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Heitkamp: Building better regulations with ND common sense

By Staff | Jun 2, 2017

One of the biggest concerns I hear from North Dakota business owners and workers is about regulations hurting their ability to do their jobs.

Federal regulations help keep lead out of our drinking water, make sure seat belts protect our families, prevent our children’s toys from causing choking hazards, and prevent Americans from consuming unsafe food or drugs. No one wants to go back to an era where there aren’t safety standards.

But the federal government is very big, and there are good programs that can get bogged down in unnecessary red tape, making every day work harder for small business owners, workers, and farmers.

When I crossed the state last summer to talk with farmers about what we need in a strong 2018 Farm Bill, many of them told me they felt as if every time they turned around, more regulations were getting in their way like the Waters of the United States’ murky language that called into question whether every prairie pothole counted as ‘navigable waters’ threatening their ability to plan for the future.

In Dickinson, I heard from a highway contractor who said he was working on an erosion control project designed to deal with steep slopes that cost the state $10,000 even though the roads were completely flat.

In Bismarck, I’ve heard from community banks trying to comply with ‘too-big-to-fail’ rules that make them wonder whether they are too small to succeed.

And in every town across our state, I hear from small business owners concerned that rules intended to help them thrive might end up being the reason they’re forced to shut their doors.

We can do better. I want to make government work better and cut red tape.

It’s because of these stories from North Dakotans that I recently introduced a bipartisan bill with my Republican colleague Senator Rob Portman of Ohio to reform the core of our nation’s regulatory system that hasn’t been updated in about 70 years. Despite gridlock in Congress, our bipartisan bill is moving forward in fact, it just passed through a Senate committee. The next step is a vote in the full Senate.

No one wants to go back to times as recently as when my children were born when it was too dangerous to eat fish from the Great Lakes, or when rivers were lighting on fire, or thick smog covered our major cities. But we can make commonsense reforms that will cut the red tape that can result from a lack of accountability or understanding in Washington. Simply, the federal government needs to do a better job listening to the people across the country, including in North Dakota, who would be most impacted by regulations.

That’s where my bill comes in. My bill would make sure federal agencies are better communicating with the folks regulations would affect as they’re being crafted instead of finding out later whether that regulations will wreak havoc on the ground. It would require agencies to be clear and open about the reasoning for new rules. And by protecting the necessary safeguards that are already in place, it would give businesses and workers peace of mind knowing that the rug won’t be pulled out from under them at any moment.

We can make regulations smarter, more effective, and more practical providing a needed check and balance on Congress and the president no matter who is in the majority or the White House. That’s exactly what our bill aims to do. And we can protect the rules folks in every corner of our state appreciate and depend on and we can don’t need excessive red tape or a lack of accountability to do it.

Because sometimes the best policies come from simple North Dakota common sense.

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