WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) introduced the Freedom from Restrictive Excessive Executive Demands and Onerous Mandates (FREEDOM) Act, legislation that will provide small businesses with much needed relief from the burden of onerous, inefficient, or antiquated government regulations.  Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-Oklahoma) is also a sponsor of this initiative.

“In meetings and Main Street tours, a top concern I continue to hear from small businesses is the stifling effect of onerous Federal regulations on their ability to grow, plan for the future, and hire new employees,” said Senator Snowe.  “It is critical that the affect of Federal regulations on small businesses be taken into greater consideration throughout the regulatory process. 

“With this legislation and growing support for comprehensive regulatory reform among small businesses around the nation, I urge my colleagues in the Senate to take a serious look at the impact burdensome regulations are having on the ability of employers to add to their pay rolls.  Achieving our shared goals of protecting the environment, consumers, or worker safety and mitigating inefficient or ineffective regulations starts with a hard look at the effectiveness of current rules on the books and the consideration of the economic impact future regulations will make.

“Addressing this regulatory quandary is no new undertaking in Congress.  Last November, we addressed this crucial issue at a hearing entitled “Assessing the Regulatory and Administrative Burdens on America’s Small Businesses,”  and more recently the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled, “Federal Regulation: How Best to Advance the Public Interest?” Furthermore, in the Small Business Committee’s recent 2012 budget hearing, the SBA’s Chief Counsel for Advocacy, Winslow Sargeant, testified to the troubling degree to which small businesses are forced to comply with overly burdensome federal regulations.  It is high time that these evaluations produce results, and I look forward to the Senate’s timely consideration of this critical priority for job creation.”

The FREEDOM Act would strengthen the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), the seminal legislation enacted in 1980 requiring federal agencies to conduct small business analyses for any regulation that would impose a significant impact on a substantial number of small firms.   Highlights of the FREEDOM Act include provisions to:

-          Require that agencies consider indirect economic impacts in small business analyses;

-          Enforce existing periodic rule review requirements and penalize agencies that refuse to conduct these reviews;

-          Add nine new small business review panels at federal agencies whose rules have the largest economic impact on small businesses;

-          Provide for judicial review at an earlier point in the federal rulemaking process; and

-          Extend the RFA to agency guidance documents, so that federal agencies must conduct small business economic analyses before publishing those documents.  Recently, agencies have subverted the rulemaking process by relying on documents that agencies can issue without having to adhere to their RFA obligations.