Roger Niello

Regulatory Reform: We Need an Economic Development Ethic in Policy Making

Just like nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee (remember that commercial?), everybody is against duplicative and overly burdensome regulations. And everybody is a small business advocate. Liberals and conservatives alike, all policy makers profess the same allegiance.

But talk specifics and the ranks start to separate.

Everyone laments the so-called drive-by lawsuits filed in the name of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) that terrorize (my word) so many small businesses. Everyone except the opportunist attorneys who file such claims, of course. However, when it is pointed out that this only happens because of California’s Private Right of Action statute, the repeal of which would cure the problem, then sympathies abruptly change.

My point here is that in order to be truly effective in political advocacy, it is crucial that we in the business community be specific as to what we’d like to see. We can compromise and take part of a loaf, as we have. But we must be clear as to what the full loaf should be.

CEQA reform is, of course, on top of the regulatory reform list. And we have supported some proposals that would provide needed flexibility in somewhat narrowly focused areas like infill development. But we should be clear that the real need for quality business growth would be a broad-based reform that would limit endless challenges to projects for reasons that have little to do with the environment.

A few years ago the courts provided relief to our state’s extremely restrictive rules imposed on businesses for meal and rest-breaks, but we still must labor under burdensome restrictions regarding work week hours and overtime payment obligations.

This attention to the specifics might not be quite so necessary if our policy makers had an Economic Development Ethic in crafting public policy. If they did, the success of business would be an integral part of our regulatory decision making.

We know that consumer, labor and environmental protections are the prime reasons generally for regulatory proposals, as they should be. But many times the consideration of the success of our businesses appears to be an afterthought. If at all a thought.

Bringing the consideration of impacts on business, and thus economic vitality, to the forefront along with protection of labor, consumers and the environment is essential for a full consideration of the efficacy of regulatory proposals.

That would reflect a true Economic Development Ethic.

It is incumbent upon the business community to aggressively advocate for its interests. In order to allow for an open-minded consideration by our Legislators and Regulators, it should be incumbent upon them to have an Economic Development Ethic.

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