Snowe Bill Threatens Small Business Programs, and the Entire Regulatory Safety Net

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) had a bit of a kerfuffle over a regulatory reform bill Snowe is pushing that would burden regulatory agencies with more paperwork and make it more difficult for them to protect the public. Snowe is trying to attach her bill as an amendment to a small business aid bill. The Hill reports:

“My friend from Maine’s legislation is not relevant or germane to this legislation,” said Reid, who was visibly irritated. “What is going to happen if she objects to the consent which I have offered, this bill will not go forward, and that is too bad."

Reid said he was “terribly disappointed” that Snowe “is going to cause this legislation to fail,” something he noted was all the more galling because as the ranking member of the Senate Small Business Committee, Snowe should recognize the importance of the underlying small business legislation. 

Reid is rightfully perturbed. Snowe’s bill, the “Small Business Regulatory Freedom Act,” is utterly ridiculous. While she is couching it as a bill to ease requirements on small businesses, the bill’s actual intent is to saddle agencies with so much extra analytical baggage that they can no longer set public health and welfare standards in a timely way. It would benefit big businesses more than small, particularly the dangerous minority of businesses always looking for new ways to skirt pollution standards, workplace safety standards, consumer protection laws, and a host of other protections.

Specifically, Snowe’s bill (also sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)) would:

  • Complicate regulatory cost-benefit analysis by forcing agencies to consider additional criteria.
  • Allow businesses to take an agency to court over a rule, before the rule is even finished.
  • Reaffirm the requirement that agencies perform lookback reviews for existing rules, which is currently in place, and not necessarily a bad idea. But Snowe’s bill would make departmental Inspectors General the enforcers of the lookback process, and if an agency’s lookback is not satisfactory, one percent of the agency’s budget is eliminated. That’s per rule. Imagine how this provision would politicize not only agency lookbacks, but the IG’s office as well.

Snowe’s bill would also give more power to the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, an obscure office that operates as a taxpayer-subsidized industry lobbying firm. The Office of Advocacy, channeling business complaints, routinely pressures agencies like the EPA and OSHA to water down new standards. Snowe’s bill gives the office the right to convene a panel of industry representatives to review an agency rule before the rule is ever made public. (Currently, EPA and OSHA are subject to this requirement; the bill would expand it to all agencies.) Snowe’s bill also gives SBA more money to implement it.

To offset the budget increase for SBA, Snowe’s bill eliminates SBA’s Paul D. Coverdell Drug-Free Workplace Program, Small Business Energy Efficiency Program, and Veterans Assistance and Services Program. You read that last one correctly; the Snowe bill would eliminate a program that helps veterans start small businesses, so that the SBA Office of Advocacy can have a bigger budget.

So, to recap, Snowe’s bill would delay agencies’ abilities to set standards that protect the public, prevent job creation by eliminating a small business assistance program, give business lobbyists a louder voice in government (as though they need it), and do it all on the backs of veterans. Well done Senator.

back to Blog