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City Council President Proposes Regulatory Reform To Make Philly More Business-Friendly

by Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- City Council is taking steps to shed a reputation for being anti-business.

A resolution introduced in Council on Thursday would create a Special Committee on Regulatory Review and Reform to streamline business regulations.

"We think this is a good signal to send to the business community, not only in the city, but outside the city of Philadelphia, where people will make the decision to move here," said Council President Darrell Clarke, co-sponsor of the resolution, with Councilman Derek Green.

The move was immediately embraced by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, who worked with Clarke and Green, as well as Commerce Director Harold Epps, on formulating the idea.

"To have our local government make a serious attempt at local regulatory reform, they should be commended," said Chamber president Rob Wonderling.

It is a much different assessment than Wonderling and then-Chamber Chairman, David L. Cohen of Comcast, gave last month, after council passed a measure, aimed at correcting past discrimination, that bars an employer from asking for a job applicant's wage history.

Wonderling and Cohen called the wage history bill "the straw that broke the camel's back," citing half a dozen other laws in recent years that they said the business community considered intrusive, including mandatory sick leave and "ban the box" for ex-offenders on job applications.

None of those laws is likely to come under review. Instead, Clarke says the committee will go through decades worth of statutes and regulations with an eye toward weeding out those deemed unnecessary or onerous.

"There are a lot of bills that aren't even relevant anymore. There are not even those types of functions. But the problem is, when you open a business, you have to go through everything to see if anything may impact your particular business, and we need to eliminate those," said Clarke.

Still, it appears to be a reconciliation, of sorts, between council and the Chamber, with both sides making an effort to understand the other.

"We look forward to working with the council president and Councilman Green in a partnership to at least be as supportive as we possibly can," said Wonderling.

Clarke, meanwhile, conceded that he himself had perhaps been a bit over-enamored of regulation "in my early years in city council."

Clarke says he sponsored a bill, limiting what businesses can sell. He says it was out of concern about pawn shops springing up around Sugar House casino, "but because it was a bill that affected everybody, it was onerous."

He says that will be one of the first ones to go.

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