WASHINGTON-Small business representatives have mixed feelings about the scaled-back small business regulatory reform bill which passed the Senate unanimously March 19. ``We're grateful for the reforms that are going through,'' said Donald T. Wilson, government relations director for the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association. ``We just wish there were a lot more.''
Mr. Wilson and other business spokesmen prefer the sweeping House regulatory reform bill which passed last year. Similar Senate legislation, however, fell prey to partisan opposition.
The earlier bill included requirements for risk assessment, cost-benefit analysis, peer review and periodic re-examination of every government regulation whose financial impact on U.S. business was estimated at $100 million or more.
By comparison, the bill that passed the Senate is far more modest. Among other things, it gives small businesses the right to sue federal agencies if the agencies do not consider the impact of pending regulations on small business, as they are required to do under the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980.
The bill gives Congress 45 days to review major new regulations; requires agencies to publish ``plain English'' regulatory compliance guides; mandates agency programs to waive or reduce civil penalties for violations by small business; and assists small businesses in recovering attorneys' fees in defending themselves against ``excessive and unsustainable'' civil penalties or other enforcement actions.
``We think there is some very important language in this bill,'' Mr. Wilson said. ``But it's only a shadow of what passed the House. We are terribly disappointed that a minority in the Senate was able to block that badly needed legislation.''
It was unclear at presstime when the Senate bill would go to the House, but staffers predicted it would be the only regulatory reform bill to pass Congress this session.