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Everybody Has a Rule They Hate

When Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked businesses for their gripes about government regulations, he received detailed dossiers from some of K Street’s heaviest hitters, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He also got a two-page missive from Captain Steve Papen, who owns Fintastic Fishing Charters in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“Our regulations and outdated regulatory methods are out of control and we need the help of OUR government to make things right,” Papen wrote to Issa’s committee through its website link that encouraged anyone to submit comments. “We are being exploited on every level and we too have the right to make a living doing something we love.”

In an interview Monday with Roll Call, Papen explained that his fishing charter business, which has two employees, is suffering largely because of regulations that have made certain fish such as red snapper and gag grouper off limits for some portion of the year.

“The way things are honestly going, I really, myself, I don’t expect to be in business much longer,” Papen said. “When somebody from Indiana comes into town, it’s hard to tell them we can go out there and fish, but you can’t keep it. You can’t eat it.”

In all, 220 corporations, associations and mom-and-pops like Papen’s gave Issa, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, their wish lists to end what they view as job-killing regulations. Most had at least some complaints with the Environmental Protection Agency. And many took the opportunity to air their grievances with the new financial regulatory structure and the new health care law.

Issa made all the letters public Monday. And in a statement, he said he wanted to work with President Barack Obama to examine regulatory barriers to job creation.

“This project should complement what President Obama has already called on his Administration to do and in concert, lead to a robust and expansive discussion about what the best way forward is to stimulate our economy,” Issa said. “This project is an opportunity for private industry to put forward detailed and specific examples so that both the American people and policymakers can determine for themselves what actions can be taken to create jobs.”

In his own statement, Oversight ranking member  Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said there must be a balance between creating jobs and protecting the American people’s health, welfare and safety.

“Although the majority requested only information regarding the potential costs of regulation — and no information regarding the key benefits to health and safety — we stand ready to work together on a more comprehensive approach in the future,” Cummings said.

The committee most definitely didn’t hear about any benefits of regulations from William Nash, owner of Super Soundproofing in San Marcos, Calif., who like Papen submitted comments in late January through

“I am just aghast at the new ocean wave of regulations,” Nash wrote. “This uncertainty has an impact on my business as I am actually considering downsizing the business to a more manageable size, with less employees and associated risk of regulation violations.”

While Nash doesn’t list specific regulations that are crippling his enterprise, many of the Washington-savvy companies and groups included lengthy attachments complete with charts and graphics.

The American Meat Institute has a major beef with a proposed regulation from a 2008 law governing meat and poultry. Mark Dopp, AMI’s senior vice president and general counsel, wrote that it could cost his industry 100,000 jobs. And if Issa needs proof, the AMI included bar graphs and fact sheets  — complete with pictures of cows — totaling more than 300 pages.

Some went so far as to attach correspondences between industry and the regulatory agencies or internal agency memos. The Composite Panel Association added several pages of an Agriculture Department memo to detail its concerns with a rule related to the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. The particle-board people want Issa’s committee to expand its oversight of the program, which the group says could hurt its industry by limiting supplies of such essential products as sawdust.

The National Automobile Dealers Association included a seven-page report titled “The Regulatory Maze: NADA’s Annual Update on Federal Regulations.”

And most of the groups targeted EPA regulations as a major burden to U.S. business.

Former Rep. Cal Dooley (D-Calif.), who heads the American Chemistry Council, wrote that the “EPA’s economic models and approach to evaluating scientific information are flawed and deserve examination by the committee.” And National Association of Manufacturers President Jay Timmons wrote that his members have grave concerns about the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Manufacturers worry that “states are unprepared for the new permitting requirements, which will cause significant delays,” Timmons added.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America complained about delays in the offshore drilling permit process under the National Environmental Policy Act. “There has been no clarity provided by the Administration on whether there will be any further regulations implemented,” IPAA President Barry Russell added.

For his part, Captain Papen says the regulatory situation is getting “worse and worse and worse every single day.”

When he bought his first boat and started his business, he said, “I figured I’d found the American dream, but apparently not.”

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