It's too early to tell whether President Bush's recent executive order and OSHA's creation of a small-business office will prove to be wellsprings of regulatory relief.
The president's mid-August order calls for the Office of Management and Budget to make sure federal agencies take the 22-year-old Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) seriously. That law says federal agencies must consider the impact their rules have on small businesses. Of course, the Small Business Regulatory and Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), passed in 1996, had the same goal-but Claudia Rayford-Rodgers, senior counsel for the SBA's Office of Advocacy, argues that the executive order will be more effective.
The order requires all federal agencies to submit RFA compliance plans to the Office of Advocacy within 90 days and publish those plans within 180 days. The agencies must give "appropriate consideration" to advocacy's input. The term "appropriate consideration" is undefined. Some agencies, such as the EPA, already have well-developed RFA-compliance plans.
OSHA's decision to create a new Office of Small Business two weeks after the Bush executive order wasn't really a sign of taking the order to heart, but it was promising nonetheless. The small-business office will house the existing state consultation program and an outreach effort.
Stephen Barlas is a freelance business reporter who covers the Washington beat for 15 magazines.