Martha Roby: Web of regulations can ensnare business, cost jobs

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This past week I met with the National Federation of Independent Business’s (NFIB) Alabama Leadership Council in Montgomery. As you probably know, the NFIB is a member organization made up of small and independent businesses, and this particular group represents small business operators from all across Alabama.

I’m proud to support homegrown Alabama businesses and the jobs they sustain. Small businesses employ as many as 50 percent of all private sector employees. Yet, talk to just about any business owner and they’ll tell you how difficult it can be to operate in today’s regulatory environment.  That’s especially true for small and medium-sized businesses that lack the resources it takes to put toward compliance.

You may remember President Obama announcing how he would use his “pen” to sign executive orders mandating policies he could not successfully pass through Congress. The most high profile of these was his order seeking to offer de facto amnesty to certain classes of illegal immigrants, which is currently being challenged as unconstitutional in federal court. However, many lesser known rules and regulations put forward by agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor could have a much more significant effect on the private sector. A recent study by the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University found 392 “major” regulations have been issued during the Obama presidency so far. And, according to the Wall Street Journal, the Administration is now “racing to make final a flurry of regulations affecting broad swaths of the economy” before the term is finished.

I strongly oppose this kind of “backdoor legislating,” in which government agencies decide single-handedly to impose new, aggressive regulations. The U.S. Constitution separated the powers of government among the three branches and set up a system of checks and balances. Our laws have legitimacy because they are passed by representatives elected by and accountable to the people. That system is undermined when this fourth branch” of unelected bureaucrats in federal agencies is allowed to unilaterally impose major, binding regulations with impunity.

President Obama is certainly not the first president to expand the reach of the Executive Branch by imposing rules and regulations. However, he has been notably more aggressive than most, and that should continue down the final stretch of his presidency.

Congress has a responsibility to fight back against Executive Branch overreach, whether through exposing potentially harmful regulations, passing legislation to set strict limits or using the “power of the purse” to rein in agencies. I also believe the Judicial Branch must step in and reaffirm the separation of powers.

Listening directly to the concerns of those who operate businesses affords me a better understanding of just what they deal with on a daily basis from federal regulators. I will continue to work on their behalf in Congress to expose and fight against unnecessary regulations that hinder their ability to create and sustain jobs.

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Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband, Riley, and their two children.

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