People, small businesses under gov’t glare deserve to know their rights

Most of our interactions with government are like stopping by the local DOL office to renew your license: pretty mundane, and it’ll probably take longer than you’d like. If you or a business of yours has ever been the subject of an investigation or enforcement action, however, you know how stressful it can be to have a government agency’s attention focused on you.

These actions are often necessary, of course. Some people cheat on their taxes, underreport employee hours, or skirt safety and environmental rules. Often though, people are put through the ringer for what turns out to be little cause.

People in these situations deserve to be informed of their rights. Thanks to TV shows and movies, people who have never had a negative interaction with police know the Miranda warning by heart. When government investigates small business owners, farmers, and the like, they should be informed of their rights and what to expect from the process.

That was the thought of state Rep. Andrew Barkis (R-Olympia). Working with the National Federation of Independent Business, he drafted HB 1352. Barkis calls it a “small business ‘bill of rights.’”

The bill would require agencies that perform audits, inspections, or enforcement actions to develop a fact sheet informing people of their rights under the law. That includes regulatory agencies such as Ecology, Labor & Industries, Agriculture, and Revenue.

It’s a matter of fairness. “It’s tough out there to be a small business, especially when an unexpected audit or inspection happens. Many businesses don’t understand what’s going on when a government agency comes knocking on their door, or what their rights are surrounding these actions,” Barkis said.

The bill sailed through the House this week on a 96-0 vote. It deserves an equally easy passage through the Senate. These situations are already tilted in government’s favor – people deserve to be clearly informed of their rights and protections.
-Rob McKenna

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.