The time is now to help businesses with common-sense reforms

We know small businesses are the engine of our economy – in Washington state, and nationally. When state government works in partnership with employers to cut onerous regulations, that’s when we see the greatest returns on job creation and retention. One critical element to ensuring employers can keep their doors open and keep or hire employees, is easing the regulatory environment.

Our locally-owned shops are cornerstones of our communities. They are the names we see on the little league jerseys, sponsors of local school sports and respected community leaders. State government should recognize that every employer strives to be a good citizen in their neighborhoods. That’s why I introduced legislation that would allow state agencies to recognize this fact and provide customer service for employers, instead of an adversarial approach.

House Bill 2603 is a bill I sponsored that basically says if an employer is found out of compliance of a state agency rule or regulation and the violation is not endangering the public or staff, the employer will have two business days to come into compliance without facing a civil or financial penalty.

I hear from employers in my district who consistently tell me the volume of state agency rules and regulations are too much to keep up with. And, they tell me, there are so many overlapping rules and agency functions that they are sometimes out of compliance simply because of the confusion created by too may duplicate regulations.

State government is set up to serve citizens and employers in ways that make our communities safer, but if our hard-working business owners cannot get the benefit of the doubt in minor regulatory infractions, government is often viewed as the enemy. We can change this, and House Bill 2603 would go a long way to ensuring a partnership is forged to help employers follow the rules and state agencies focus on customer service. The bill received a public hearing and was passed out of committee Jan. 29.  Please contact your legislators and encourage them to support the bill.

Another bill I authored last year, House Bill 1617, would narrowly construe the authority given to state agencies by the Legislature for rulemaking, and would prohibit state agencies from adopting rules unless they are specifically granted legislative authority. Another critical change the bill makes would put the burden of proof in state agency sanctions against an employer on the agency. Currently, the burden of proof is on the employer.

Finally, the measure would require proposed state agency rules and regulations to sit through a legislative session before being adopted. This would give legislators ample time to review them.  Unfortunately, even with bipartisan support this proposal did not make it out of committee, but I will continue to pursue this kind of common-sense regulatory reform.

In this economy, I believe the state should do all it can to help small businesses be successful. Part of meeting this goal is easing some of the regulatory stress on employers so they can spend their time and energy creating jobs, keeping people gainfully employed in good-paying jobs and innovating for the jobs of the future.

State government works for us, not the other way around. It’s time actions are taken to ensure small businesses are given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to dealing with the thousands of state agency rules and regulations. It’s only fair – and it’s the right time to do the right thing by our hard-working business men and women.

Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, is the lead Republican on the House Community and Economic Development and Trade Committee. She can be reached at (360) 786-7884 or

State Representative Norma Smith, 10th Legislative District
435 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7884 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000