In an effort to slow the avalanche of federal paperwork they believe stifles productivity and job creation generated by America’s small businesses, Representatives David McIntosh (R-Indiana) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced on March 3 bipartisan legislation to reduce the paperwork burdens and ease fines for minor, first-time violations of federal regulatory requirements.
The McIntosh-Kucinich legislation–known as the “Small Business Paperwork Reduction Act Amendments of 1998”–amends the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. The 1995 law called for a 10 percent reduction in federal paperwork burdens imposed on small businesses. The two Congressmen maintain that the law has failed: According to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), only a 2.6 percent paperwork reduction was recorded in 1996, and only an estimated 1.8 percent reduction was achieved last year.
“Instead of focusing on creating jobs, America’s small businesses are required to spend precious energy, time, and resources filling out forms to send to Washington,” McIntosh said at a Capitol Hill news conference. “The numbers speak for themselves: 6.7 billion hours were spent filling out federal forms in 1997 and regulatory costs exceeded $688 billion in 1997. That’s outrageous, and it’s why this bill has received an overwhelming show of bipartisan support.”
House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) has pledged that the legislation will receive a vote in the full House before adjournment for the April recess. McIntosh is chairman of the House subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, and Kucinich is a member of that panel. The subcommittee will hold a hearing on the bill in late March.
“This is truly a bipartisan initiative,” Kucinich said during the news conference. “I’ve been encouraged by the effort of Chairman McIntosh and the input from the Small Business Administration and other federal agencies to find ways to reduce paperwork requirements on small businesses. This is a constructive approach that will continue to improve as it works its way through the legislative process.”
The McIntosh-Kucinich bill would suspend fines on small businesses for first-time paperwork violations to allow time for minor violations to be corrected; require federal agencies to establish a hotline for small businesses to seek answers and guidance when filling out federal paperwork; authorize OMB to create a one-stop repository of regulations published in the Federal Register that affect small business start-ups; and establish a task force to study the feasibility of streamlining reporting requirements.
A Senate companion bill will be introduced shortly by Senator Sue Collins (R-Maine); possible Democratic cosponsors are Senators Max Cleland (Georgia) and Mary Landrieu (Louisiana).