Builders often join the chorus of small business owners complaining that government regulations stunt their willingness or ability to create jobs. These same builders, then, are likely to be watching closely how the Obama administration responds to an open letter it received on Nov. 1 from Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations, a project of the Nashville-based National Federation of Independent Business, urging reforms that would ease the regulatory process for smaller companies.
NFIB has 350,000 members, and as of Friday morning 968 of those members had signed up to support the sensible regulations coalition, according to the trade group’s website, which allows users to sign and email a personalized message to the president, vice president, and their congressional representatives.
The project, in essence, reiterates familiar themes that the business community has been harping on for years:
•Give small businesses more of a voice in the regulatory process.
•Before assessing penalties, give small businesses more help to comply with new regulations.
•Subject new regulations to “rigorous” cost-benefit analyses before enacting them.
•Base all new regulations on “objective data and hard science.”
•Require that the regulatory process have more transparency and accountability.
“We view this letter as a guidepost,” Kevan Chapman, an NFIB spokesman, tells Builder. As the presidential election year approaches, the group “is trying to ratchet up the pressure and make [regulatory reform] a bigger deal.” While he concedes the administration has already delayed or rolled back some rules, “there’s tons of room for improvement.”
Chapman is quick to note that NFIB is not advocating rollbacks in “major” environmental protection for public health and safety, unlike some Republican presidential hopefuls who are calling for a neutering of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, Chapman claims that agencies like EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration “tend to act quickly on their own” without what NFIB considers to be adequate assessment of how rules being imposed affect businesses.
He says a prime example of this is EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone, which includes rules for significantly reducing sulphur and nitrogen oxide pollutants across state borders, mercury pollutants from power plants, and carbon pollutants from cars and trucks. In July, EPA had proposed a timeline for implementation of final standards under which the states, by December 2013, would file State Implementation Plans that would outline how the states would reduce pollution to meet the new standards. The states would have been required to meet the new primary standard under deadlines that began in 2014 and ended in 2031.
However, under pressure from business groups and Republicans, The White House in September suddenly instructed EPA to kill its draft for the new ozone standard. Obama said at the time that his decision was in line of his efforts to reduce regulatory burdens on business. The EPA plans to propose revisions to its rule by 2013.
Chapman says the coalition wants to see more such rules subjected to scrutiny by the Small Business Administration under the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, which gives SBA the authority to weigh in forcefully on the impact of new regulations on businesses. Chapman implies this act isn’t effective enough because “there’s no enforcement, accountability, or oversight” of government agencies.
The “transparency” that NFIB’s project calls for, explains Chapman, boils down to “the justification and the thought process behind some of these regulations, and why they are being created.”
John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.