By Representative Mike Cuffe
The process that federal regulations go through from proposal to enactment is simply baffling. There are seemingly countless comment periods, public hearings, and reviews. Keeping up with the process is simply impossible for any small business in Montana. But with 739 regulations that directly affect small businesses under consideration by various federal agencies, it's a process that Montana small businesses can ill afford to miss.
When a regulation goes into effect, it's in effect for everyone, from the largest conglomerate down to the mom and pop corner store. With teams of lobbyists and lawyers, big businesses can have a great deal of influence on how a new regulation is crafted. They have a voice in the process, but more often than not small businesses do not. And what's best for a large organization isn't always good for a small one.
In my Northwest corner of the Treasure State, regulations from federal agencies like the US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, and the EPA have had a devastating impact on what once was a thriving economy based on natural resources. Too often in the world of mining permits, rules get changed and goal posts get moved in the middle of the game—leaving businesses to cope with the losses that result.
Increasing the transparency and accountability of the regulatory process, formalizing the types of objective data to be used in the analysis and development of regulations, and studying the unique impacts that a regulation might have on smaller business are all reforms that would go a long way to improving the situation of Montana's small businesses.
There's a growing sentiment in Washington for real regulatory reform. Let's all encourage our Montana Congressional delegation to get involved as early advocates for small business.
Representative Mike Cuffe, R-Libby, represents House District 2 in the Montana Legislature.