Mr. KERRY . Mr. President, the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, represents an opportunity to change not only the regulatory burden on small business, but more importantly, to begin to change the way all Federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service [IRS], deal with small business. I am pleased to be a cosponsor of the bill.

In far too many cases, the Federal Government has acted as the judge, jury, and executioner for small businesses. Testimony before the Small Business Committee indicated many small businesses fear agencies like the IRS will levy huge fines on them for failure to comply with minor rules and regulations--of which they may be entirely ignorant. The Federal Government must become a partner in the growth and development of small businesses, not an adversary.

While not perfect, this legislation includes a number of provisions which will ease regulatory burdens and give small businesses some recourse when Federal bureaucrats are over zealous in the exercise of their power.

The bill requires agencies to publish in plain English a guide to assist small business in complying with regulations. Federal regulations are often too difficult for anyone to understand, let alone a small businessperson who is trying to run his or her business. It will also allow Small Business Development Centers to offer assistance to small businesses in complying with Federal regulations.

The bill would also establish an ombudsman to help small businesses get fair and legal treatment from the Government if they have been treated unfairly. The ombudsman would also assist small businesses in recovering legal fees as a result of unfair Government actions.

Under the bill, Federal agencies would be required to waive civil penalties for first violations by small businesses that do not constitute a serious threat to public health, safety, or the environment.

The bill provides that small business representatives are to be consulted in Federal agency rulemaking decisions that would have a significant impact on small businesses so that small business interests would be considered at the outset in the development of regulations.

While these reforms will not end the difficulties many small businesses face in complying with Federal regulations, they should help ease the burden. I hope this legislation will mark the beginning of a new era of better relations between Government and small business. The Federal Government should be working in partnership with small businesses--not at cross-purposes with them.

I am proud to support this legislation and would like to thank the chairman of the Small Business Committee, Senator Bond, and the ranking member Senator Bumpers along with their staffs for their effort in producing this legislation.