“Do We Want Small Businesses to Stay in Business or Do We Want to Drive Them Out?” Small Business Owners in the New England Area Tell Advocacy Their Regulatory Concerns

Minimum wage, overtime, worker visas, health care reporting, fish sound monitoring, lobster fishing restrictions and more were brought up by small businesses who attended the Office of Advocacy’s (Advocacy’s) most recent Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables in Bangor, Maine, North Conway, New Hampshire and Burlington, Vermont. These roundtables were held as part of an ongoing effort to hear directly from small entities affected by federal regulations. Presidential executive orders 13771 and 13777 directed federal regulatory agencies to review their existing regulations to see which ones are in need of revision, elimination, etc. Advocacy has been traveling across the country to hear first hand from small businesses that are affected by federal regulations and to learn which ones are most problematic, as well as to hear any suggested solutions to these issues.

“These labor regulations have taken away my ability as an employer to reward good workers,” complained a small business owner in the hospitality and entertainment industry at the Bangor, Maine roundtable. Minimum wage concerns about the Overtime rule were discussed around the table by a number of small businesses. “Maine desperately needs workers…Small businesses work hard in this state and they need help!” declared another Maine resort business owner. Concerns with the worker visa programs as well new regulations affecting the restaurant industry were also discussed. “The elimination of the tip credit in restaurants is very detrimental for the restaurant industry,” stated the owner of a local brewing company.

Other attendees at the roundtables voiced concerns with regulatory enforcement of existing regulations. Some regulations were “written for the big guys and don’t work when they are applied to smaller operations,” stated a small railroad business operator at the Bangor, ME roundtable. “There is a disparity in enforcement from the Federal Railroad Administration that results in a ‘fines first’ policy, instead of working with the businesses to address potential problems,” she said. “We all want to be safe, but we need to work together,” declared another small railroad operator in Vermont.

At all three roundtable, Advocacy also heard from small business owners in the telecommunications industry throughout New England who are concerned about OSHA’s upcoming regulations involving tower erection activities. They asked Advocacy to inform OHSA that this industry would like the standards currently being used by small businesses in the industry to be included in the regulation.  “These standards are game changers and the ultimate road map for other small businesses and agencies to follow,” said a small communications company owner in Bangor. “We are all about the safety of our employees and we try to be good stewards, but unfriendly regulation negatively impacts small businesses,” warned another small communications business owner in North Conway, NH.

Another issue brought up at most of the roundtables in this region was the Food and Drug Administration’s regulation affecting the premium cigar industry. “People can’t afford to have a small business as a result of these regulations!” declared an owner of a small cigar and antiques business in Bangor, MN. “Complying with regulations costs more on a daily basis than you have to pay your employees. We can’t afford to stay in business this way,” she stated. “They want to drive the small independent worker out of business…It’s an outrage!”

These issues and more were described by numerous small business attendees at this latest round of listening sessions in this area. Advocacy will report these concerns to the federal agencies in charge of these rules to ensure that the small business voices in this region are heard.

Advocacy was in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables July 16-18.

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.

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/.