Cost vs. benefit. Small businesses all across Indiana live and die by that creed, but excessive federal regulations tend to tip the scale too far toward cost, critics say.
So Republican Sen. Dan Coats held a press conference Tuesday at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce to talk about his proposed Sound Regulation Act.
The bill would force every regulatory federal agency to undergo a neutral, non-partisan test of cost verses benefits. The bill would also require the agencies to consider at least three possible options to achieve the regulatory objective. Agencies would be required to choose the lowest cost option, unless there are other overriding factors.
Coats said regulations cost businesses time and resources.
"When it comes to regulation, there are examples that just fill the book in terms of how businesses are having to spend more and more time filling out forms, complying with regulations, trying to understand the hundreds if not thousands of regulations that are being imposed on an annual basis," Coats said. "Instead of doing the business that they are running and being out in front of the counter, selling their product, running their business efficiently and effectively, competing with others around the state and the world in terms of their product, they're back in the back room filling forms."
More than 4,000 federal regulations are in the pipeline today. And Coats said excessive government regulations can only be tackled by large companies with a big staff fully dedicated to the compliance of the rules.
"It's one thing for City Bank or one thing for General Motors to be able to hire a back room full of lawyers and a back room full of accountants to pour through all these regulations, get the reports into Washington on time, make sure the company is responding to this imposition of regulation after regulation, and to challenge those," he said.
"But for small businesses in particular, for those running a farm or running a small business, they don't have the resources nor do they have the time to go back in the back room and comply with all these regulations," Coats said. "We can go through hundreds of examples of regulations that simply don't meet the cost-benefit test."
Devin Anderson, chief executive officer of E&A Industries in Indianapolis, showed his support for the bill and said he "would like Washington to approach the rule-making process with common sense."
"The reality is that Washington is slowly, but very effectively stifling and choking small business every single day. We're being asked to help lead this economic recovery by creating jobs, but in reality, we're just trying to avoid death by a thousand cuts," Anderson said.
Coats said bipartisan support of the bill would be necessary for it to pass.
"My appeal to them (other lawmakers) is simply, 'Let's do some things on a bipartisan basis. You can go home and talk about how you're working with the other side to get something constructive done.' And so, I'm trying to take this out of the politics," he said. "I'm not trying to just use the political equation to gain the thing, because I know the only way we're going to pass this is with bipartisan support."
Antonio Cordero is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.