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Bill seeks to protect businesses
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
RICHMOND--A bill from Sen. Richard Stuart would set up a commission to evaluate new government mandates on businesses, with the power to block enforcement of regulations in some cases.
It passed easily out of the Senate Rules Committee Friday morning.
Stuart, R-Stafford, said the commission would review the impact on small businesses of any mandates done through state law, or rules and regulations done by state agencies.
Stuart said the commission could also have power over federal regulations if the state was in charge of implementing and enforcing them.
The commission, with the governor's concurrence, could suspend a mandate for a year until the legislature convened and reviewed it.
"The whole idea is, the business people that I talk to say their biggest impediment to creating jobs is mandates from government," Stuart said.
He hopes the commission could provide some relief from burdensome regulations, and give the business community a way to push for lifting regulations or rules that are especially onerous.
Stuart said his idea is that the commission would be made up of legislators and citizens, not state agency employees. It's possible, Stuart said, that in the end his legislation won't set up a separate commission--because that costs money--but would give the power
Nicole Riley of the National Federation of Independent Business spoke in favor of Stuart's bill.
"We certainly think it's a really great idea. Our members consistently cite regulations as a top problem for them," Riley said after the meeting. "It's routinely mentioned as a reason why they're not expanding and creating jobs. Anything that we can do to really take a hard look at how these regulations would impact small business is a good thing."
Riley said small businesses typically pay about $3,000 more than large businesses do to comply with the array of federal and state regulations, because they aren't large enough to have personnel dedicated to compliance.
She said the commission could review things like laws--which crop up annually in the General Assembly--to create new licensing requirements for various industries. In recent years that has included things like hair-braiding salons.
While state law can't override federal law, Riley said she could envision some instances where the commission could look at mandates coming from, say, the Department of Environmental Quality or the Environmental Protection Agency.
The bill also, she said, provides a way to look at regulations and mandates "outside of a very intense, short legislative session."
"Now they could take the time in the off season. There would be time to really study and do an analysis and see what kind of impact it would have," she said.
Stuart's bill will now go to the full Senate for a vote.
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028