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THE CURRENT: Small business group’s Florida members in Washington this week

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More than a dozen Florida members of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a small business lobbying group, are in Washington, D.C., this week as part of the NFIB Small Business Summit.

On the NFIB’s wish list is a push for deregulation, new laws to keep health care costs down should the Affordable Care Act be struck down, and some “stability” to help make long-term investments and plans.

When members met with President George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove and Sen. Marco Rubio on Monday, however, they got a dose of political reality. The gridlock in Congress between the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate is unbreakable, especially before the November elections, they were told.

“The reality is they know that Congress at this point is at a standstill. There’s not going to be much in the way of legislation until November,” said Bruce O’Donoghue, an NFIB board member and president of Control Specialists Co., a traffic engineering business in Winter Park.

The members are also pushing for elected federal officials to keep taxes low and health care costs down. O’Donoghue said he fears the Bush tax cuts will be left to expire next year when they are scheduled to sunset if Congress doesn’t extend them.

Finding a replacement for President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act, could be the NFIB’s top priority, though. The group is part a lawsuit brought by Florida and other states that is before the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices are expected to render a decision this summer.

“For NFIB, it’s health care, health care, health care – first, middle and last,” said NFIB executive director Bill Herrle.

Herrle said he’s “adamantly opposed” to the individual mandate in the health care law that imposes a tax or penalty on those who do not obtain health insurance, he likes other aspects of the law, which lawmakers should include as part of a replacement package if the high court strikes down the law.

Since the hyper-partisan gridlock is ruining any new initiatives from either party, businesses are wary of new regulations issued by the Obama administration as a way of evading the roadblocks in Congress. But even that route is sometimes closed for the administration.

Public pressure from farmers and Republicans led the Obama administration to back down this month from a new rule preventing underage laborers from working on farms, even though there was an exception for family farms. A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., also nixed a proposed rule by the National Labor Relations Board this month that would have required NLRB-covered employers to post a list of workers’ rights in the workplace.

Even though the farm rule and the court decisions were victories for farmers and businesses, it worries others that the rule was brought up in the first place.

“But again, because they can do it basically by fiat, it’s hard to be satisfied with that,” Herrle said.

The summit ends Wednesday.

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