On March 29, 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Act, also known as SBREFA. This law was a major coup for small businesses as it allows them to participate in and have access to the federal regulatory arena.
SBREFA gives small businesses:
- More influence over the development of regulations
- Additional compliance assistance for federal rules
- New mechanisms for addressing enforcement actions by agencies
There are basically five parts to SBREFA:
- regulatory compliance simplification
- regulatory enforcement reforms
- Equal Access to Justice Act amendments
- Regulatory Flexibility Act amendments
- Congressional review
The Small Business Administration (SBA) was directed to establish a Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board in each SBA regional office. Each board, consisting of owners, operators, or officers of small entities, reports to the SBA ombudsman on instances of excessive enforcement actions taken against small businesses.
The act also requires each agency regulating the activities of small entities to establish a policy or program to provide for the reduction and possible waiver of civil penalties for violations of a statutory or regulatory requirement by a small entity. Each agency is then required to report to specified congressional committees concerning the implementation of its program or policy.
SBREFA provides for congressional review of federal agencies’ regulations. Before any rule goes into effect, agencies are required to forward the rule to Congress for review. Major rules — those with a $100 million impact on the economy or a major impact on an industry, government, or consumers, or those affecting competition, productivity, or international trade — cannot go into effect until congressional review is complete. (Congressional review is subject to a presidential veto.) Congress may take up to 60 session days for review and use a variety of mechanisms to delay implementation.