(Sean Whaley/Nevada Business Bureau) – Businessman Raymond Pezonella said today he knew the burden of complying with government regulations had hit a new level of absurdity after an all-day audit resulted in an $8.99 gas tax charge to his company because of a trip to California that his workers had failed to record.
“This took two of my people all day long,” he said. “That guy tied up my conference room all day to do this document.”
In another recent encounter with the regulatory process, Pezonella said he was visited by a federal employee who wanted to inspect gauges used by his company for soils testing because they contain a small amount of a radioactive element that potentially could be a homeland security concern.
But safety did not appear to be the main concern during the visit by the representative of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Office of Hazardous Materials Enforcement, he said. Instead, his firm was fined $480 for failing to provide a proper shipping name. He was assessed another $1,400 for failing to maintain a package document.
Pezonella said he fought the fines and ended up paying $150. The state had just reviewed his business and gave him a top rating, he said.
The anecdotes point out the increasing regulatory burden placed on small business, he said.
“The biggest change is the attitude,” Pezonella said. “I think at one time people were working together. Governmental people were here, but they were here to help. Now they seem like they’ve taken an attitude well, every time they step on your door, they’re here not to help you but to figure some way to fine you for something you did wrong.
“I think it’s them against us,” he said. “Is it revenue generating? What is it for?”
Pezonella, in businesses for 35 years, offered himself up as an example of a businessman facing an increasing level or regulation and a more adversarial relationship with federal agencies as part of a project of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) called Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations.
Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations was launched nationally this summer and has since grown to nearly 1,000 members, with 170 of those in Nevada.
The national effort is focused on protecting small businesses and American jobs from the impacts of regulations recently proposed by the Obama administration, said Randi Thompson, NFIB state director.
“Continual regulations that are hurting small business are only going to delay any kind of recovery in this recession,” she said. “I’m not saying all government regulations are bad. We’re just saying there has to be a sensible balance here.”
The average small business spends about 20 hours a week to comply with federal regulations, not counting state or local rules, Thompson said.
There are 4,000 new federal regulations in the pipeline, she said.
Streamlining regulations to encourage job growth is a major topic both nationally and in Nevada, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country.
Gov. Brian Sandoval last month sent a letter to President Obama seeking to ease the permitting process for mining development in the state to help create jobs. U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., elected to congress last month in a special election, said one of his first objectives was to meet with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on the issue of land use regulations.
Even President Obama has vowed to ease the regulatory burden on business.
Thompson said there have been a few successes in stopping the implementation of some regulations, such as a proposed federal change to require farm equipment drivers to have commercial driver’s licenses.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has denied it was considering such a regulation.
But while the Obama administration has announced an effort to reduce the regulatory burden, new regulations are being adopted at a rate of 10 a week, Thompson said.
While the intent of many of the regulations is good, Pezonella said they are being implemented at an ever-growing rate, requiring about 40 hours a month now to deal with in his business.
“They make them faster than I can read them,” he said.
Pezonella said he visits Washington, DC, and meets with his elected representatives every year to raise the concerns of excessive regulation, but nothing seems to change.
“I don’t think they have control over some of these departments,” Pezonella said. “I think they call but it doesn’t matter to these guys. They go do their own thing.”