"At the bare minimum, losing a skilled employee is as disruptive as losing a drill press, a robot, or a milling machine." [Not to mention an earring, or a sock in the laundry.]

-- From a consultant's press release touting "socio-technical systems to improve bottom-line performance"

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Tired of Whitewater and the health-care debate? Believe it or not, there are other big issues before Congress, including proposed legislation that might finally provide real regulatory relief for small business. The goal: to put teeth into the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) of 1980. That act required federal agencies to assess the impact of proposed regulation on small business. Unfortunately, it did not include an enforcement mechanism. The new legislation would make up for the omission by creating a whole class of enforcers -- you. Small businesses would be empowered to take regulators to court to demand compliance with the RFA.

"The hope is not that reform will produce an avalanche of litigation," says Todd McCracken, director of government affairs for National Small Business United, "but that the act will produce a lot more interaction between government agencies and groups representing small companies, trade groups in particular."

The National Competitiveness Act (S.4), including an enforcement provision, passed the Senate on March 15th. A separate bill, H.R. 830, is now awaiting action by the House of Representatives, where passage is anything but certain, despite broad support among House members. (It has 250 cosponsors.) The Clinton administration opposes it, as do some members of the House Judiciary Committee, who say they're worried it will clog the courts.

Yet, oddly enough, it may get a boost from the drive for health-care reform. "Members of Congress realize they could end up voting for a health-care plan that's unpopular with businesspeople," says McCracken. "As a result, they're more inclined to think favorably about a whole range of other business issues -- including regulatory relief."

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