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Regulatory reform key to Ohio’s future

Most of us have at one time or another been subject to frustrating and time-consuming rules and regulations.

Anyone who has visited a hospital or doctor’s office has probably had to fill out what seems like piles of unnecessary paperwork.

I often hear from residents in the 17th District who are having a difficult time navigating bureaucracy at state agencies to apply for government services, obtain a license or get a question answered.

There is also a laundry list of regulations governing what we do at work, at school, in our cars and even at home.

While not insignificant, the impact of these policies on individual Ohioans is often seen as an inconvenient part of life. In the business world, however, a difficult regulatory environment can be the difference between a company deciding to locate and create jobs in one of Ohio’s communities or take their operations elsewhere.

One of the biggest criticisms of Ohio is its regulatory climate. Many businesses are forced to pay exorbitant and unnecessary fees, report difficulty getting information from state agencies and describe time-consuming and bureaucratic steps that they must take in order to operate in the state.

I heard from one gentleman who wanted to put his small business in Ohio but went to Kentucky instead, because they were able to answer his questions and walk him through the process in a timely manner. Another business owner complained that a state agency was making him re-label ingredients for human food to meet standards set for pet food.

While some regulations are necessary—it is important that we have legitimate health and safety rules—all too often, the process goes awry.

Ohio has a lot of good economic development professionals and caring people in regulatory agencies, but we must work to change the culture of state government to ensure our regulatory policy encourages investment instead of driving businesses and jobs out of the state.

With this in mind, my colleagues and I in the Senate have made regulatory reform a top priority during the 128th General Assembly.

This past summer, the Regulatory Reform Task Force, a bipartisan group of legislators from the House and Senate, held eight public meetings around the state to help identify areas where Ohio can eliminate regulatory barriers that have stifled job creation and slowed economic progress. The Task Force’s recommendations have become the foundation of Senate Bill 3, the Small Business Empowerment Act, which was approved unanimously by the Senate on March 11.

The bill would require state regulatory agencies to evaluate regulations with the future of Ohio’s economy in mind and take steps to eliminate regulatory duplication, make adjustments when the cost of compliance exceeds the benefit of the regulation and ensure fees and fines are consistent with the actual cost of enforcement. Agencies would be required to submit reports to the Department of Development’s Office of Small Business detailing their efforts to meet these goals.

In addition, SB 3 would create a Small Business Regulatory Review Board to provide business owners and other members of the public a forum to voice concerns about regulations, while working with agencies to ensure rules are not overly burdensome. The proposal also works to strengthen customer service standards at state agencies by requiring the Director of the Department of Administrative Services to establish a customer service policy for state employees.

While SB 3 is an important step in the effort to build a more common sense, business-friendly regulatory environment in Ohio, regulatory reform must continue to be a major focus of the General Assembly in the coming months. Our progress in this area will have a key impact on the state’s ability to attract business development, create and retain jobs and grow our economy.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District.He can be reached at Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or by phone at (614) 466-8156.