With everyone busy during the brisk building season last year, we neglected to celebrate an important anniversary. Now this anniversary may not rank up there with those companies that started their businesses in 1905 or even 1955, but even still it was a significant milestone for all small businesses.
In 2005 the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), administered by the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Office of Advocacy, celebrated its 25th anniversary of becoming law. It may be too late to send SBA administrator Hector Barreto an anniversary card, but it is not too late to review the effects the RFA has had on small businesses and specifically this industry.
To visualize the RFA's impact, one needs to go back to the 1970s, when Richard Nixon was president, Apollo 13 was launched, and now-Senator Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) was still pitching in the major leagues. Small businesses and the organizations representing these companies were feeling the pinch of federal regulations and were frustrated with not having any input on the development of regulations that affected their businesses.
In the late 1970s, Congress, after hearing from many disgruntled employers back in their districts, decided a change was needed—specifically a change in the attitude and culture that regulatory agencies used to develop their rules and regulations for American businesses.
In 1980 (things move slowly in Washington) then-President Jimmy Carter signed the Regulatory Flexibility Act into law. This law has been modified over the past 25 years, but the intent is still the same: The RFA provides an avenue for businesses to be involved in the regulatory process by participating in discussions and providing input on the likely impact of proposed regulations prior to the regulations becoming law. Before the RFA the only voice that was heard was often just that of the regulator.
With an “open” regulatory process, companies and the trade associations representing their industries have the opportunity to share their thoughts and to provide input and qualitative information and expertise to the process.
The RFA has had significant impact on regulations governing the building material industry that have been developed by OSHA, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Commerce, and other government agencies. One significant change has been that an economic impact assessment of each regulation is now required to understand the regulation's full impact on society and the affected industry.
Is the regulation process perfect? Will there be fewer regulations? Probably not, but now regulations are developed in a much more transparent and open-to-debate process.
The Regulatory Flexibility Act has provided the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA), other trade groups, and, most importantly, small businesses to be involved in the regulatory process. For this fact alone, we applaud the RFA and the legislators who had a vision that regulations work best when all the stakeholders are involved.
As Senator Jim Talent (R-Mo.) once said, “Small businesses create the majority of new jobs in the country, and the government should be a partner not an obstacle.” We at NLBMDA second that opinion and wish the RFA another productive 25 years of helping small businesses be a part of the solution to a safer and more productive work environment. Now pass the anniversary cake! Shawn Conrad is president of NLBMDA.