U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler took a tall stack of federal paperwork to the House floor Thursday as a prop to illustrate what she described as a burdensome regulatory climate that is hampering small-business growth.
As a member of the Small Business Committee, Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, helped shepherd the Regulatory Flexibility Improvement Act through the committee process and to the House floor. It passed Thursday on a 263-159 vote but must still clear the Senate. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the measure if it makes it to his desk.
The bill requires federal agencies to consider the economic impact of their regulations on small businesses, and requires them to consider less burdensome alternatives if the impact is significant. It also removes loopholes federal agencies have been using to bypass an earlier version of the law.
“It’s a bill that strengthens existing law,” Herrera Beutler said in her floor speech. “It simply says, if a federal rule is killing jobs, a federal agency is required to find a rule that’s less burdensome. It’s pretty cut and dry, it’s something we should be doing already, but we actually have to pass a bill to require it.”
Herrera Beutler mentioned Somarakis Vacuum Pumps, a company that has a manufacturing center in Kalama and a repair center in Vancouver, as an example of a small business that worries about the impact of federal environmental and energy conservation rules.
“Her point in bringing up an employer like Somarakis was that small-business owners simply can’t keep up with the constant flow of new federal regulations because it would take a team of experts to do so,” said Casey Bowman, Herrera Beutler’s spokesman. “Often, small businesses aren’t aware of a new rule or regulation until they’ve unknowingly violated it.
“Somarakis is just one example of a small business that provides good, permanent jobs for people in this region,” Bowman said. “Congress should act to protect those jobs before they’re gone, and not simply
diagnose what went wrong when another business shuts its doors.
The congresswoman cited a 2010 study by the Small Business Administration that found small businesses pay an average regulatory burden of $10,585 per employee — 36 percent more than the cost of regulations for large businesses.
Herrera Beutler also denounced a recent federal court ruling that could require private timberland owners to obtain federal environmental permits if stormwater runoff from their logging roads flows into rivers and streams. The ruling by the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a long-standing practice by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of exempting forest roads from stormwater rules under the Clean Water Act.
The White House issued a statement Tuesday saying the act “would impose unneeded and costly analytical and procedural requirements on agencies that would prevent them from performing their statutory responsibilities. It would also create needless regulatory and legal uncertainty and increase costs for businesses and further impede the implementation of common-sense protections for the American public.”
Federal agencies already have in place policies and procedures that require them to take into account the consequences of rulemaking on small businesses, the White House said. In addition, Obama has signed an executive order that requires agencies “to examine existing regulations and to eliminate, streamline, or alter them where they are excessively burdensome.”