WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the United States Senate unanimously passed an amendment by Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) that would greatly reduce the burden of onerous federal regulation on small businesses. The provision passed by a vote of 99 to 0 and is now a part of the minimum wage legislation (H.R. 2) that is currently being debated by the Senate.

"Overly complex federal regulations place an unfair burden on American small businesses that are forced to waste time and money to ensure they are in compliance," Snowe said. "Establishing guidelines and standards for the production of assistance material by federal agencies will allow small businesses to focus their energy where it belongs, on meeting the needs of their customers. That is exactly what this amendment accomplishes and I am proud to have worked side-by-side with Senators Kerry, Enzi and Landrieu to get this critical provision through the Senate today."

"Reducing red tape for small businesses is one of my top priorities. Helping small firms navigate the system for complying with regulations is critical to their success and continued contribution to our economy. I'm committed to seeing that small businesses have every tool available - from guides to direct compliance assistance and counseling," said Kerry, Chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

"Cost mandates, such as a minimum wage increase, impose significant financial burdens on our small employers. We must do everything we can to help alleviate this burden and ensure that small businesses remain the well-running engine of our economy. Providing the kind of common-sense compliance assistance called for in Senator Snowe's amendment is one of the ways that we can assist small businesses in meeting the administrative costs associated with federal regulation," said Enzi. "I commend Senator Snowe for her efforts on behalf of small businesses and am proud to be a co-sponsor of this legislation with her."

"I support Senator Snowe in her efforts to reduce the burden on small businesses nationwide," Sen. Landrieu said. "Louisiana businesses in particular have little time to deal with additional red tape and paperwork, as they recover from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. This amendment is a commonsense solution that lessens the regulatory burden on our businesses by providing them with some relief from the usual layers of federal red tape."

This amendment will facilitate the compliance of small businesses with federal regulations that directly impact their productivity. Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) requires that agencies produce small entity compliance guides when the agency is required to prepare a final regulatory flexibility analysis under the Regulatory Flexibility Act. However, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported that several loopholes exist in Section 212, allowing agencies to either poorly fulfill their duties under Section 212, or ignore them altogether.

The amendment will:
  • Clarify the SBREFA requirement that agencies produce small entity compliance guides.
  • Ensure that these compliance guides provide adequate and useful compliance assistance materials to help small businesses meet the compliance obligations imposed by regulations.
  • Require that agencies "designate" the publications prepared under the section as "small entity compliance guides."
  • Clarify that compliance guides should be published simultaneously with, or as soon as possible after, the final rule is published, or no later than the rule's effective date.
  • Clarify the phrase "compliance requirements," so that small businesses know how to satisfy the requirements and know how they have met these requirements.
  • Require that agencies annually report to Congress about their compliance with the Act's requirements.