One of the first bills dropped into the hopper as the Georgia Senate got down to work last week promises to boost the state’s small businesses by simplifying or eliminating many of the costly hassles associated with obtaining business licenses and permits and creating a more efficient and transparent system.
Senate Bill 2, dubbed “The FAST Act” for Fairness, Accountability, Simplification and Transparency, is a big step in the right direction, said Nathan Humphrey, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Georgia’s leading small-business association.
“One of the hidden costs of running a small business, or any business, for that matter, is the time and effort it takes to fill out government forms and applications and wait on approvals,” Humphrey said. “The FAST Act would address this problem by simplifying the regulatory process and creative incentives for local governments to issue business licenses and permits in a timely manner.”
Introduced by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Sen. Mike Dugan, chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee, SB 2 would require state and local agencies that issue licenses or permits to establish a fee schedule that includes turnaround times.
If an agency is late in issuing a license or permit, the fee would be reduced 10 percent for every 10 days the agency is late.
In addition, agencies will be required to offer expedited processing for a rush service charge, which can be no more than twice the original fee.
“We are creating more opportunities for entrepreneurs by removing the barriers to entry for both new and existing businesses,” Cagle said.
“Government cannot create jobs but it can create an environment that fosters job creation and innovation. The Senate is committed to working with our state agencies to simplify administrative processes within small businesses so that they can do what they do best: create jobs and drive economic growth throughout Georgia.”
“Nearly half of our citizens are employed by small businesses–many of these are often held back by redundant government bureaucracies. I’m proud of the work we have done on the FAST Act as we continue to look at avenues to remove pointless constraints for our greatest drivers of job creation.”
SB 2 also would create a Building and Infrastructure Transparency Score, or BITS, to rank and compare each agency’s permitting process. Humphrey said.
Locally, the proposed bill was greeted with enthusiasm.
“Nearly 80 percent of Savannah’s businesses are small businesses,” said Bill Hubbard, President and CEO of the Savannah Area Chamber.
“One of the biggest and most expensive challenges our small businesses face is complying with the intricate web of government regulations and reporting rules involved in starting or operating an enterprise.
“Anything that streamlines or simplifies the process can only encourage entrepreneurs and other small businesses and help them to thrive.”
Trip Tollison, President and CEO of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, said the proposed bill should be welcomed across the state.
“Solid measures that can provide more efficiencies to these kind of permitting processes should be welcomed, not just by the Savannah region but in all of Georgia,” he said.
“We want to remain the best state in the nation to do business and this proposal helps us remain competitive.”
Humphrey said passage of SB 2 would be a huge boost for those operating small businesses and anyone contemplating starting a new operation.
“Small business really is the engine that drives Georgia’s economy,” he said. “The FAST Act would go a long way toward removing many of the obstacles that make it difficult for small, family-run businesses to expand and create jobs.
“Our members are ready to testify on the need for common-sense reforms like these that would make Georgia a better place to do business.”
With offices in Washington, D.C. and all 50 state capitals, the National Federation of Independent Businesses is one of the nation’s leading small business associations. Founded in 1943 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, NFIB gives small and independent business owners a voice in shaping the public policy issues that affect their business. NFIB’s network of grassroots activists sends their views directly to state and federal lawmakers through a unique member-only ballot, thus playing a critical role in supporting America’s free enterprise system. NFIB’s mission is to promote and protect the right of its members to own, operate and grow their businesses.
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