Small businesses gain ear of local legislators

group1Small businesspeople from all three counties nearly filled the House Small Business Caucus room for a special session sponsored by the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce today. Legislators asked them to give them feedback on legislation that will affect their businesses.

The event was part of the Chamber’s annual Small Business Day in Dover.

After speakers discussed legislation that will have an impact of small businesses in Delaware – from the minimum wage bill to a bill that would require state-funded construction projects be manned partially by locals – state representatives repeatedly asked businesspeople to contact them.

“I am telling you, as a legislator, I am not hearing enough from small businesspeople about bills like these,” Rep. Rick Collins said. “When you first hear about these things, and, especially if you have specific information about these things, I want to hear about it. I encourage you to let us know all you can about the issues.”

Rep. Daniel Short told the crowd their input would make a bill a better product: “That’s what we’re trying to get from you. What’s the best way to advocate for your issue? I’ll tell you the worst way – that is to sign your name on to an email that someone else wrote. Then I know it’s a bogus half-hearted attempt to lobby us. I hit delete, delete, delete, delete. The best way is to write us a hand-written or call downstairs and say, ‘Can Dan come to the phone?”

Short said he has a one-hour ride to Legislative Hall in the morning and one after work, and he answers calls from his pickup truck.

Rep. Mike Ramone told the businesspeople that his job is listening to them and working on their concerns: “If you get a call from a businessperson in your community, a pizza shop that you drive by every day, you don’t want that pizza shop to close,” he said. “I really strongly encourage you to send a personal email. Make it short so then we read the whole thing.”

Rep. Ruth Briggs King pointed out that mass emails don’t allow legislators to respond to individual constituents. She encouraged businesspeople to write a personal email.

Rep. Paul Baumbach recommended individuals find a representative they like and get to know that person: “Find one who works for you. Connect with them in good times, and then, in bad times, they’re going to take the call.”

Legislators explain how businesspeople can use keywords to track bills that pertain to their industries on the state legislature’s website.

Gary Sutch, owner of Tri-State Battery, said he’s been in business for 28 years and he’s never been to a meeting at Legislative Hall. “I should have come to these much sooner,” he said. “Some of these bills affect the profitability of my company.

“For example, this meeting schedule with respect to workmen’s compensation.  Before I came here, I felt like my old representative in this issue was my attorney, at an extremely expensive hourly rate. I would have liked to talk to one of these representatives who might create a bill that would help.”

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