Heidi Heitkamp

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., discusses with state business leaders her regulatory reform bill during a roundtable session on Friday in Bismarck.

Leaders of local business groups came away from a roundtable discussion Friday voicing willingness to support a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., on improving the federal regulatory process and to help get the measure through Congress.

The freshman senator touted recent legislation introduced aimed at making federal regulations more palatable for businesses at the Greater North Dakota Chamber office in Bismarck.

"We have to be concerned about the steady creep of regulations” negatively impacting business’ ability to operate, said Heitkamp, adding that the Regulatory Accountability Act would help address such concerns.

Provisions in the legislation would require public input at the beginning of the rulemaking process and stipulate that federal agencies release the information being used to craft rules. This would allow regulations to be built around public input and needs rather than the public responding to a proposed rule already drafted.

Conducting a cost-benefit analysis on proposed regulations would factor in the impact on jobs and the overall risk of not taking action.

“Definitely on the right track. It brings stakeholders together before you do a rule,” said Dan Wogslund, executive director of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association.

Wogslund said the timing of working on such a piece of legislation is important, pointing to Waters of the United States as an example of an unworkable measure for farmers.

“Let’s make them so they’re for the public good, not so onerous so they’re unworkable,” Wogslund said.

Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce President Scott Meske agreed, saying the “regulatory handcuffs” of the federal government were tightened over the past several years and needed to be loosened to allow North Dakota businesses to operate more freely.

Meske said it’ll take local, state and federal representatives from organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce to push the legislation across the finish line and to the president’s desk.

“It goes right down to the local level,” Meske said.

(Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.)

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