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Tallahassee Democrat: New group takes on over-regulation

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

If small businesses cannot prosper in the United States, our economy is almost certain to slip back into recession.

But regulators in Washington have created a maze with hundreds of federal regulations that companies must navigate through every day, making the demise of many small businesses and the return of a recession inevitable — unless something is done to lighten the load of these regulations.

A new organization, Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations, seeks to do just that. As a project of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), we have launched our Florida efforts with a Tallahassee news conference this week to highlight these hardships facing local businesses.

There are more than 4,000 new rules in the pipeline, on top of the multitude of rules small businesses already face. The Environmental Protection Agency’s code of regulations alone runs more than 25,000 pages, up from just 1,000 pages in 1976.

The problem is worsening within almost every federal agency. Last year, 224 newly issued rules were deemed to be either “major” or “economically significant,” meaning they carried a cost to our economy of $100 million or more. That constitutes a 22-percent increase in economically significant new rules since 2009.

The EPA, for example, has more than 330 regulations under consideration today, impacting everything from farm and construction dust to CO2 emissions from schools and hospitals. And the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed a variety of rules, including one that would require small businesses to document musculoskeletal disorders that occur in their workplace — disorders that are difficult to diagnose, even for medical professionals.

This heavy regulatory burden is especially onerous for small companies. They frequently do not have the financial and personnel resources that larger firms can call on to achieve compliance. According to the Small Business Administration, it is estimated that small businesses spend an average of $2,830 more per employee than large companies do to comply with government regulations. Obeying federal environmental mandates costs small firms 364 percent more than large firms.

What’s more, the enormous monetary cost of complying with these rules often gives business owners no choice but to pass the costs on to their consumers — nearly 90 percent of NFIB members responding to a survey on regulations believe that keeping pace with federal regulations forces them to increase costs for consumers. In this economic climate, the federal government should be helping keep costs to citizens and families down, not be the leading factor driving costs up.

Left unchallenged, these government requirements on the private sector will impede U.S. job creation. Small businesses generate about two out of every three new jobs in this country and represent half of the U.S. economy. The innovation, investment and economic growth they provide have been directly inhibited by excessive rules handed down from Washington.

Florida businesses of all kinds are directly affected by federal regulatory overreach. Jay Lunt, owner of Folkers Window Co. in Pensacola, is just one of thousands of small business owners who feel the effects of federal regulations every day. Lunt, whose company has been in business for more than 30 years and employs 20 workers, cites the EPA’s RRP Lead Mitigation program as just one of many regulations that cut into his bottom line. The RRP program forces small business owners like Lunt to pay for expensive testing — even when there’s no risk — and also adds certification and training requirements for employees.

There are stories like Jay Lunt’s all across Florida and the nation. Time and time again small business owners are hurt by costly regulations that are redundant, unfair and unnecessary. Some regulation is warranted and effective. But let’s stop holding back small businesses with pointless red tape and start applying common sense to the regulatory process.

Bill Herrle is the NFIB/Florida executive director. To find out more about Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations, go to

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