With each legislative session, businesses hope that our elected officials will understand their plight and work toward creating a more business-friendly environment, especially with the recession, slow recovery and urgent need for more jobs.
Yet, despite the economic realities, bills continue to move forward that increase the cost of doing business, add regulatory burdens and hurt businesses. Most alarming is that a majority of these bills have not studied and do not include the impact of the measure on businesses in Hawaii. They only cover one side of the coin. How sustainable can that possibly be?
In some cases, a measure like House Bill 341 on mandatory paid sick and safe leave, is pared back in review to exempt small businesses. While we are pleased with the exemption as the burden on small businesses would be astronomical, the bill will still negatively affect many businesses in Hawaii that employ 100 or more employees. Therefore, we oppose this measure.
How many businesses statewide would be hurt by this bill and to what degree? We don't know and neither do the elected officials keeping it alive. That data is not included in the bill. It, like numerous others, is moving forward based on incomplete perceptions and assumptions. While business organizations are challenging those, few voices are joining us. In other words, the silent majority is still being silent.
Few opportunities to stop this bill remain, so those who are disturbed by it should contact legislators now to express concerns. However, this is just one bill. Others should have your attention as well.
They question is: What will you do about it? After all, this is our county, our state and our nation, and we need to insert "us" in it.
Some will read this column, agree with the points made and feel something needs to be done, but stop short of taking action - hence, the silent majority.
They may succumb to group dynamics, sure someone else will step up to the plate. However, punting can lead to nothing getting done. There are countless stories where someone cried out for help and no one helped because they thought someone else would. Experts often suggest yelling "fire," which prompts urgent action because people realize that a close fire can burn them. Ahem, Fire!
Still others may not be worried because this particular bill does not apply to their situation or their business is under 100 employees and is now exempt. There is a quote by Martin Niemoller that covers this. Many versions of the quote exist, including different versions by the author himself, with different groups named. It is mentioned here merely to invoke the sentiment it summons. Therefore, the reference is intentionally incomplete, with specific groups purposely unnamed. It goes like this: "They came for_____, but I was not ______, so I remained silent. They came for _______, but I was not _______, so I remained silent . . . (repeat twice more) . . . (Finally) when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out."
Some bills aim to reach all businesses. Others target specific industries. However, bills that injure the business sector negatively impact our economy and community.
It is time for a business-friendly environment for a brighter today and tomorrow. We must stop being silent, unite and hold elected officials accountable for their votes this session. After all, jobs are important to us all, and this is an election year.
* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.