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Businesses, trade groups give congressional committee an earful about regulation burdens

February 10, 2011 |  9:34 am

Issa Businesses and industry trade groups brought their complaints about what they called overly burdensome regulations to Capitol Hill on Thursday as House Republicans continued their push to reduce government's role in the economy.

"Whatever we can take off our overhead ... is going to make us more competitive," Jack Buschur, president of an 18-employee electrical contracting company in Minster, Ohio, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He said some of the labor and environmental regulations that apply to his firm are "extremely expensive and a large inconvenience."

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), the committee's chairman, said he called the hearing to listen firsthand to complaints. He recently solicited letters from hundreds of businesses and associations about regulations to revise or repeal.

"We hope to find a way to have regulatory reform [and] keep America safe while at the same time giving Americans opportunities to get competitive jobs here and in exports around the world," Issa said.

Republicans aren't the only ones focusing on reducing regulatory burdens. President Obama last month ordered government agencies to weed out onerous regulations.

Buschur, one of two small-business heads who testified at Thursday's hearing, said he spends about 20% of his time dealing with government regulations that are so complex he has to pay attorneys or business groups to decipher them.

Another executive, Michael J. Fredrich, president of MCM Composites of Manitowoc, Wis., complained about the time it took him to deal with cases filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by two former employees alleging discrimination when they were fired.

"Each of those two cases took at least one week of my time," Fredrich said.

Regulations such as those by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration make it difficult for his company, which makes parts for commercial aircraft, to compete with manufacturers in Mexico and other countries, he said.

"It's difficult to compete if we increase that burden," he said. "We should focus on reducing that."

Republicans on the committee said that's what they wanted to do. . . .

"There's no question we must have some regulation," said Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) "But the other side of that coin is we must be competitive if we're going to get market share in the world."

Some Democrats said the focus was too much on the cost of regulations to businesses and not enough on the benefits to average Americans of rules that help ensure the safety of things such as drinking water and children's cribs.

"What will our standard be? Will we bend to a lower standard where children are being exploited so we can make more profit?" said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

The hearing focused on broad questions of the cost of regulation on businesses, with officials from groups such as the Western Growers Assn. also testifying. But witnesses also pointed to specific regulations, particularly those from environmental and labor agencies.

"More than any other agency, the Environmental Protection Agency alarms manufacturers," said Jay Timmons, chief executive of the National Assn. of Manufacturers, citing concerns about new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. "Regulatory burdens must be replaced by realism and their costs replaced by common sense.”

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Photo: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista). Credit: Associated Press