Staples Founder Stemberg: King-Blunt Bill to Cut Red Tape 'Desperately Needed'

Thursday, 22 Aug 2013 11:53 AM

By Dan Weil

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Excess regulations are keeping businesses down, but fortunately a bill has been introduced in the Senate that would go a long way toward solving the problem, says Staples Inc. founder Thomas Stemberg.

"Chief among [the] roadblocks: the blizzard of bureaucratic red tape that buries businesses and stifles job creation," he writes in an op-ed piece for The Wall Street Journal.

The Small Business Administration estimated that the annual cost for businesses of obeying government regulations totaled $1.75 trillion as of 2008, and the figure has undoubtedly increased since then, Stemberg says.

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The Heritage Foundation calculates that new regulatory costs for 2012 totaled $23.5 billion, "a staggering amount of money to pay for government rules," Stemberg noted, adding: "The current regulatory regime just kills more jobs and stifles the formation of new small businesses."

But he cites a bill — The Regulatory Improvement Act of 2013 — introduced last month by Maine Independent Sen. Angus King and Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt as a possible "game changer."

Their legislation, called the Regulatory Improvement Act of 2013, calls for the creation of a permanent bipartisan Regulatory Improvement Commission that would recommend regulatory reforms when necessary, which Congress would then have to sign off on.

"This is desperately needed," says Stemberg. "The government has few processes at its disposal through which it can re-evaluate the efficacy of outdated regulations. And many members of Congress lack the expertise, time and courage to effectively scale them back."

The King-Blunt bill is modeled after the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission, a bipartisan panel created in the late 1980s that has closed 121 major bases with Congress' backing.

"In short, the BRAC Commission gave politicians what they crave most: cover," Stemberg writes. "Nobody back home could blame them for losing a military base. The King-Blunt proposal will give representatives the same cover with regulations."

Under their proposal, the regulatory panel would look for repetitive, obsolete and excessive regulations. It would then report to Congress, which would vote on whether to change or dump the regulations recommended for action by the commission.

The best part of the legislation, Stemberg says, is "both chambers of Congress would be required to vote on the recommendations within a month.

"Lawmakers could review, but not change, the report," he adds. "There would be no deal making, no tricky amendments and no ducking of tough decisions. Lawmakers would be asked a simple question and could only give the simple answer: yes or no."

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