The Twins Want to Know – Who Regulates the Regulators?

By Les Davies, Region 5 Advocate

What do you learn when you visit the thirteenth largest economy in the country and the second largest in the Midwest behind Chicago? When the area you visit is the second largest manufacturer of medical devices what would you anticipate would be the biggest concern? Would you expect Dodd-Frank to be discussed if you were in the largest banking center in the Midwest?

I had the opportunity to participate in several roundtables in Minneapolis-St Paul recently, along with our National Rural Affairs Advocate, Joe Knilans.  What we heard from these small businesses ranged from the Affordable Care Act and the medical device tax to home health care reimbursement under Medicaid and FDA product labeling regulations. We listened to ideas about the overtime rule and discussed the H2-A and H2-B visas and guest worker regulations. The frustrations were summed up when one attendee asked: “Who regulates the regulators?”

While the question was mostly tongue in cheek, it actually does raise some important points. If the regulatory response to a congressional mandate goes beyond the intent of Congress or presents a significant burden on a substantial number of small businesses, who speaks up for small business? How do we find out about duplicative, outdated, over-burdensome or unnecessary regulations? Who has the best ideas for regulatory changes that need to be made? Indeed, who “regulates the regulators”?

The obvious answer to this question is Congress through its oversight function. However, you the small business owner are best equipped to relate your personal experience with regulations that impact your business. You are the ones whose experience puts the regulatory burden in the proper perspective and you are the ones with the best ideas for alternatives to burdensome regulations.

The Office of Advocacy has ten Regional Advocates with offices throughout the country. In addition, we have added two National Advocates focused exclusively on manufacturing, information-technology, and rural issues.  Our mandate is to travel throughout the country, meeting with small businesses and small business associations to listen to their concerns and ideas. We take those concerns back to DC where our team communicates directly with the White House, Congress and the regulatory agencies to address these concerns and communicate these ideas.

While very few businesses that we met with in Minneapolis-St. Paul knew who we were and what we did before our visit, by the end of the meetings they knew that they now had a voice in the regulatory process. There was tremendous excitement expressed in all of our roundtables and invitations to return and expand our efforts. Small businesses learned that change begins with them and that they truly are the ones who “regulate the regulators”.

Les Davies serves as the Region 5 Advocate for the SBA Office of Advocacy, representing small businesses in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Davies works with small business owners, state and local governments, and small business associations to bring the voice of Region 5 to Washington DC. He can be reached at