Each year, bills pass out of the Legislature that have negative ramifications for businesses, but this past legislative session there were a few extremely harmful bills, with some that would put businesses out of business. While we do not understand why they moved forward, they did; and the culprit most often pointed to is that legislators "did not realize the ramifications."
In other words, they did not know what they did not know. This is understandable; it happens to us all. However, not all of us enact laws. Those that do should be required to do due diligence to save taxpayers time and money, avoid unintended consequences and help businesses, not hurt them.
So, how do we help legislators get needed information so that bad bills do not pass? It is a question we continue to ask.
At the beginning of each legislative session, we walk around the state Capitol with chambers from across the state, visiting the office of every senator and representative to let them know we (the Maui Chamber and collective chambers) are here to help. We specifically ask lawmakers to call us if they have questions about how a bill might affect businesses, if they want to hear how the business sector feels about a particular bill, if they need us to poll members for information, etc. Unfortunately, in the throes of reviewing thousands of bills, few such calls are made, causing legislators to make decisions in the absence of useful and necessary information.
Therefore, we feel the key is to get needed information to legislators as bills are being drafted. The problem is that we and the public do not generally see the bills until they are already written and introduced. This could be fixed by strong partnerships with all legislators who are willing to work with and include us when drafting bills. Unfortunately, not all legislators agree with business sector positions.
Therefore, while strengthening our relationships and further educating legislators on our positions, it is important to have a Plan 'B' and we do, a Business Impact Statement.
We have been asking legislators for two years to include a BIS when drafting legislation to promote more balanced bills and to eliminate the potential harm a bill may cause to businesses and the economy, and now we have a great model.
California requires an Economic And Fiscal Impact Statement in rule making. This four-page document addresses what should be done in Hawaii as well. It starts:
A. Estimated Private Sector Cost Impacts (Include calculations and assumptions in the rule-making record.)
1. Check the appropriate box(es) below to indicate whether this regulation:
a. Impacts businesses and/or employees.
b. Impacts small businesses.
c. Impacts jobs or occupations.
d. Impacts California competitiveness.
e. Imposes reporting requirements.
f. Imposes prescriptive instead of performance.
g. Impacts individuals.
h. None of the above (Explain below. Complete the Fiscal Impact Statement as appropriate).
(If any box in items 1 a through g is checked, complete this Economic Impact Statement.)
2. Enter the total number of businesses impacted, describe the types of businesses (include nonprofits). Enter the number or percentage of total businesses impacted that are small businesses.
3. Enter the number of businesses that will be created or eliminated. Explain.
These are just the first three items on page one. However, California's entire process is beneficial and should be required in Hawaii. Too much is at stake to risk harming businesses and the economy. Ask lawmakers to perform a Business Impact Statement before passing new laws and vote for those who support businesses and agree with incorporating such a measure.
Mahalo for your support.
* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.