Posts tagged as:

small business

A theme we’ve touched on before in this space. [The Economist]

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Bureaucracy and taxes in Greece strangle a woman’s dream of a baking business before she even gets it properly launched [Despina Antypa, New York Times via Dan Mitchell]:

…as happens so often in Greece, the bureaucrats had other plans. In a country where you are viewed favorably when you spend money but are considered a criminal when you make it, starting a business is a nightmare. The demands are outrageous, and include a requirement that the business pay taxes in advance equal to 50 percent of estimated profit in the first two years. And the taxes are collected even if the business suffers a loss. I needed only 20 square meters for my baking business, but inspectors told me they could not give me permission for less than 150 square meters. I was obliged to have a separate toilet for customers even though I would not have any customers visit. The fire department wanted a security exit in the same place where the municipality demanded a wall be built. … I, like thousands of others trying to start businesses, learned that I would be at the mercy of public employees who interpreted the laws so they could profit themselves.

More: Hans Bader.

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So instead it will require private businesses to invest in security measures. I explain in a new Cato post. In January I noted an unsuccessful bill in the Maryland legislature to require gas station owners to maintain videocamera system.

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Yes! Following an enormous outcry from cheese makers, commentators, and the general public, the agency beats a hasty retreat. Commentator/ Pepperdine lawprof Greg McNeil has the details at Forbes (and his earlier commentary on the legalities of the agency’s action is also informative). Earlier here.

In a classic bureaucratic move, the agency denied it had actually issued a new policy (technically true, if you accept the premise that a policy letter from its chief person in charge of cheese regulation is not the same as a formally adopted new policy) and left itself the discretion to adopt such a policy in future if it wishes (merely declaring itself open to persuasion that wood shelving might prove compatible with the FSMA).

McNeal:

This is also a lesson for people in other regulated industries. When government officials make pronouncements that don’t seem grounded in law or policy, and threaten your livelihood with an enforcement action, you must organize and fight back. While specialized industries may think that nobody cares, the fight over aged cheese proves that people’s voices can be heard…

There is a less optimistic version, however. It happens that a large number of editors, commentators, and others among the chattering classes are both personally interested in the availability of fine cheese and familiar enough with the process by which it is made to be un-cowed by claims of superior agency expertise. That might also be true of a few other issues here and there — cottage food sold at farmer’s markets, artisanal brewing practices — but it’s inevitably not going to be true of hundreds of other issues that arise under the new Food Safety Modernization Act. In a similar way, the outcry against CPSIA, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, rose to a politically effective level only on a selected few issues (publishers and libraries got a fix so that older children’s books would not have to be trashed; youth motorsports eventually obtained an exemption, and so forth) but large numbers of smaller children’s products and specialties whose makers had less of a political voice simply disappeared.

More: Andrew Coulson, Cato, and on the trade aspects, K. William Watson; Chuck Ross, Daily Caller (quoting me at length for which thanks). On the FDA’s new statement: “Typical bureaucratic doublespeak that seems meant to maximize uncertainty for the regulated community” [Eric Bott of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce] “This was the worst possible outcome. It reinforces elites’ view that regulators are reasonable and wise and will fix mistakes.” [@random_eddie] “Pay no attention to the Leviathan behind the cheesecloth” [Scott Lincicome, in an exchange after a writer at Slate observed that "Libertarians aren't the only ones" who might want to keep board-aged cheese legal] (Vox, Reason, Carly Ledbetter/HuffPo; & welcome Instapundit, Alexander Cohen/Atlas Society, Q and O readers)

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In North Carolina, lawmakers seem inclined to favor the big distributors, who as a group are major campaign donors. [NBC Charlotte]

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Licensed to grill

by Walter Olson on September 12, 2013

CBS New York reports breathlessly on underground dinner parties in New York — people invite strangers into their homes! And charge them money! — and quotes an ex-official who says it should be illegal unless they get a restaurant-type license. [CBS New York (auto-plays video ad), Shackford] Radley Balko, on Twitter: “Reporter astonished that New Yorkers invite people into their homes for dinner without notifying the local politburo.” More: J.D. Tuccille.

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When Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011, some (I included) warned that it would lay serious regulatory burdens on small producers and distributors of food, threatening to drive many of them out of markets even when their products posed no actual material risk. Lawmakers gestured toward relief for small producers in an amendment, but apparently “gestured” is the operative word. “Now that those who will be regulated under the Act have had time to review and consider the FDA’s proposed FSMA rules, small farmers …are panicking. And with good reason.” [Baylen Linnekin, Reason, earlier; Daren Bakst, Heritage; "New federal regulations could threaten local farms," Michael Tabor and Nick Maravell, The Gazette (suburban Maryland)]

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Nick Sibilla of the Institute for Justice says the re-regulation plan has some devilish details:

Portions of the current proposal could cripple entrepreneurship. For starters, food trucks that park at an expired meter could face $2,000 fines for a first-time offense. From there on, fines would escalate quickly, reaching $4,000 for the second infraction, $8,000 for the third, and $16,000 onwards. In D.C., this would be a Class 1 infraction, the same legal category as possessing explosives without a license.

Earlier here; more background, NBC Washington.

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Traditional refillable open-spouted vessels and dipping bowls will need to give way to “pre-packaged, factory bottles with a tamper-proof dispensing nozzle and labeling in line with EU industrial standards.” [Bruno Waterfield, Daily Telegraph] In perhaps not unrelated news, a new poll finds Euroskepticism strong in the U.K. [Telegraph]:

When voters are asked the exact question Conservatives want to put to the public in the 2017 referendum, “Do you think that the UK should remain a member of the EU?”, 46 per cent opt to come out, a higher figure than in other recent polls, while just 30 per cent want to stay in.

Update: May 23 (proposal dropped).

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“The FDA has issued two proposed rules to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act enacted in 2011.” [Brian Wolfman, Public Citizen, with details and links; The Packer] “The costs to fruit and vegetable growers for complying with the newly proposed produce safety regulation have been estimated at more than $30,000 annually for large farms and about $13,000 per year for smaller farms.” [The Grower] How much do typical US farm households make in a year, you may wonder? According to U.S. government figures (here and here, for example) a large proportion of smaller family farms make little or no profit, and are instead supported by the off-farm earnings of family members. The 2011 law does provide exemptions for some of the very smallest producers, and the FDA also contemplates delayed implementation of rules for some others.

We followed the issue of small farms/foodmakers and the cost of the new law here, here, here, here, here, here (amendments aimed at lessening some burdens on small producers), and on a predecessor bill, here, here, and here.

“The California Homemade Food Act clears the way for home cooks to make and sell a wide range of products, such as jams and jellies, without the need to invest in commercial kitchen space or comply with zoning and other regulations.” [Christian Science Monitor]

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Kerri Smith came up with a new design for a maternity support pillow and decided to sell it online. Then came the unpleasant surprise: 15 states require “law tags” on pillows and each charges its own fee, ranging from $5 to $720 a year. First year cost of complying with those state laws in order to start taking orders from anywhere in the country: $4,660. And that’s before more states join the 15 that currently exact fees. [Becket Adams, The Blaze/WTAM] As for a pillow intended for the actual baby, don’t even ask.

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Chicago hits a rough patch [Aaron Renn, City Journal] “Cook County is viewed negatively from a litigiousness standpoint,” a statement touched with the quaint understatement for which the insurance business is known [PC 360 on AON, NATO] And here’s a video on how small businesses can face the “Chicagoland shakedown” [via John Cochrane]

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Used and vintage dealers in Adams-Morgan and other in-town Washington, D.C. neighborhoods are aghast at city regulations that would require secondhand dealers “to submit to MPD’s [the Metropolitan Police Department's] pawn unit a detailed list of goods acquired each time they make a purchase. Additionally, MPD wants the stores to hold items for 15 days for police inspection before they can be sold.” Whether or not such regulations make sense as applied to traditional pawnshops, dealers in vintage apparel, records and books say it would make their business uneconomic or drive them to the suburbs. [Prince of Petworth, DCist]

Update: Via Twitter, the D.C. government says after talking with business owners it is proposing to exempt book, record and apparel resellers from having to get a secondhand goods license; they would need only a general business license. It also says the regulations to the contrary are not new but have simply gone unenforced before now (via Alexander Cohen, Business Rights Center).

Food law roundup

by Walter Olson on May 31, 2012

  • Bloomberg’s petty tyranny: NYC plans ban on soft drink sizes bigger than 16 oz. at most eateries, though free refills and sales of multiple cups will still be legal [NBC New York]
  • Will Michigan suppress a heritage-breed pig farm? [PLF] NW bakers cautiously optimistic as state of Washington enacts Cottage Food Act [Seattle Times]
  • Hide your plates: here comes the feds’ mandatory recipe for school lunch [NH Register] School fined $15K for accidental soda [Katherine Mangu-Ward] Opt out of school lunch! [Baylen Linnekin]
  • Losing his breakfast: court tosses New Yorker’s suit claiming that promised free food spread at club fell short [Lowering the Bar, earlier]
  • Amid parent revolt, Massachusetts lawmakers intervene with intent to block school bake-sale ban [Springfield Republican, Boston Herald, Ronald Bailey]
  • Interview on farm and food issues with Joel Salatin [Baylen Linnekin, Reason]
  • “Nutella class action settlement far worse than being reported” [Ted Frank]
  • Under political pressure, candy bar makers phase out some consumer choices [Greg Beato] Hans Bader on dismissal of Happy Meal lawsuit [CEI, earlier]

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Travails of French employers under the Code du Travail — though it’s not as if America doesn’t have plenty of firms that follow the same strategy of keeping head counts below a certain regulatory-trigger threshold. [Business Week]

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I’ve got some comments on an interesting new survey from the Kauffman Foundation/Thumbtack.com. [Cato at Liberty; & welcome Neal Boortz readers]

Related: “When Julia tried to start a small business” [Coyote]

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I’m quoted by Scott Reeder on the regulatory obstacles a Bloomington, Ill. woman faces in trying to start a taxi business. [Reason]

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