The feds: Everybody out of the pool!

AbandonedPoolYou might notice that are not as many “mom and pop” hotels these days. An odd example of why can be found in just one of the regulations that the federal government imposes on a business in the name of the public good. Small businesses in the recreation and hospitality industries are trying to figure out how to pay for a new regulation involving swimming pools and spas that took effect this year.

The federal Department of Justice administers the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark law passed 20 years aimed in part at making sure that disabled people have full access to public facilities. Like all well intended laws, it leaves the details on how it is implemented and enforced to unelected bureaucrats who often do so without regard for the economy and sometimes without any common sense.

A new ADA rule that took effect in January requires businesses with swimming pools and spas, like hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, amusement parks and recreational facilities, to have a lift that can get wheelchair-bound patrons in and out of the water. The law didn’t specify a type of lift, so naturally many small and family-run businesses began considering a temporary version that can be deployed when needed, moved to multiple locations and removed when not needed. Many of these small businesses budgeted for or purchased these portable lifts.

But the Department of Justice ruled arbitrarily that every pool must have a fixed lift, bolted permanently to the edge of the water. The fixed lifts cost many thousands of dollars more than the temporary versions, so it’s a big mandatory expense that, like so many other federal regulations, can’t really be justified. So in addition to the added expense of installing permanent lifts (think north of $10,000 each in most circumstances) those small businesses trying to be proactive are stuck with a bunch of worthless portable lifts that also average about $4,000 apiece. If you are in the market for a used portable pool lift, thanks to the ADA and the DOJ, it’s a buyers market!

A small water park or a motel with two pools will be forced to fork out $20,000 for two permanent lifts when one temporary lift would have achieved the same goal. If the owner fails to comply, he or she risks being sued by the federal Department of Justice, a very scary possibility that could spell the end of the business.

Almost all of these rules are obscure and they don’t get a lot of attention from the media, but they drive up the cost of doing business and in many cases they’re completely unnecessary. The regulatory agencies and unelected-unaccountable bureaucrats are making laws and that’s not the way our system is supposed to work. We’ve seen recently how dangerous it is to give federal bureaucrats too much power and there are thousands of rules like this one that are imposed without any accountability.

Just as Michigan’s Governor and lawmakers are curbing these kinds of regulatory excesses in our state, Michigan’s congressional delegation should push for reforms giving federal bureaucrats less discretion to impose rules that can kill honest businesses.

More information on regulatory overkill can be found HERE.

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About Charles Owens

Charles Owens has been advocating the interests of small business in the Michigan Legislature for over 25 years, beginning with his tenure at the Michigan Institute of Laundering and Dry-cleaning and currently with the National Federation of Independent Business / Michigan. As the State Director of one of Michigan's most respected small business organizations, Owens is responsible for directing the NFIB in its mission to maintain the viability of small business in the face of expanded legislative and regulatory challenges. Owens has been an active participant in the legislative debate over numerous landmark Michigan issues including: the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, inheritance tax, tort liability reform, Unemployment Insurance reform, Workers’ Compensation, and Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Act (MIOSHA) issues. Owens and the NFIB spearheaded the efforts of other small business groups in the fight for fairness and equity for small business in the debate over the repeal and replacement for the Michigan Business Tax. Owens is a 25 year member of the Capitol Club, a dedicated group of association executives committed to the advancement of legislative advocacy for their respective organizations. In 2005 he was elected by his peers to be President of the organization. In 2006, Owens was ranked as number five of the top ten single interest individual lobbyists in Michigan by Inside Michigan Politics. Under his leadership, NFIB was also ranked in the top twenty lobbyist organizations and top ten single interest lobbying organizations by the same publication. Originally a native of Rockford, Illinois, Owens graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelors Degree in Finance and Business Administration. follow on twitter: @OwensNFIB
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