The federal government produces hundreds of rules, regulations, and laws every year. Each of them can contain thousands of pages of legal and legislative language that could take days to read, let alone comprehend. Without the help of legal teams and consultants, individuals and small businesses cannot possibly keep up with everything coming out of Washington, D.C.
In order to assist small businesses in understanding regulations and give them suggestions on how to adhere to them, government agencies issue guidance. Guidance is not approved by Congress nor does it go through the federal rulemaking process which allows for public input and legal scrutiny of agency actions. It is not backed up by law nor is enforceable as law. It is, quite simply, a suggestion.
Unfortunately, in past years many regulators have threatened small businesses with fines or criminal penalties for not following guidance. To be clear, I’m not talking about people breaking the law or ignoring federal regulations. I’m talking about small businesses who are following federal regulations but are simply not doing it in the manner certain regulators would prefer – the way their guidance suggested regulations be implemented. Not only do some in the government want to regulate what you do, they want to control how you do it.
That is unacceptable, and quite frankly, it is illegal. Regulators have no legal authority to enforce guidance, and any attempt to do so is an egregious abuse of power. On top of that, with thousands of guidance documents being produced, instead of achieving their intended goal, which is to provide clarity, they are causing even more confusion. Only in Washington, D.C. can a process designed to be helpful end with small businesses being threatened for doing absolutely nothing wrong.
This week I was very proud to have my bill, the Guidance Clarity Act pass the House with unanimous support. This is a simple yet very important bill to mandate that the first page of guidance documents include a plain language statement declaring that guidance is not law and cannot be enforced as law. That means the first thing you will read on a guidance document is: “The contents of this document do not have the force and effect of law and do not, of themselves, bind the public or the agency. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.”
That statement clarifies for citizens and regulators on the ground that guidance is meant to be helpful – a suggestion that can be put in place or completely ignored. It will help regulators do their jobs more efficiently and small businesses, who lack the resources to employ teams of lawyers, continue to create jobs and grow the economy.
I’m well-aware that this isn’t the most exciting topic you’ve read about today, and it mostly likely won’t end up on this evening’s news. But every effort to make government run just a little more efficiently and keep it from unnecessarily interfering with our economy is a win for all of us. In a House of Representatives that can’t agree on anything, it was agreed to by everyone. The U.S. Senate still needs to pass the bill – and I never underestimate their ability to move at a glacial pace – but once they do, we will have succeeded in making the government just a little bit smaller.
CONTACT US: As always, for those of you with Internet access, I encourage you to visit my official website. For those without access to the Internet, I encourage you to call my offices in Jefferson City (573-635-7232) Washington, Mo. (636-239-2276), or Wentzville (636-327-7055) with your questions and concerns. If you want even greater access to what I am working on, please visit my YouTube site, Facebook page, and keep up-to-date with Twitter and Instagram.