Advocacy Hears From Small Business Owners At Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtable in Boise, Idaho
By Lindsay Abate, Regulatory Economist
Advocacy staff have been traveling across the United States this summer in an effort to hear directly from small businesses about how federal regulations can be reformed or eliminated to reduce burdens on the small business community. On July 11, Advocacy hosted its third in a series of Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables, this time in Boise, Idaho. With more than 60 attendees hailing from Boise and the surrounding area, we learned firsthand about the challenges facing small businesses in the region and their specific ideas for decreasing the burden of federal regulations.
The event began with a welcome from Mike Mathews, State Director for Senator James E. Risch, who is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Mr. Mathews thanked the small business attendees for being present and encouraged them to share their recommendations for regulatory relief with his staff. Members of Rep. Raul Labrador’s (R-ID) staff and the Senate Small Business Committee were also in attendance to hear from small businesses.
Next, Major Clark, Acting Chief Counsel for Advocacy, provided an overview of the Office of Advocacy, including its history, structure, and broad regulatory and economic research responsibilities. Following Mr. Clark’s overview, Advocacy’s Senior Counsel, Claudia Rodgers, brought us up to date on President Trump’s recent Executive Orders relating to regulatory reform. The first, Executive Order 13771, titled “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs,” requires that for “every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination, and that the cost of planned regulations be prudently managed and controlled through a budgeting process.” Ms. Rodgers also highlighted Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” which calls on agency heads to implement the Administration’s regulatory reform initiative by establishing a Regulatory Reform Task Force, led by a Regulatory Reform Officer, to develop a list of regulations for revision, reduction, or elimination. Ms. Rodgers concluded by explaining that Advocacy is well positioned to take a lead on this initiative due to our long history of engaging with both federal agencies and small businesses on all issues relating to federal regulation.
Following staff remarks, we received helpful input from the agriculture, timber, logging, and mining industries. With regards to timber and logging, we learned that the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Timber Set Aside program is crucial to small timber and logging companies in the region. According to one advocate from the timber industry, small mills throughout Idaho and the Pacific Northwest are suffering due to the dramatic decrease in the federal timber supply and the government’s inability to finalize an updated Timber Set Aside rule. The delay in rulemaking, according to the stakeholder, has led to the deterioration of one of Idaho’s most important industries, causing dozens of small mill closures and even more job losses. We also heard from a representative of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association who, like many others, said that the lack of consistent labor supply is a major problem facing Idaho’s dairy industry, which is the source of approximately 39,000 jobs in the state. Next, we heard from a roundtable participant about the water sustainability challenges facing Idaho, namely that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control programs are overly restrictive and are preventing local authorities from adequately recharging regional aquifers. According to this stakeholder, this makes it difficult to ensure sufficient drinking water and replenish shipping canals. Participants in this session, including those from the mining and agriculture industries, also highlighted the challenges associated with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. Specifically, they noted that EPA’s regulations regarding Hardrock Mining Financial Assurance and Waters of the United States present major burdens, costs, and compliance challenges. They hope that these and other EPA regulations will be carefully examined for revision, reduction, or elimination.
During the next session, we heard from small business advocates in the construction, real estate, and financial services industries. Representatives involved in real estate and residential construction informed us that most small construction companies build or remodel fewer than twelve homes per year, yet are among the most heavily regulated businesses in America. They noted that local permitting and approval processes, combined with the web of regulations at all levels of government, make construction a very costly and increasingly less profitable industry to be in. Like their counterparts in earlier sessions, they were concerned about labor shortages and the lack of training opportunities to attract young talent to the industry, as well as challenges that have arisen due to the decrease in timber supply and the associated rise in timber prices. Small businesses in this industry are also finding it difficult to provide their employees with affordable healthcare, given their increasingly thin profit margins. Finally, commenters noted that EPA’s Clean Water Act regulations and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) workplace safety regulations relating to fall protection, silica, and confined spaces, all pose significant costs and compliance challenges. They hope that these will all be candidates for reform under the Administration’s current initiative.
The final session of the day provided an opportunity for small businesses and representatives from all other industries to share their concerns about problematic federal regulations. First, we heard from a career counselor and college success coach who described the repercussions associated with complex and costly federal education regulations. In particular, she said that regulations affecting private universities are overly burdensome and are playing a large role in rising tuition costs because university staff are spending significant time and resources on regulatory compliance. She also noted that the government should provide more support for technical and vocational education programs, which would provide a crucial source of training to Idaho’s workforce. Next, we heard from a human resources representative who described the potential compliance challenges and economic impact that the Department of Labor’s overtime rule will have if it goes into effect unchanged. Like other stakeholders, she outlined the difficulties facing small firms as they try to recruit and retain talent in a tight labor market. She emphasized the importance of being able to compete for talent by providing a desirable benefits package rather than a certain salary or federally imposed overtime pay. Lastly, we heard from Leslie Weinstein, the owner of a small Idaho-based aviation fastener technology company regarding his experience navigating the complex federal procurement process and the challenges he faces due to too many overlapping regulations. He mentioned that he has had to interact with at least eight regulatory agencies since opening his business – time that could be much better spent growing his sales and business operations.
The key takeaway from this roundtable and our meetings with small businesses in the region: By carefully examining and eliminating duplicative and unnecessary regulations, the federal government can help small businesses succeed rather than being a hurdle to their success. Small businesses want to be in compliance with federal regulations—Let’s do what we can to make that a little easier.
 “Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs,” Jan. 30, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/30/presidential-executive-order-reducing-regulation-and-controlling.
 “Presidential Executive Order on Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” Feb. 24, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/24/presidential-executive-order-enforcing-regulatory-reform-agenda.
Advocacy was in Idaho and Washington for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables July 11-13.
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For more information on Advocacy’s mission, our regulatory reform efforts or to find out where the next Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables will be held, please visit: https://advocacy.sba.gov/regulation/regulatory-reform/.
Lindsay Abate is a Regulatory Economist for Advocacy. Abate can be reached at Lindsay.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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