Businesses air grievances about regulations at House hearing
WASHINGTON — Businesses complained yesterday about costly government rules at a forum provided by Republicans eager to slash regulations. Democrats protested that GOP lawmakers only wanted to hear about the burdens of regulation, not the benefits to public health and worker safety.
Witnesses at a House hearing complained about regulations on endangered species, excessive paperwork, antipollution standards, and much more. Red tape was blamed for denying water to drought-stricken fields, for costing a contractor $10,000 for an unneeded lead inspection, and for complicating student loans to minorities.
The Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing was part of a Republican push to eliminate or modify rules that harm profits. Republicans also scheduled more than nine hours of House debate on directing 10 committee chairmen to inventory rules that hurt job creation. The chairmen are already under orders to perform the review.
Committee chairman Darrell Issa, Republican of California, has complained that President Obama’s stimulus program wasted billions of dollars and did not produce enough jobs.
Some of the most dramatic testimony came when top committee Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland read the testimony of miner Stanley Stewart, who worked at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia and was underground when an explosion killed 29 miners.
His conclusion: “Coal companies today are making large amounts of profit. It would be absurd to weaken the mine regulations and the enforcement capabilities of state and federal mine inspectors unless Congress and large corporations don’t mind seeing more tragedies.’’
Jack Buschur, president of Buschur Electric in Minster, Ohio, said his firm is down to 18 employees from 30 in 2009 and blamed government requirements.
Buschur said an inspector stopped a job, made two employees put on protective suits and go through two hours of training on lead dust. He said the stoppage cost the general contractor $10,000, while the contractor later learned the inspector was wrong: The lead dust levels were so low that the workers did not require training.
Harry Alford, head of the Black Chamber of Commerce, said regulators were unfairly targeting minority students in proposing regulations to hold for-profit colleges accountable for loans to students who cannot repay them. Representative John Tierney, Democrat of Massachusetts, countered that the crackdown was aimed at protecting students who had “big debt and no job.’’
Michael Fredrich, president of MCM Composites in Manitowoc, Wis., said his firm is getting crushed by a paperwork imposed by the health care overhaul law. It requires employers to report tax information about their vendors.
Fredrich said his company, which makes plastics, has 375 vendors. He said it took three hours to assemble the tax information and type just 11 forms.