Got a beef about a proposed government regulation? With the SBA Office of Advocacy's new Regulatory Alerts page, now it's a little easier to speak your mind. Launched in June, the new Web page allows business owners to get information on pending regulations and voice their thoughts on those proposals.
"This is one additional way to try to guarantee that we are responsive to the interests of small business," says Advocacy Chief Counsel Thomas M. Sullivan. "There's another tool for trade association officials and small-business owners themselves to look at what the government is thinking about doing and tell us, as well as the actual regulatory agency, whether it's a good idea, a bad idea or could be changed in way that is more responsive to the unique situations of small business."
Visitors to the Regulatory Alerts page can read up on regulations divided into several categories: environmental; general; procurement; safety, healthy and labor; tax; telecommunications; and transportation. With each alert is a link to send by a certain date an electronic comment to the regulatory agency making the proposal, as well as the name and phone number for someone within the Office of Advocacy familiar with the issue who can answer questions.
Considering that the Office of Advocacy doesn't have the staff available to track all pending regulations and determine which proposals could impact small businesses, it behooves business owners to voice their concerns. "We try to solicit comment from as many trade and membership organizations who represent small business as possible, and from them surf through the rules and regulations that are in proposal stage and place them up on the Web site," Sullivan says. "It is not a comprehensive list of open comment."
In fact, interest from various business groups influenced the Office of Advocacy to include on the site a proposal regarding overtime exemptions. "We were approached by the National Restaurant Association, [which] said this proposal is going to affect a tremendous amount of small-business owners," Sullivan says. "We put it up on the Web site to get an even broader sense from the small-business community on what works and what doesn't work [regarding overtime exemptions] and what the Department of Labor can do in their final rule to actually solve some of this confusion."
The Office of Advocacy's home page also has an e-mail form as well as a link to names and phone numbers for all staff members so that business owners can suggest regulations and other issues the office should be tracking. Along with the Regulatory Alerts Web page, says Sullivan, this is part of the Office of Advocacy's goal to respond directly to small-business interests.