By Charles Maresca, Director of Interagency Affairs
Massachusetts small businesses were well-prepared as they met with Advocacy at the most recent regulatory review and reform roundtable. From auto dealers to investment advisors, home builders to appliance dealers, each had ideas on how to reduce the federal regulatory burden on small businesses.
The auto sales industry is dominated by small businesses; in Massachusetts, it has about 25,000 employees and has consistently been among the safest industries in the country for decades, a participant told Advocacy. Yet OSHA now is requiring auto dealers to install time-consuming and expensive injury and illness recordkeeping systems.
A representative of the fireworks and pyrotechnics industry said that his company does 15 to 20 shows a year, but several new requirements from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a division of the Department of Transportation, has put a lot of pressure on their ability to continue to do so because of the burdens it imposes on part-time drivers.
A small business which deliberately set up shop in a HUBZone now finds itself out of compliance with HUBzone rules due to factors out of its control. Another HUbzone contractor reported that he was losing money after bidding on several contracts that were cancelled.
An investment advisor asked if the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation had small business contracting goals, as several recent contracts have gone to foreign firms and close to 100 percent have gone to large firms.
A paper manufacture pointed out that a 2010 greenhouse gas rule had resulted in biomass waste coming under restrictions; while EPA had indicated earlier that it intended to fix the problem, it has yet to do so. Small businesses need regulatory certainty for planning and other purposes; regulatory uncertainty creates a drain on their resources. The company also reported that its decorative tissue is competing against imported tissue that is being sold for less than the cost to produce it.
A representative from the Massachusetts Restaurant Association pointed to issues restaurants are facing issued by the Food and Drug Administration’s menu labeling rules. He also pointed out difficulties with the process for obtaining needed foreign workers under the H2B visa program. He suggested that visa holders who return to the same employer in subsequent years not count against the cap on the number of visas issued per year.
Not all participants discussed existing rules. A home builder, for example, wondered when EPA would update or improve its lead renovation and repair rules. This rule requires the use of test kits, but the kits have not been available. An online auto parts dealer said that as retail sales have shifted to online, credit card fraud has gone down at retail facilities but increased on line, and this problem should be addressed with a new regulation.
An appliance dealer suggested that the Department of Energy’s energy efficiency standards require testing procedures that are too complex and too costly. The procedures, she said, are geared toward large companies who can more readily afford them. Several agencies and jurisdictions add their own additional requirements for appliances.
Advocacy thanks all of the small business representatives for taking the time to share their difficulties. Despite the breadth of the issues they raised, Advocacy intends to work on behalf of these small businesses in this new year.