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William J. Canary is president and CEO of the BCA and Anita L. Archie is senior vice president of intergovernmental affairs, advocacy and communications/legal adviser for the BCA.HOW WILL REGULATION AFFECT BUSINESS?

Business Council of Alabama Shifts From Lobbying to Advocacy

February 2012

By David Zaslawsky

One of the more important pieces of legislation that the Business Council of Alabama is advocating is the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

It’s modeled after the federal Regulatory Flexibility Act from 1980 and the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), which has 4,000-plus members and represents 750,000 people, hopes the bill passes early in the legislative session.

“We are going to be a huge, huge advocate for the Regulatory Flexibility Act,” said William J. Canary, president and CEO of the BCA. He said that bill requires what the regulatory impact will be on businesses as well as local governments (defined as a small government) and governmental agencies.

“No matter how well serving the conceptual application is the question then becomes what is the affect on that business directly in terms of its cost; in terms of the burdens; and in terms of its application,” Canary said.

He actually showed a reporter, using an algebra equation, how the Regulatory Flexibility Act impacts businesses. “For every piece of legislation, small businesses have to invest three things: money, time and resources.” He said that time, money and resources divided by productivity and employment equals outcome.

“What you are trying to do is balance the legislation into this formula to determine an outcome,” Canary said. With the new act, businesses will be able to see the effect legislation will have on money, time and resources and how it will impact productivity and employment.

“By having this Regulatory Flexibility Act in play, it sends a strong message to the government that they too, have to take a purview of this matter because it affects every agency of state government. “We now have an ability to have a review process and that will be critical.”

He said that if legislation is “not done properly, the productivity levels and the employment opportunities become diminished and that’s what we’re fighting against.”

The organization’s role has shifted from lobbying to being in what Canary called “the advocacy business.”

The state’s lawmakers call on the expert advice from BCA staff members, who are sources for health care and tax/fiscal policy as well as many other areas. “They (BCA staff members) are well respected at the Legislature,” said Anita L. Archie, senior vice president of intergovernmental affairs, advocacy and communications/legal adviser for the BCA.

“They know every member of the Legislature and not just the ones who may be in leadership.”

She said when lawmakers have policy questions, they call the BCA and “the staff knows their issues whether it’s on the federal level or the state level,” Archie said.

The BCA is looking forward to working with a pro-business Legislature. “It’s a refreshing experience going to the Statehouse, where you have the doors open and they are willing to listen to our members and the issues that are important to them,” Archie said. “They (lawmakers) actually hear from a member of the BCA that testifies how a piece of legislation will impact them.”

Canary said there was a “paradigm shift” in the Legislature when Republicans gained control in 2010. “The first time in a very, very, very long time for the business community – no one won for showing up and no one lost for showing up. There is a level playing field that exists today that for many (business people) in their lifetime had not existed before.”

The BCA said its top priorities include regulatory relief; supporting tax legislation that is fair and does not single out any group; improving education; changing the definition of small business to 100 or less employees; legal reform; and protecting scrap metal businesses while cracking down on copper theft.

For Canary, it all comes down to “putting the private sector first” and that means an emphasis on existing businesses and education. He pointed out that it is easier and infinitely more sustainable if 5,000 companies each create one job than for one company to create 5,000 jobs.

It all starts with education. “Imagine if we could reduce the dropout rate?” Canary asked. “What type of economic incentive would that have to companies who want to come to our great state to grow?”

The BCA is a fervent supporter of early childhood and pre-K investment because each dollar spent yields a $7 return, according to Canary. He insists that all children in the third grade read at a third-grade level and he advocates having a serious discussion about charter schools.

Archie said that the two-year college system and technical programs offered in K-12 need to work closely together. “You can come out with a two-year degree or just some postsecondary training where you get a job that is highly skilled and you enjoy,” Archie said. “It’s all about expanding the opportunities out there to grow this economy in the State of Alabama.”

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