Small Business in Des Moines Face a Cornucopia of Burdensome Regulations

By Janis Reyes, Assistant Chief Counsel

Des Moines was the second stop in Advocacy’s Region Regulatory Reform Roundtables in Iowa. Once known for being the heart of “corn country,” this vibrant capital city has diversified into many industries and was recently named one of the best places to live in the United States. Small businesses and their representatives convened at Advocacy’s roundtable to discuss a cornucopia of federal regulations that should be repealed, reformed or created to make this city an even better place to do business.

One of the questions raised by small businesses was whether certain burdensome regulations on the books were even necessary. Bruce Anderson, from the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association, cited an Environmental Protection Agency requirement that automobile repair technicians need to be trained and certified to handle and sell the automobile refrigerant Freon. Anderson recommended that this requirement be changed because automobiles had stopped utilizing Freon in the early 1990s. Betty Garcia, an owner of a small business that makes flour tortillas, cited problems with costly Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations that required new nutritional label changes. Garcia believes small differences like a larger font size in the label were not necessary, but they were very expensive to implement. Garcia had to get 11 products retested in the lab, and have new plates for printing at $1500 per product. Teri Messerschmitt, from South Ottumwa Savings Bank, recommended a Department of Treasury regulation under the Bank and Secrecy Act for repeal. Under this regulation, a bank may be responsible for an ATM at a checking client’s place of business, even though it is not their bank’s ATM.

Multiple small businesses at the roundtable seek reform of regulations that are detrimental and costly.  Thalia Sutton worries about the high cost of health care under the Affordable Care Act for sole proprietors like hers. She noted that the premiums have risen dramatically this year because there is only one insurer in the Iowa’s health care exchange. Other small businesses at the roundtable discussed the possibility of enrolling in a new health benefit plan sponsored by the Iowa Farm Bureau that was recently allowed by a new Iowa law. Kelsey Clark, from the Johnston Chamber of Commerce, cited complaints from health care providers about overregulation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which has resulted in many job losses for that industry. According to Anderson, owners of auto dealerships expressed anxiety with the Department of Commerce tariffs on aluminum and steel, which have added $3,500 to the cost of cars.

Some small business participants recommended additional regulations to clarify gray areas in the law. Jason Harpenau, who represents credit unions, stated that their biggest frustration is the vague website accessibility regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He reported that many credit unions in the Iowa area have received demand letters and have paid substantial settlements because of the lack of clear requirements. Tyler Bettin was concerned with lack of USDA regulations for fake meat. He recommended this new industry need more stringent USDA regulations like those for livestock, as opposed to the current FDA requirements which are more lenient. Bob Baumgart, a franchisee of a Home Instead Senior Care facility, recommended that the Department of Labor clarify their Fair Labor Standards Act requirements for the travel time for caregivers.

Advocacy looks forward to working with these small business stakeholders on this cornucopia of regulatory reform recommendations to make this city an even better place to do business.


Advocacy was in Iowa for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables July 17-19.

Can’t get to a roundtable near you? Fill out this form and tell us about your federal regulatory burdens. We will pass this information on to the appropriate agency and use it in the planning of upcoming Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables. 


Janis Reyes is an Assistant Chief Counsel for Advocacy whose portfolio includes labor and immigration. Reyes can be reached at




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