ATLANTA -- In a presentation at the Capitol, the state House speaker commanded a new legislative committee to find and cut red tape that hinders small businesses. Hours later, the governor released a report with recommendations for each region of Georgia to become more economically fit.
“I am asking this committee to make a priority this session, drilling down into these problems of overregulation in our state,” Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, told the inaugural meeting of the Small Business Development and Job Creation Committee, a bipartisan group drawn from both the state House and Senate.
The committee posted online an open invitation for business owners to submit online comments or make an appointment to testify at hearings to be scheduled in the next few weeks.
When small businesses run into regulation, “it essentially costs them more” than large businesses because smaller firms lack in-house compliance staff or counsel, testified Kyle Jackson, Georgia director of the National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business lobby.
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Ralston said he sees the small business committee as a sort of “step two” after the Tax Council, a blue-ribbon panel of business and academic experts who in 2010 recommended ways to make the state’s tax code more business-friendly.
The Tax Council was charged with writing recommendations that would be adopted wholesale, but that did not happen.
In fact, due in part to controversial recommendations like a state sales tax on groceries, there was no serious attempt to pass all the recommendations.
Ralston pointed out that some Tax Council ideas are still moving through the Legislature, such as the proposal to remove the state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, mining and agriculture.
As for cutting red tape this year, state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, a member of the committee, said he thinks some bills may be able to move before the state legislative session closes in early spring.
“If there’s low-hanging fruit we can grab now, we will,” he said.
Meanwhile Gov. Nathan Deal released a competitiveness initiative report that says the top thing the midstate can do to make itself ready for economic growth is improve the quality of K-12 education.
The report does not get more specific. It lists the top few recommendations for each region of Georgia as well as for the state as a whole.
The report comes from a panel of commerce, industry and government representatives who held meetings with regional counterparts throughout 2011.
Deal will use the report’s data to shape his economic development strategy.