WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, a majority of the U.S. Senate voted in favor of legislation by U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-Oklahoma) to strengthen the Regulatory Flexibility Act by requiring federal agencies to review regulations that significantly impact small businesses. The amendment was not adopted however, due to a parliamentary maneuver requiring a 60 vote threshold. Additionally, a majority of members on the committee given jurisdiction over the legislation voted in favor of the Snowe/Coburn amendment. The Freedom from Restrictive Excessive Executive Demands and Onerous Mandates (FREEDOM) Act, would provide small businesses with much-needed relief from the burden of inefficient, ineffective, or needlessly onerous government regulations.
“In meetings and Main Street tours, a top concern I continue to hear from small businesses is the stifling effect of onerous Federal regulations. The failure of agencies to regularly review regulations with an eye toward reducing needless burden stifles small business’s ability to grow, plan for the future, and create jobs,” said Senator Snowe. “It is critical the effect of Federal regulations on small businesses be taken into greater consideration throughout the entire regulatory process.”
“With this legislation and growing support for comprehensive regulatory reform among small businesses around the nation, I will continue working with my colleagues to address the impact burdensome regulations are having on the ability of employers to add to their payrolls. 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 and the consideration of the economic impact future regulations will make,” said Snowe.
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.
Please click here to view an excerpt from Senator Snowe's remarks on the Senate floor.
BACKGROUND: Last November, the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee reviewed regulatory reform at a hearing entitled “Assessing the Regulatory and Administrative Burdens on America’s Small Businesses.” 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 Small Business Administration’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. On May 4, Senator Snowe requested the Senate move to consider and vote on the regulatory reform issue, but that effort was rejected.