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Robert Pittenger wants more voice for small businesses

Rep. Robert Pittenger said Thursday that he is hoping to create an advisory board that will allow small businesses to have input on financial regulations that could negatively affect them.

Pittenger, a first-term Republican whose district includes part of Mecklenburg County, on Thursday afternoon plans to introduce legislation to establish the board, which would advise the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Pittenger will jointly introduce the bill with Rep. Denny Heck, a Democrat from Washington state, according to Pittenger’s office.

The bureau is a federal agency created by Congress in response to the financial crisis. Since its creation, the agency has issued rules designed to strengthen protections for consumers. In January, for example, CFPB rules took effect requiring mortgage lenders to ensure borrowers have the ability to repay.

But small businesses in financial services have no “regular advocate” at the CFPB, “meaning new regulations can be developed without considering how they negatively impact small business owners and employees,” Pittenger’s office says in a press release, an advance copy of which was obtained by the Observer. “Large banks already have the privilege of regular interaction with CFPB decision-makers.”

According to a draft of the legislation, it would require the director of the CFPB to establish the board and appoint its members. The board will be made of at least 12 members who will represent small businesses that provide financial products or services to consumers “primarily for personal, family or household purposes.”

The CFPB already has a process in place to hear the concerns of small businesses. Through meetings of the Small Business Review Panel, the CFPB can gather input from small businesses that are likely to be directly affected by regulations it might issue, according to a fact sheet.

Pittenger’s office points out that the Small Business Review Panel is convened only at the discretion of the CFPB. By contrast, Pittenger's proposed advisory board would be a permanent fixture and meet on a regular basis, his office said. The legislation calls for the board to meet at least twice a year.

“As a former small business owner, I understand the frustration of watching Washington bureaucrats make rules that needlessly and negatively impacted my business,” Pittenger says in the press release. “This common sense, bipartisan legislation will give small business owners a seat at the table.”

A CFPB spokesman said the bureau generally does not comment on proposed or pending legislation.