Last January, I wrote a column about the worries of tire dealers and retreaders over proposed health care and environmental legislation in the Clinton administration. President Clinton's idea to require all employers to pay for 80 percent of employees' health insurance had tire dealers scared-there was no other word for it. They also had grave concerns about Superfund reauthorization, proposed reform of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and a scrap tire bill which made no provision for saving retreadable casings.
``(R)egarding health care and other major actions, dealers and other owners of small businesses simply see another misfiring of Uncle Sam's blunderbuss,'' I wrote at the time. ``It is up to the White House to hear their concerns and persuade them otherwise.''
Well, the White House didn't persuade them otherwise. Or anyone else, apparently. The upshot is that, as of the Nov. 8 elections, the Republicans control both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years.
Some of the pet projects of new House Speaker Newt Gingrich-such as getting tough on crime and rebuilding the military-aren't of primary interest to tire dealers, though undoubtedly many will support those initiatives. But another GOP issue-lowering taxes for the middle class-would directly benefit all small businessmen in the U.S.
A Republican Congress will never approve any health care legislation that contains employer mandates. And representatives of the auto aftermarket are hopeful they can now persuade Congress to repeal the retroactive liability provisions of Superfund.
These provisions require all contributors to a toxic waste site to pay for cleanup, no matter how long ago they contributed to the site, and even though they obeyed all environmental laws in force at the time. For tire dealers and owners of small garages, this rule has created some unpleasant and expensive surprises.
The outlook for other legislative initiatives is unclear. OSHA reform efforts must begin all over again. Superfund, meanwhile, is a much more likely priority issue for Congress than the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which would be the most likely vehicle for scrap tire legislation. But Rep. James Slattery of Kansas- author of the scrap tire bill retreaders disliked-is now an ex-congressman.
Overall, the 104th Congress is likely to be the most responsive to small business concerns since Dwight Eisenhower's first term.
But it won't be a cinch for tire dealers and retreaders; they have to let the new congressional leaders know who they are. But doing that, they should find, will reward them.
Mr. Moore is Washington correspondent for TIRE BUSINESS.