By Keith Gushard
It was a simple message from western Pennsylvania small business owners to Congressman Mike Kelly — over-regulation by government at both the state and federal levels hampers and even harms economic activity.
Kelly, a Republican from Butler whose district includes almost all of Crawford County, was in Meadville Friday for a small business owner roundtable with the National Federation of Independent Business. Owners or management from a dozen small businesses from throughout Pennsylvania’s Third Congressional District met with Kelly at Meadville’s Channellock Inc.
Mike DeVoge, owner of Conneaut Lake Navigation Co., said he had to spend almost $50,000 on a storm water management plan for the state when he built a 300 foot by 60 foot boat storage building in farm field. The cost included a storm water study and implementation plan, necessitating building a storm water retention pond for the building and drainage.
“It was a total waste of money,” DeVoge said. “Nobody cares where the water goes. It’s in a farm field.”
Another example DeVoge cited was gasoline containing ethanol, noting it fouls marine engines — putting water in gas tanks and carburetors.
DeVoge said he sells ethanol-free gasoline at his marina, but it costs more and federal regulations restrict the amount of ethanol-free gas refiners may produce.
“More and more people find out it’s good for the boats, they want it so the higher the demand is, but the higher the price,” DeVoge said. “Government needs to get out of our lives.”
Kelly agreed regulations can be overdone and add burdens to business in terms of both time and cost.
Kelly said he like to see periodic reviews when it comes to regulations, so the regulations — no matter what they are — are checked for effectiveness.
“Is it doing what it was supposed to?,” Kelly said. “Is it still within a cost containment you expected or is it not doing the job at all? If that’s the case, we ought to be able to fix it.”
The congressman said there needs to be some oversight of the nation’s various industries, but there should be sunset provisions within regulations so after a few years a law either expires, is renewed or modified.
“It’s the same thing we do with our own personal lives,” Kelly said. “We make determination on things. If they’re not working we don’t continue to do them.”
Kelly said it’s hard not only for business owners, but the general public to understand changes in the nation’s health care system when regulations under the Affordable Care Act still are being written, changed or delayed.
“It’s the not knowing that keeps us on the edge,” Kelly said. “People are not getting what they were promised — that it was easy access and affordable. It’s just not working out.”
Kelly said he thinks the Affordable Care Act can be reformed and refined into more manageable changes.
He said Republicans have put together proposed changes to the health care law — the American Health Care Reform Act — to make it more affordable and accessible. Kelly, who is a co-sponsor of the Act, said he is willing to work with all sides to implement changes.
Among the provisions of the reform act are: increased competition by allowing the purchase of health insurance across state lines; creating association health plans so small businesses may pool together to get buying power like large corporations; medical malpractice reform by capping non-economic damages and limiting attorney fees; improving insurance portability protection for those with pre-existing conditions.
“It’s what’s best for the people we represent,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a Republican idea. It can be a Democrat idea. That’s fine with me as long as at the end of the day, for the 705,687 people I represent, that we’re acting in their best interest.”
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.