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Regulations we love to hate

By - Last modified: May 25, 2012 at 9:56 AM

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Here's a surprise: Small-business owners don't like regulations much.

That’s not completely true, of course. Businesspeople know the public interest is served by government rules that ensure workplace safety and protect the environment. Everyone the Business Journal talked to said they recognize the need for regulation and welcome smart, sensible standards.

But business owners see regulations growing more numerous and complex every year. And for every smart, sensible rule, it seems governments enact half a dozen that are costly, confusing and more trouble than they’re worth.

“They’re obviously there for a purpose,” said Steven Freysz, director of safety and personnel at Lester R. Summers Inc., a trucking company in Lancaster County. “But some of the rules they put out there, you’ve got to scratch your head.”

The Business Journal asked a number of small-business leaders which regulations they would most like to see revised or repealed. Here are some of their responses.

 

“I think one of the more frustrating ones is all of the payroll deductions that a small business is required to carry out for various government entities. Child support, domestic relations, student loans … all this added work gets put on us.”

—Theodore Christiansen

president of Controls Service & Engineering Co. Inc., Cumberland County

 

“I understand why they do it, but some of it just goes over the top. For instance, you can’t have railings with spaces between the posts that you can fit anything larger than a tennis ball through. That’s so a little kid doesn’t get his head stuck in it. It’s for safety. I think the requirement is less than 4 inches. Well, I’ve never seen a kid’s head that small ...

They now require a second escape route from a basement (other than the main steps, in case of fire), whether the basement’s finished or not. That adds a lot of cost to the house. And any outlet within 6 feet of a water source has to be a ground fault interrupter. Again, it’s for safety. It makes sense, but it’s over the top.”

—Lisa Cooper

president and owner of Cooper Custom Homes Inc., Lancaster County

 

“The nightmare of exporting. That’s a mixture of domestic and foreign regulation. It’s a pain because there is inconsistency in the paperwork.

You fill out one form one way, then you fill out a different form a different way. They allow you to pick a currency on one form. The other two forms only let you use U.S. dollars. …

I understand they need documentation. But there should be consistency in it. In particular, there should be an understanding that when you work outside the U.S., you may need to work in the currency of the other country.”

—Laura Douglas

chairwoman and CEO of Max International Converters Inc., Lancaster County

 

“Regulations are a part of our business. They’re obviously there for a purpose. But for a safety-oriented company like us, they can sometimes be a little overbearing. …

The recent hours-of-service proposals and regulations that came out create a burden.

One of the requirements under the new regulations is a rule that drivers can’t work more than an eight-hour period after a 30-minute break. We get in situations where drivers have an oversized load. They can’t just pull off the road anywhere and safely be able to take a break. So for us, we’ve got to figure out a way to make that work. …

We made a significant change back in 2003, all trucking companies did, with the change in the hours-of-service regulations back then. Then in 2011 we turn around and now there are (more) proposed changes, after carriers set up their operations with the (previous) regulations in mind. …

We have this big load. We have to travel with it. We’re restricted. What are we going to do?”

—Steven Freysz

director of safety and personnel with Lester R. Summers Inc., Lancaster County

 

“There’s a new Department of Transportation regulation that says you must get a DOT number for any vehicle over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW), and also have the driver get a physical and carry a physical card that’s good for two years. That’s one I could do without.

It doesn’t take a real big truck to go over 10,000 GVW. Any schmuck with a flatbed is over 10,000.”

—Raymond Gochnauer

president of E.H. Gochnauer & Sons. Inc., Lancaster County

 

“Stormwater management. It’s very expensive, very time-consuming in terms of design and working with agencies. It’s mind-boggling. Absolutely mind-boggling.

Also, the new OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations for residential work. That is just absolutely a killer in terms of cost.

If people were safe and responsible in the first place … we wouldn’t need all these regulations.”

—Mark Simeral

CEO of Simeral Construction Co. Inc., Lancaster County

 

“Everything from OSHA safety regulations to hiring and all the employment practices regulations. Then there’s all the permitting and environmental regulation. Everywhere you turn, there are just mountains of regulations.

It’s not like you can say they’re all bad. They’re not all bad. The problem comes with the clarity and consistency of implementation and enforcement. The way the regulations are written, there’s so much interpretation involved. One inspector may come out to a job site, and I’m in compliance in his opinion. The next one comes out and I’m not in compliance in his opinion. …

It’s just a mass of confusion. It’s got to be made simple and clear.”

—Daniel Warner

president of Structural Restoration Services Inc., York County

 

“The banking regulators have essentially eliminated relationship lending and the efficiencies that accompany those affiliations. Programs such as the Small Business Administration loan program have become so incredibly cumbrous that their processes hinder the administration of the type of funding for which it was originally designed.

As a rapidly growing business, availability of credit or lack thereof can deter that additional hire or capital purchase. It not only affects our business, but those that we buy from.”

—Corey Wolff

CEO of Energy Systems & Installation Inc., Lebanon County

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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