The United States Senate has an opportunity to advance an important amendment that will protect America's small business owners and entrepreneurs from the burden of onerous regulation. The Freedom from Restrictive Excessive Executive Demands and Onerous Mandates (FREEDOM) Act of 2011 (Amendment #390 to the Economic Development Revitalization Act), is being sponsored by Senators Olympia Snowe and Tom Coburn. According to the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council), the amendment is a critical and common sense initiative that is especially needed during this challenging economic period.
SBE Council will KEY VOTE the FREEDOM Act for our forthcoming Ratings of the 112th Congress. A vote for amendment number 390 is a vote for small business. The vote is expected sometime today.
As I noted in SBE Council's KEY VOTE letter to all members of the United States Senate: "Congress and the Administration must put the needs of small business and entrepreneurship first. The economy will simply limp along, and jobless Americans will continue to suffer until policies are advanced that lift small business costs and confidence. The federal government is fueling uncertainty and weighing small businesses down. Everything must be done to lift government-imposed costs and stabilize policies. The FREEDOM Act is a step in this direction."
The FREEDOM Act strengthens and enhances regulatory safeguards for small businesses. It expands the scope of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) -- protections that currently exist in the law -- by requiring federal government regulators to assess the indirect impact of regulations in their analysis of a regulation's impact on small firms. This added assessment is critical. It is often the case that the indirect impacts of regulation are just as severe, or more so, for our economy and entrepreneurship than the direct effects.
The FREEDOM Act strengthens several other aspects of the RFA, which include:
• Enforcing existing periodic rule review requirements and penalizing agencies that refuse to conduct these reviews.
• Adding nine new small business review panels at federal agencies whose rules have the largest economic impact on small businesses. These panels have been effective in capturing the concerns and effects of proposed regulations on small business, where alternatives have been developed or regulators "go back to the drawing board" in developing the rule.
• Providing for judicial review at an earlier point in the federal rulemaking process.
• Extending the RFA to agency guidance documents, so that federal agencies must conduct small business economic analyses before publishing those documents.
As made clear by the jobs data released last week, small businesses are skittish about hiring. Uncertainty continues to grip small business owners. They are concerned about the cost impact of major laws now being implemented, and added burdens and costs that may be imposed as a result of regulatory proposals in the pipeline. A wide set of regulations are in the works that will impact the availability of capital, the cost of health coverage, the cost of energy, and the general cost of doing business. The cumulative impact of regulation is smothering small businesses, and something must be done to further protect our job creating sector.
If the Senate falls short in passing this common sense amendment, there's little hope that they will pass anything to help small businesses.
Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO