U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe
On Friday, March 4, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that almost 14 million Americans are unemployed—that’s 6 million more than when the economic recession began in December of 2007.
Worse yet, unemployment rates are not projected to return to pre-recession levels until 2016. So while the latest unemployment numbers are certainly moving in the right direction, we truly have our work cut out for us if we are to create the 285,000 jobs every month for five straight years needed to return to a more manageable unemployment rate of 5 percent.
To achieve consistent and more robust levels of job creation, it is incumbent upon Congress to ensure the economic climate is ripe for economic growth. That means providing tax, regulatory and fiscal certainty at the federal level.
As part of this solution, I introduced, the Small Business Regulatory Freedom Act of 2011 (S. 474) with Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) on March 3. This legislation will free American small business from duplicative and burdensome federal regulations that prevents them from doing what they do best: creating new jobs.
According to the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, the annual cost of regulations is a staggering $1.75 trillion—that’s right, trillion. Small businesses face a disproportionate burden, paying nearly $10,585 per employee to comply with federal regulations, which is nearly 36 percent higher than what larger firms pay.
Our bill will change this. Specifically, our legislation will force federal agencies to recognize and take into account the diversity of America’s almost 28 million small businesses and their limited ability to cope with far-reaching, one-size-fits-all regulation. Our aim is to promote smarter regulation that fully considers the potential economic impact on small businesses and job creators before proceeding with further action and to mitigate small business impact through less burdensome regulatory alternatives.
Since 1980, the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) has mandated that federal agencies take into account small business economic impact during the rulemaking process. Unfortunately this law is riddled with loopholes that dilute this significance of these critical issues.
The Small Business Regulatory Freedom Act will strengthen the RFA and close these loopholes by implementing several common-sense reforms, such as requiring agencies to convene a small business review panel to ensure that federal agencies consider small business economic impact before proposing new rules. This process is already in succeeding at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). So why not expand it to all agencies?
Moreover, our legislation would require federal agencies to review the potential “indirect” economic effects of their rulemakings. Frequently, when considering the economic impact of a rule, regulators only acknowledge the entities directly impacted by the rule and completely ignore the potential downstream impact the rule may have on small businesses.
For example, shutting down a steel mill may appear to affect only those working in the mill. But in reality entire communities filled with restaurants and shops could be severely affected. These concerns must be addressed when federal agencies draft new rules, which is precisely what our legislation achieves.
These reforms, among others, will ensure that Maine small businesses are properly considered as federal agencies draft new rules. While certain regulations, such as key environmental and consumer protections are essential, it is critical that these rules be constructed in such a manner as to promote small business prosperity.