The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

March 10, 2014

Nancy Good, guest columnist: Regulatory process needs transparency, reform

JOPLIN, Mo. — Although Missouri narrowly missed the top 10 in a national ranking of business-friendly states, we can be proud of our state’s pro-business environment, due in large part to the legislative environment in Jefferson City.

Even with our economic success, our state’s small businesses and manufacturers are still subject to the chilling effects of an overly complex and inefficient federal regulatory process.

As small business owners and members of the National Federation of Independent Business leadership council, we have firsthand experience trying to navigate the regulatory process. And we know that regulations are essential for protecting the health and safety of businesses and consumers. But the current system is unquestionably broken.

And a broken system hurts everyone — businesses and consumers alike.

It’s clear why the system isn’t working. The lack of transparency and accountability in the federal regulatory process only serves to undermine the effectiveness of the regulations it issues.

Imagine for a second the number of regulations that can accumulate when federal agencies are each producing their own regulations at an increasingly rapid rate. Add this on top of the existing number of rules and, sometimes, outdated regulations, and it quickly becomes evident why regulations have become an obstacle. In fact, a survey last year of government data found that more than 280,000 government employees were dedicated to enforcing regulations in 2012, while fewer than 50 employees at the Office of Management and Budget were responsible for reviewing new regulations. It’s a problem when more people are focused on enforcing rules and collecting fines rather than determining whether the rule makes sense.

Regulations are typically proposed with good intentions, but with so many regulations being proposed without the correct oversight, it’s difficult to keep up with all of the new rules. Right now there are more than 3,000 new rules in the pipeline awaiting approval. As a result, the effectiveness of good regulations is undermined and small business owners are spending more time and money on compliance and putting less time and money back into their businesses.

Ultimately, we need to streamline the regulatory process to better protect everyone — from the mom and pop store owner to the family eating at the local delicatessen. To modernize the system, we must create a more open process with greater accountability, and a compliance-first enforcement environment. With these changes, regulations can serve their proper function, while allowing businesses to grow.

At a Missouri NFIB Leadership Council Board meeting this month, former U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., called in to discuss how critical this issue is, while noting how states, like ours, should help take the lead on discussing regulatory issues. Lincoln, who was active in the Senate on regulatory issues, noted that states can play an essential role in promoting change.

The president has called for improvements to the federal regulatory process, but so far we haven’t seen much action.

The current system is far too complicated and inefficient, undermining the effectiveness of regulations and making it difficult for businesses.

We need a better, more modern regulatory system, so that we can properly protect the health and safety of our community.

Our hope is that Sens. Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt will bring this message of regulatory change to Washington.

Nancy Good lives in Joplin. She is the chairwoman of the Missouri NFIB Leadership Council.

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