Testimony at “Add the words” Hearing


HOUSE HEARING ON HB 2 “ADD THE WORDS”
JANUARY 26, 2014

This is our perspective from a business point of view and was turned in as written testimony this morning to the committee.

Good Morning Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the committee:

My name is Bob Neugebauer, I’m publisher of the Gem State Patriot, an electronic newsletter with over 25,000 readers in Idaho.

I’m here this morning speaking as a small business owner to tell you that adding the words to the Civil Rights act would be an unwise decision. When you grant certain rights to one group of citizens, it will inevitably lead to an imposition on the rights of others. Adding these words is going to affect many small businesses as we have seen by the legal challenges in other states which have proceeded down this path. These words “sexual orientation and gender identity are not even defined. This leaves the interpretation to the courts, and they will decide how to apply them. Businesses will be challenged in the courts for denial of public accommodation because of their religious beliefs. We have already seen many cases where the courts have used very broad interpretations of the words public accommodation. This change could actually work against the people it is supposedly designed to help.

Businesses will become exposed to lawsuits which could adversely affect them by limiting their ability to hire and fire employees. If a small business owner is suspect of an individual’s sexual orientation, they could choose not to hire them for fear of future lawsuits should they fire that employee for poor performance?

Some business organizations will proclaim that adding these words will show Idaho has come of age as a diverse state, and that this will encourage businesses to come here. Nothing could be farther from the truth. After 40 years as a small business owner dealing with businesses from Boston to L.A. as a financial advisor, I will tell you from experience that out of the hundreds of CEO’s I have had dealings with, not one has ever said they are moving to a location because of its diversity. Fact is that companies don’t like legislative changes like this one that could affect their business. They are looking for stable places without onerous government regulation, places with good infrastructure and access to an educated workforce.

Idaho already is a diverse state whose citizens are some of the most tolerant in the country. Why would you want to add these words and cause more controversy and potential legal complications? You must ask yourselves the question, Is adding the words actually going to make it easier to run a business in Idaho or are we setting ourselves up for an entirely new set of problems.

Small business is the lifeblood of our country. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup recently wrote about the decline of small business in the U.S. “For the first time in 35 years, we have crossed the Rubicon and the number of small business deaths outnumber small business births.” Last year 400,000 businesses were born but 470,000 died.

The number 2 reason given for not starting a business was burdensome government regulations. Every time you rewrite laws that affect business you decrease the chances of new ones being born. Adding the Words is just another burdensome government regulation.

Remember: When Free Enterprise Dies. America Dies.

Thank you for your time.
Sincerely,
Robert H. Neugebauer
Publisher, The Gem State Patriot