Rules, Regulations and Small Business

Article excerpt

In announcing the State Chamber's legislative agenda this year, its CEO Richard P. Rush said the focus will be on growing existing companies in Oklahoma. That is an important factor to the state's economy, and sometimes is overlooked in the push to bring new industry to the state.

It seems to me in our zeal to attract new businesses, we may act or fail to act in such a manner that is detrimental to keeping those enterprises with longstanding and sometimes substantial investments here in Oklahoma. A current Oklahoma City controversy comes quickly to mind.

Another key issue Rush raised is the concern of all business enterprises in the regulatory environment in which they must operate.

He noted that "Rules and regulations of state agencies are a major point in getting businesses to stay in Oklahoma, and the nation as well."

There is no doubt about this. The proliferation of rules and regulations in the past decade by more than 150 agencies, boards and commissions may well be more onerous to business than laws passed by the Legislature.

It is in session only four months of the year and enacts 300 to 400 new laws annually. Rulemaking by agencies, boards and commissions is essentially a legislative activity that goes on throughout the year.

Oklahoma's constitution authorizes the Legislature to grant state agencies rulemaking authority. This is necessary to allow government flexibility.

Fortunately through the Administrative Procedures Act, the Legislature and governor have retained important oversight and review powers of agency rulemaking.

They are required to give notice of rulemaking intent in the Oklahoma Register, which is published on the first and 15th of each month by the secretary of state's office. It includes text of the proposed rule, its purpose and intent, along with an impact statement. It advises of the time and place for public comment and time and place for hearing.

A person needs only to look at the hundreds of proposed and promulgated rules each month to realize the enormity of the problem in trying to know and follow all of them.

Many rules fall through the cracks regardless of restraints in the Administrative Procedures Act. While all policy rules must be approved by the Legislature and the governor, it takes a definite act of the Legislature and the governor to disapprove any given one. Unless it is particularly controversial, or raises the ire of some influential legislator or group, no action will be taken and it will be approved.

There virtually is no facet of any business, no matter how small or large that is not impacted by one or more agencies' rules and regulations.

Rules and regulations promulgated by state agencies each year have literally become a body of law unto themselves, with many having the full force and effect of law. Most of them are promulgated with far less public light and knowledge than the laws that are passed.

SB 948 - Help for small business

Complying with these regulations costs businesses millions of dollars annually. Millions more are paid each year to the agencies in fees supposedly to defray the cost of enforcement.

As general tax revenue funds become tighter, the Legislature has turned to allowing agencies to use fees or assessments to fund their general operations. They are in effect diverted from the specified purposes for which they were levied. …