WASHINGTON-The Clinton Administration's efforts to ease regulatory burdens and promote prosperity in the automotive after-market are working, according to two top government officials speaking at the Automotive Service Association's annual meeting, held in Washington April 22. ``We are seeing a change in the culture of agencies and how they relate to business, particularly small business,'' said Ronald Matzner, associate deputy general counsel for the Small Business Administration.
President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore have made financial and regulatory assistance to small business a priority, according to Mr. Matzner. The chief innovation they have accomplished is the SBA ``LowDoc'' loan program, which cuts paperwork to one page for small business loans of up to $100,000.
In the regulatory arena, Mr. Clinton signed a directive last month to waive up to 100 percent of first-time small business compliance violations when good-faith efforts are made to correct them.
``The Environmental Protection Agency has gone way beyond the president's directive,'' Mr. Matzner said. ``If you are a small business and ask for compliance assistance, there will be no penalty of any kind.''
There are certain conditions to this, he added: the small business must have no criminal intent in violating environmental regulations; and the violation must not involve a ``significant'' threat to the environment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not given a 100-percent waiver, but more ``in the 75- to 80-percent range,'' according to Mr. Matzner.
More important on the OSHA front has been its ``Maine 200'' program, in which OSHA operatives in Maine have successfully introduced a voluntary, collabo-rative compliance program with the state's businesses, he said.
The EPA is ``working to become your partner, not your adversary, in compliance,'' said Dick Wilson, deputy assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.
``We will no longer write a regu-lation or make a policy that affects small business without talking to small businesses or making a careful study of how they will be affected,'' Mr. Wilson said.
The EPA has begun to establish Small Business Assistance Programs in every state to help companies which are falling for the first time under the Clean Air Act and other environmen-tal statutes.
Mr. Wilson said ``most states now have them up and running.''
There is also an EPA electronic bulletin board for small business, as well as ``Plain English'' compliance guidebooks and compliance seminars.
A total of 338 seminars have been held so far in 48 states, according to Mr. Wilson.