A top 10 list that’s no joke

Filed under: Contributed Columns |

“I’m from the government and I’m here to help” is an old punch line that always generates a laugh.
But it is no laughing matter when the annual cost of complying with federal government mandates has grown to more than $1.1 trillion. That means the per household cost of complying with regulations now exceeds that of health insurance.
The burden falls especially hard on the smallest of businesses, which annually pay 45 percent more per employee to comply with regulations than big businesses do.
That is why the Office of Advocacy has announced its 2008 Top 10 Rules for Review and Reform.
Drawn from more than 80 constructive nominations by small business owners and their representatives, the Top 10 is part of Advocacy’s Regulatory Review and Reform (r3) initiative.
Only the strongest and most compelling cases made the Top 10. Federal agencies need to review these rules to determine if they are outdated, ineffective, duplicative or overly complex. By doing so, they can help ease the disproportionate burden placed on small business.
The 2008 r3 Top 10 list includes (alphabetically by agency):
Environmental Protection Agency: Update air-monitoring rules for dry cleaners to reflect current technology and reward environmentally friendly dry cleaning methods.
Environmental Protection Agency: Increase flexibility for community drinking water systems by expanding ways to meet protective drinking water standards.
Environmental Protection Agency: Encourage recycling by updating the rules for recycling solid wastes so that useful recyclable materials won’t be treated as hazardous waste.
Environmental Protection Agency: Clearly define “oil” in oil spill rules, so that small facilities storing nonpetroleum-based products are not unintentionally subject to the rules.
Federal Aviation Administration: Review flight restrictions surrounding Washington, D.C., to see if they can be revised to avoid harming small airports.
Federal Acquisition Regulation Council: Eliminate duplicative financial requirements for small architect-engineering services firms in government contracting, as has been done for other services.
Internal Revenue Service: Simplify the home-office deduction to permit a standard deduction, so that those with home offices can more easily qualify.
Mine Safety and Health Administration: Update rules on the use of explosives in mines, to be consistent with modern mining industry standards.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Review the medical/laboratory worker rule to see if it can be more flexible in situations where workers do not have potential exposure to blood-borne pathogens.
Office of Federal Procurement Policy: Review reverse auction techniques for online procurement to determine the impact on small firms.
An in-depth list of the 2008 r3 Top 10 Rules for Review and Reform may be viewed www.sba.gov/advo/r3.
Federal agencies already are required to review existing regulations for their impact on small business. Section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, enacted during 1980, requires agencies to look at their existing regulations within 10 years to see if they are outdated, ineffective or duplicative.
However, agency compliance with section 610’s periodic review requirement is spotty at best and lacks transparency. Some agencies review few, if any, of their current rules.
A recent Government Accountability Office report highlighted the need for clearer standards and enhanced public participation in the section 610 review process.
The r3 initiative encourages agencies to undertake more meaningful section 610 reviews, and to consider small business concerns when conducting similar reviews of existing rules.
In order to track agency action on the Top 10, we have posted the list to our Web site and we will publish an update on the status of agency progress every six months.
To make the r3 initiative a success, we encourage small businesses and their representatives to follow the progress of the reviews and comment to the agencies on that progress.
It may sound like a joke, but with our r3 initiative when the Office of Advocacy says, “we’re with the government,” small business knows we really are here to help.
Jim Henderson is the Rocky Mountain regional advocate for the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration. He is the direct link between small business owners, state and local government agencies, state legislators, small business associations, and SBA’s Office of Advocacy. Contact him at (303) 844-0503 or james.henderson@sba.gov.