators could learn a lot about the pitfalls of over-regulation from small-business owners. If I could sit down and explain the retailer’s perspective to regulators, maybe those agencies would rethink their processes and many of the more onerous regulations. Any regulatory reform package should include an outlet for small-business owners to submit input and voice their concerns.
Too often it is extraordinarily difficult to find out what data or models were used to decide on new regulations. Regulatory reform must be made more transparent, and the science behind each regulation should be made available to the public. If the regulation will benefit the public, there should be no reason why the process should be done behind closed doors.
Has anyone in government questioned what it will actually cost a small business to meet each new regulation? Determining the cost should automatically be required for every new rule. Then we need a common-sense determination as to whether the cost is justified.
A transparent regulatory process that considers the input of the small-business community and uses scientific data and cost-benefit analyses is a good jumping-off point for regulatory reform. The U.S. Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs—which has jurisdiction over the regulatory review process—could use these principles as a guideline to enact real reform. That would transform the daily life of a small-business owner.
It is my hope that the Committee on Homeland Security—and Missouri’s own Senator McCaskill who sits on this powerful committee—will champion the needs of small-business owners in the next legislative session. Missouri retailers are ready to jump start our economy, put people to work and grow our businesses.
Our elected officials, regardless of whether Democrat or Republican, frequently voice support for regulatory reform. President Barack Obama has promised regulatory reform in his State of the Union speech. This would be a great time for all of them to sit down together, forge a consensus, and deliver the goods.
Dave Overfelt is president of the Missouri Retailers Association.http://blog.bdo.com/index.php/2013/05/23/regulations-are-among-the-top-risks-for-retailers/