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Griffith discusses hot topics in city
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Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith (right) talks with Martinsville City Councilman Danny Turner following the congressman’s visit to the New College Institute on Monday. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Small businesses are fed up with the federal government’s red tape, according to Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith.

Griffith, R-Salem, hosted a private roundtable with local business leaders at the New College Institute (NCI) on Monday to learn about businesses’ needs. Republican Dels. Danny Marshall of Danville and Don Merricks of Pittsylvania County also were there.

Afterward, Griffith said he learned that businesses — especially smaller ones — are finding it hard to deal with “regulations upon regulations” because it is costly.

They could use that money instead to grow their businesses and add new jobs, he said.

Larger companies can pay people to make sure their firms comply with regulations but “small companies can’t afford it,” said Griffith.

Because he listened to the executives’ concerns privately, he declined to discuss what they specifically told him. He said, however, that he found out one firm has had to deal with 120 new regulations in the past four years.

An example of red tape, he noted, is businesses having to make sure they do not hire illegal immigrants. He said such people often are able to provide fake documents, and it is hard for businesses to discern the fakes.

Griffith also mentioned overregulation in Medicare. Much of the information that the federal health insurance program collects from people is “going into the file cabinet or onto a computer chip” and is not being used, he said.

Although Medicare keeps so much data, “they can’t tell us (lawmakers) how many fraud investigations” are ongoing at any given time, Griffith said. Cross-referencing data “should ferret out the fraud,” he added.

The solution to the problem of red tape, Griffith said, is that “Congress has to do a better job” of making the contents of laws clear and prohibiting government agencies from collecting information it does not need.

The latter can be achieved if Congress, which ultimately is where federal authority rests, stops giving agencies too much power, he said.

Eventually, maybe enough lawmakers will agree, he said, emphasizing that eliminating red tape “should not be a Republican versus Democrat issue.”

“Things are crazy” in Washington, Griffith told customers at Snow’s Sandwich Shop in Martinsville after he left NCI. “It’s frustrating at times.”

He based those remarks on experiences he has had during his two years in Congress. He previously was in the Virginia House of Delegates and was the majority leader.

At Snow’s, he said that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee, “understands we need to make some changes” in the federal government.

For example, Griffith said, “we can’t continue to spend money we don’t have” to spend, and he thinks Ryan understands that.

On energy, the congressman said the United States has more natural gas and coal than any other nation, and “I think we’re in the top 10 in oil” if the untapped supplies offshore are counted.

He voiced support for allowing offshore domestic oil drilling, saying that “if China can drill in the Gulf of Mexico, why can’t we?”

“We don’t need to ask the Saudis and the Venezuelans for help,” Griffith said. “We can help ourselves (and when we do), our economy will boom.”

The net worth of Canadian families has exceeded that of American families because that nation is using its oil resources, he said.

Chris Mohr, Ameristaff’s president and CEO, told Griffith at Snow’s that it is “safe to say we’ve got a government problem,” not an energy problem. The congressman agreed.

Griffith chided U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s involvement in United Nations gun control efforts, saying the right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Constitution and “is none of their (the U.N.’s) business.”

He also said he does not favor — at least not now — enacting the so-called “fair tax,” a proposal to replace all federal income taxes with a national sales tax. He said he thinks it would “cause us to go into a recession.”

“What in hell do you think we’re in now?” quipped local resident Ed Hunt, who stopped by Snow’s while Griffith was speaking.

Hunt indicated he thinks Griffith should spend less time focused on moral issues and world policy and more time on economic issues.

Also during his Martinsville visit, Griffith said he will help NCI in any way he can, such as by showing support for any federal grants that the institute might try to obtain.

An advocate for the planned Interstate 73, Griffith said he hopes funds can be secured to start construction on its stretch from Roanoke to the North Carolina line, through Henry County, “when the economy gets better.”


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