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Assemblyman Says Bill Is Designed to Open Doors for Small Business

YOUR COMPANY / News, Trends and Help for Growing Companies

Q&A: California Office of Small Business Advocate and the state's regulatory process will be restructured under the measure.

September 13, 2000|STEPHEN GREGORY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Businesses might have an easier time dealing with the state bureaucracy soon. Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill Friday that overhauls the California Office of Small Business Advocate and sets up a task force that would help business owners cut through red tape. The author of Assembly Bill 505, Assemblyman Roderick Wright (D-Los Angeles), recently discussed how he expects the legislation to affect small business.

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Q How is the bill intended to improve the operation of the Office of Small Business Advocate?

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A That office is currently part of the state's Trade and Commerce Agency, and the bill would make it part of the governor's office. In its current form, the advocate's office really doesn't have any authority. We want to put somebody in the governor's office who can speak to small-business issues and review all the regulations that are out there. In its current form, the Small Business Advocate doesn't really do much. It's kind of ceremonial. This bill would elevate the kinds of things that office is able to do.

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Q What types of things will the new office be able to do?

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A There will be an ombudsman who will be able to sort through some of the problems that small-business people have and resolve issues and complaints. That person will also begin to look at some of the regulations that are out there to determine what their impact is on small businesses. The other thing is that having the advocate in the governor's office will mean there will be somebody specifically assigned to address those issues at the executive branch of government.

Also, each agency that regulates or interacts with small business will have its own ombudsman to look at possible impediments to how small business operates. We need to sensitize these agencies about those things that they do that are getting in the way. For instance, if I'm a small-business person and I'm trying to deal with the Department of General Services, and there's a hiccup, then there's somebody for me to call. The ombudsman will work out the issue. That person would also be responsible for cutting through red tape for the small-business owner. Other agencies that would have ombudsmen could be Caltrans and the Department of Housing and Community Development or any department that has a contracting function.

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Q Is there a concern that putting the small-business advocate in the governor's office will make the position vulnerable to politics and special interest influence?

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A Well, any decision made by the advocate will probably be political in some form or another, so you'd at least like to have the position at the top, so to speak. You could make it cabinet-level, and that might be done at some point. But for now, at a minimum, we want to put it in a place in the administration where somebody can make things happen. As far as special interests go, I think the position could be a target for them no matter where you put it. Every part of government has potential to be a target for special interests. But the governor has shown concern for small-business issues, and this bill puts the position where I think it can do the most good.

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Q How do you think this bill will alter the regulatory picture in California?

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A First of all, each agency responsible for regulations affecting small business will be required to consider reasonable alternatives to those regulations. Sometimes regulations can be very expensive for both business owners and the agencies themselves. Sometimes whole new regulatory systems have to be created and implemented. I'm not saying do away with regulations, but we need to look at exactly what these regulations are for and see what the best way is to implement them if they are necessary. We need to ask questions like, "Why is this form necessary or why is this process necessary?"

The bill will also create a task force to look at problems small businesses face. Some of the findings of the task force may be translated into legislation to modify or alter some regulations. Many regulations are created outside the legislative process by state agencies. These are the regulations that we need to review, and if we conclude that the regulation is necessary then we don't change it. But at least we've got somebody looking at it to make that determination.

What I hope this bill does over time is reduce and streamline what it is that small businesses have to do to interact with state government. The idea is to put small business on the political radar screen.

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