Lawmakers Doubt Federal Agencies Adhere to New Rules on Regulations
Kopecki, Dawn, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Sometimes getting a new law passed isn't enough.
The Small Business Regulatory and Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, or SBREFA, requires regulatory agencies to analyze how much regulations cost businesses in both money and time before enforcing new mandates. It also makes government agencies write regulations in "plain English" as well as cut back on paperwork for businesses.
Lawmakers called it common-sense legislation.
But congressional leaders say agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have ignored the law passed last year.
The House Committee on Small Business has scheduled hearings this week, which is National Small Business Week, that will examine how Congress can get the law enforced. Congress is also expected to investigate federal agencies this summer to see whether they've followed SBREFA when drafting regulations.
"We want to be aggressive in making sure the government is accountable to small businesses and to SBREFA," said Kristin Young, a spokeswoman for the House Committee on Small Business. "How these agencies intimidate small businesses is absolutely unheard of, since they're supposed to serve the general interests of the public."
Eamonn McGeady is just one business owner wondering how much the next round of EPA national air-quality standards will cost him. The Clean Air Act costs his business $12,000 a year just in higher fuel costs.
"I don't think anybody could meet the proposed new standards," said Mr. McGeady, the president of Martin G. Imbach Inc., a marine construction company in Baltimore.
The EPA - "one of the chief violators of SBREFA," Ms. Young said - is trying to push through aggressive air regulations that are being called the most "expansive and expensive" to date.
Congress will also investigate the IRS for a recent change that business groups are calling the "stealth tax." The regulation adds a 2.9 percent Medicare tax to the earnings of limited partnerships, affecting some 10 million business partners, according to the Senate Committee on Small Business.
"It doesn't look like OSHA or any of the agencies are taking SBREFA seriously," said Karen Kerrigan, the president of the Small Business Survival Committee, a Washington lobby group representing more than 40,000 small businesses. "The regulatory agencies are still issuing regulations; they're still pouring out."
Small-business lobbyists predict that many of the new regulations will be resolved in court.
"There are clearly some cases where [agencies] are going to be challenged," said John Satagaj, the president of the Small Business Legislative Council, an umbrella group of about 90 trade associations. …