Executive Vice President- Client Services
Rhode Island Commerce Corporation
Q. Why doesn’t the state have someone like an ombudsman to address issues that are faced by small businesses?
A. Actually, the state does have a Small Business Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is part of the Office of Regulatory Reform, but is housed at the RI Commerce Corporation to better align the role of the Small Business Ombudsman with established goals to strengthen cross-system collaboration with Rhode Island’s business community and state agencies and organizations. The Ombudsman provides customer assistance to help small businesses understand regulatory or permitting requirements and navigate the regulatory environment within the state. Here is an example of what the Ombudsman does: if a business is hindered by a regulatory or permitting problem the ombudsman can facilitate meetings with regulatory entities to help resolve these issues. The Ombudsman has the capacity to work through complex issues in order to improve the efficiency of government and support small business growth and opportunity. If your business may be caught-up in a regulatory or permitting issue, or for more information, call 401-278-9100 and ask to speak with Nancy Scarduzio, Small Business Ombudsman.
Q. I keep hearing about the APA and that the regulations are being re-written. What does that mean for me as a business owner?
A. The Rhode Island Administrative Procedures Act (APA, RIGL §42-35-1, et seq.) governs agency rulemaking, including how state agencies propose and promulgate regulations. Every state rulemaking entity, unless exempt under statute, is subject to the APA.
The purposes of the APA include:
• Keeping the public informed of agency rulemaking activities
• Providing the opportunity for public participation in the development of regulations
• Establishing uniform standards for the conduct of formal rulemaking
• Improving the quality of state regulations
Rhode Island is reorganizing all Executive Branch regulations into a uniform state code. This is the Rhode Island Code of Regulations (RICR) initiative. This code will be available online and supported by an updated web portal in 2018. This project is being led by the Office of the Secretary of State (SOS) and the Office of Regulatory Reform (ORR). Agencies must codify all existing regulations into the RICR by December 31, 2018. During the codification process, agencies will be amending some of their regulations. Businesses can register with the SOS Rules Tracker to stay up to date on regulatory changes.
What this means for business owners, is that regulations will be up-to-date, in a standardized format, and will be easier to navigate to find the regulations of interest or that pertain to your entity. Currently, regulated entities looking to identify which regulations apply to them, and which regulatory actions are being considered, should check the SOS website. This website includes details about how to comment on proposed regulations. For more information, visit the SOS website at http://sos.ri.gov/divisions/open-government/state/rules-and-regulations, or visit the ORR website at http://www.omb.ri.gov/reform/#APA