For Randy O’Dell, owner and operator of Jafe Decorating Company in Greenville, Ohio, staying on top and staying in line with government requirements has always been a priority since he first opened his doors in 1978. From day one he’s strived to create a safe and enjoyable workplace, watch out for all his customers’ needs, and leave the area around him a little better than he found it.
But in recent years, Randy, like thousands of business owners across the country, has found it harder and harder to keep pace with the increasingly complex rules coming down the pipeline from Washington.
More than any one rule, the pace and inconsistency of the regulatory process cause him the biggest headache. He characterizes it with an example. A few years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notified him his company would need to invest in $200,000 of new equipment. Given no other choice, he installed the new machinery, only to watch the EPA reverse its decision and take the rule off the books. Randy was left footing the bill. All the while, his old equipment worked just fine.
Sadly, it seems stories like Randy’s are becoming more common. The complexity and pace of new rules coming out of Washington is having a real impact on small businesses. In March, a Gallup poll found 85 percent of businesses polled aren’t hiring, and nearly half said regulations are a reason. Similarly, in a Harvard Business School study, a majority of nearly 10,000 alumni asked said tax and regulatory burdens are the biggest challenge facing US competitiveness today.
Randy will be the first to point out, what the small business community needs isn’t more rigid regulations formulated on a whim, but rather smarter regulations. A Sensible Regulations poll in February found about three out of four respondents thought the government should focus on creating jobs, not more regulations. Even more supported commonsense solutions to restore balance to the rulemaking process.
There are a number of practical changes regulators can make towards that end, and they aren’t radical ideas. Pragmatic steps like giving small businesses a greater role in the rulemaking process, requiring cost-benefit analysis for new rules, and building in greater transparency would help balance the system, create more effective regulations, and bolster our economy.
As Randy put it, “it seems like regulatory reform should be a question of ‘Why’ but of ‘When?’”