Donald Fry: Deadline approaches for businesses to suggest regulations to change or eliminate

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By Donald C. Fry

As the Dec. 17 deadline approaches for a review of regulations by each state agency, business owners and executives still have a chance to suggest to the governor state regulations that should be changed or eliminated.

To suggest a regulation for review, alteration or elimination, click on the following web address: Then Click "Get in Touch" on the menu bar and enter your suggestion in the online form provided.

The state's online feedback site is intended to give business owners and the general public an easy way to tell the governor and state officials about unnecessary regulations and anything else that is on their minds. On Oct. 17, Governor O'Malley issued an executive order asking each state agency to conduct a 60-day review of agency regulations to identify those that should be changed or eliminated in order to help spark job creation in the state.

"Many businesses are required to comply with regulations issued by numerous agencies," the governor stated in his executive order, "and many of these regulations impose burdens that are not justified by present facts and circumstances and do not further the institutional missions of state agencies.”

"Unnecessary and onerous regulations, waste private and public sector resources and jeopardize investments in the state's economy," the executive order states.

The governor and his staff appear to be paying attention to comments posted on the state's suggestion site. Several comments have drawn online responses from the governor and a few agency heads.

So far, the site has generated 352 responses from individuals including homeowners, working mothers, state employees and business owners. The responses touch on dozens of issues, but contain relatively few specific examples of laws or regulations that impede job creation and business development.

A few contain suggestions for adjusting the tax credit for hiring unemployed workers. One suggests that the state should take a look at refining “vague” state Minority Business Enterprise regulations that, according to the writer, cause roadblocks and costly delays on major projects with MBE requirements.

A few respondents contend that Maryland regulations inhibit the creation of home-based businesses.

Lately, dozens of small farm advocates have taken to the site to advocate for regulations to allow the sale of “raw milk” by Maryland farmers and to make it easier for small farmers and organic growers to market and sell their produce in the state.

Other topics that have drawn the most mention among responders include taxes and roads. Tax topics include general comments that they are too high and complaints about tax collection methods, home building and business expansion issues, transfer taxes, and unemployment taxes. Comments about roads run a gamut of issues including needed repairs, congestion, fees, dangerous intersections and speed limits.

What’s generally lacking on the Web feedback site is more substantive and specific comment on state regulatory policies – something business leaders and economic developers cite as a key issue relating to Maryland’s business climate.

During a year-long series of focus groups and feedback sessions conducted in 2010 by the Greater Baltimore Committee, the state’s regulatory policies were top of mind among the more than 50 business leaders and economic development experts who participated.

“Regulatory policies that are streamlined, stable and predictable,” is among eight consensus core pillars for economic growth and job creation developed by participants in the GBC study.

Study participants agreed that regulatory policies should be “reasonable, relevant, free of surprises or redundancy, and considerate of businesses’ sense of urgency.” Business executives complained that the state’s permitting processes are generally slow, cumbersome, and unpredictable.

The mostly anonymous, free-for-all nature of the state’s Regulatory Feedback web site is likely not the preferred, or most comfortable, venue for business owners to deliver specific key messages to the governor about the state’s regulatory climate.

But business owners who want to weigh in with thoughtful online comments, or to simply rant about specific regulations that deserve to be eliminated, have two more weeks to let their feelings be known for consideration as state agencies put together their regulatory review findings for submission to the governor.

However businesses communicate with the governor, this state review offers a chance to be heard that should be embraced. This is a rare opportunity for business to step up and identify regulations and policies that impede economic growth and job creation.

The governor has provided business with this open door. Let's not allow the door to close without properly expressing private-sector concerns about the state's approach to business.

Donald C. Fry is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. He is a regular contributor to Center Maryland.

Recent Center Maryland columns by Donald C. Fry:

Minority and women entrepreneurs provide lessons in seizing opportunity

Aberdeen Proving Ground: Maryland’s newest economic powerhouse

Baltimore region endures recession losses, but drives state’s modest jobs comeback

State web site seeks business feedback on regulations

Job-creation impact of transportation gets lawmakers’ attention

Sluggish growth forecast for Maryland not a recession, but is it ‘okay?’

Mobility: the ultimate jobs issue

Tech jobs are here, more are coming, but can we fill them?

Breaking free of transportation funding limbo in D.C. and Annapolis

The Grand Prix’s lessons

Maryland jobs data show July gains, sobering long-term reality

Quake serves as reminder about transportation

Maryland funding for DBED lags behind competing states

Opportunity for Baltimore looms from Panama
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Donald C. Fry has been the president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), the central Maryland region's most prominent organization of business and civic leaders, since November 2002.

Under Don’s leadership, the GBC is recognized as a knowledgeable and highly credible business voice in the Baltimore region, Annapolis and Washington, D.C. on policy issues and competitive challenges facing Maryland. Its mission is to apply private-sector leadership to strengthening the business climate and quality of life in the region and state.

Fry served as GBC executive vice president from 1999 to 2002. From 1980 to 1999 Fry was engaged in a private law practice in Harford County. During this time he also served in the Maryland General Assembly. He is one of only a handful of legislators to have served on each of the major budget committees of the General Assembly.

Serving in the Senate of Maryland from 1997 to 1998, Fry was a member of the Budget and Taxation Committee. As a member of the House of Delegates from 1991 to 1997 Fry served on the Ways and Means Committee and on the Appropriations Committee.

Fry is a 1979 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law. He earned a B.S. in political science from Frostburg State College.