As 2012 winds down, the Office of Advocacy continues to build up an impressive number of achievements working with federal agencies and small business owners to bring transparency to the regulatory process. The synergy between our research and regulatory work continues to strengthen both areas; timely and actionable research is the foundation of efficient and sound regulation.
In 2012, Advocacy was pleased to see the introduction of Executive Order 13610, Identifying and Reducing Regulatory Burdens. This built on Executive Orders 13563 and 13609, supporting a structural reporting requirement for regulatory reform and review.
During 2012 we saw the exit of OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein. Before departing Sunstein made clear the need to assess the cumulative impact of regulation, which was part of a wider recognition of the need to assess the regulatory cost-benefit calculus.
This affirmation is particularly relevant as several key statutes will require agencies to issue new implementing regulations. Among these are:
• The Affordable Care Act, with new regulatory proposals issued or forthcoming from the Departments of Health and Human Services (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), Labor, and Treasury (Internal Revenue Service);
• The America Invents Act, which set in motion the Patent and Trademark Office’s overhaul of the patent process, including implementation of the “first-inventor-to-file” patent provision; and
• The Dodd-Frank Act, which created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and added small business review panels to the agency for rulemakings expected to have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. So far, four panels have been convened as part of the agency’s overhaul of consumer lending practices. Advocacy has been a partner on all of these panels.
The widening recognition of Advocacy’s key role was apparent in November, during the American Bar Association’s administrative law conference in Washington. Advocacy staff were facilitators and panelists at four well-attended sessions.
Advocacy understands the role that statistics play in supporting the small business community. This year we updated our most widely used publication, “Frequently Asked Questions about Small Business.” We added informative graphics and doubled the amount of data from previous editions to make it even more helpful. Our Office of Economic Research has replaced its annual small business data set with quarterly data bulletins, again to improve accessibility and timeliness of information.
As part of the recognition that no “one size fits all” small businesses, Advocacy launched our Innovation Initiative. The Innovation Initiative is designed to shed light on concerns and challenges faced by emerging sectors of our economy, among them, key sectors in life sciences, clean energy, advanced manufacturing, nanomaterials, and data mining (big data).
In September, we held a one-day event in Seattle, Washington, highlighting the ways that the public and private sectors can work together in support of innovative small businesses. To better understand the needs of this high-growth sector, Advocacy staff also participated in events held by other organizations which focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. Many issues that disproportionately affect innovative businesses were discussed. Some examples include visas and immigration issues; intellectual property and patents; early stage financing options (crowd funding, micro-finance, venture capital, angel investment); the SBIR/STTR programs; specific licensing procedures, e.g., FDA 510(k); and specific tax policies that affect entrepreneurs, startups, and innovative sectors.
Advocacy’s central role of listening to small business remains a constant. Our regional advocates are essential in providing unfettered access to emerging entrepreneurs and small business owners. As a voice for small business within the federal government, our effectiveness will continue to be measured and driven by how closely we remain in touch with small businesses.
—Dr. Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy