By Charles Maresca, Director of Interagency Affairs
When the Granite State welcomed Advocacy to the Manchester City Library’s theater-style meeting room, we hoped to hear from local small businesses about federal rules affecting their operations and how those rules could be reformed to reduce that impact. With characteristic concern for good sense, frugality, and direct speech, these New Hampshirites did not disappoint. They all seemed to add a story that brought home the impact of federal regulations in a personal way.
First, we heard from a shopkeeper who relayed how recent rulemaking by the Food and Drug Administration was creating a financial crisis for the premium cigar industry. Among his concerns was a prohibition on providing samples to potential customers, including military members, even though cigars are the items most requested by deployed service members. It had been a cherished way of saying, “Thank you for your service.”
We heard from a farmer who is being prohibited from housing his seasonal agricultural workers in his own home near his little farm — something he has been doing for many years — because the rules don’t allow them to be housed within 500 feet of livestock. He noted drily that advertising for a new housing development on an adjacent property is boasting of its up-close views of the animals on his farm. On a recent trip abroad with his wife they visited the men who regularly return to work on their farm. Everywhere they went the couple was warmly received into their homes, yet they cannot return that warmth by welcoming the workers into their home because of this rule that is supposed to ensure that workers are not mistreated. The farmer would incur a large cost to build a new place for his workers.
Another agricultural representative noted that the visa process for foreign seasonal workers has become repetitive and expensive, and suggested that a single submission of the required information should satisfy the needs of all the federal offices who need it.
We heard complaints about the federal contracting process, and particularly bonding requirements that tie up the capacity of smaller contractors, and dealing with change orders.
Grocers raised issues with possible changes to the overtime rule, as well as issues created by the menu labelling rule, possible tax reform, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The attendees put forward a number of highly technical rules as needing reform. A producer of tissue products suggested that EPA’s rule on nonhazardous secondary materials could be improved, and so too could EPA’s Multi-Sector General Permit. She said her industry felt that the Federal Acquisition Council’s rule on recycled content is out of date.
A small telecom company complained about the proliferation of reports required by the FCC, and their steadily increasing complexity. It takes an average, he said, of 922 hours a year to make all those reports, nearly half a full-time employee.
Community banks in New Hampshire are declining in number; the remaining small banks face increasing demands on their time and resources imposed by regulations issued under the Dodd-Frank Act, many of which target the largest financial institutions, but whose burdens fall heaviest on the smallest banks.
Finally, representatives of a small company engaged in the construction of communication towers made the good sense suggestion that OSHA, which has been considering writing a tower erection standard for years, should adopt a consensus standard already written and followed by businesses large and small. Like the other proposals put forward by New Hampshire small businesses, it’s just good sense.