RFA@30: Regulations, Cupcakes, Sunlight, and Looking Before You Leap

 “It takes a special breed to get up and get excited about celebrating the 30th anniversary of a law requiring regulatory fairness!” said Deputy Administrator Marie Johns at the start of Advocacy’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of President Carter’s signing of the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant kicked off the day’s festivities, noting that as a former high-growth small business owner, “I know what it’s like to deal with a federal regulation that appears to have a “one-size-fits-all” approach.”

Senate Small Business Committee Chair Mary Landrieu expressed excitement about the prospects for the Small Business Jobs Act, just passed by the Senate. She has hopes of the law helping entrepreneurs like Georgetown Cupcake founders Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne, who went to numerous banks before finally getting a loan for their successful small business at a community bank. She’s looking forward to working with Advocacy on banking and regulatory issues.

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Director Cass Sunstein said that the RFA is one of the tools designed to help agencies “look before they leap” when writing regulations. Open government as espoused by President Obama promotes three things—first, accountability—as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Second, transparency enables people to readily find and use information. Third, through open government, “knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge” and thus to “collective expertise and wisdom.”

The final session, with Neil Eisner, Jeff Hannapel, Nicole Owens, and Jonathan Snare, looked at RFA success stories and ongoing challenges. The biggest impact of the RFA, some said, has been the change in culture, when agencies involve small businesses at the beginning to design better regulations.

Chief Counsel Sargeant closed the event with thanks to the many donors and to all the participants for their ongoing role in making the process work.

—Kathy Tobias, Senior Editor