Standing next to a yellow Bulldog Hiway Express semi truck Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Tim Scott was encouraged by what he heard and smelled.
"The sound of a truck is the sound of profit," he said. The slightly unpleasant scent in the North Charleston morning air? The "smell of money," according to Scott.
The freshman Republican congressman is not as tickled by a raft of new federal regulations, such as a new U.S. Department of Transportation rule that could reduce truckers' allowable daily driving hours from 11 to 10. He said the rule proposed in December is unnecessary given the industry's safety record -- a 40 percent decrease in fatalities since 2006 -- and threatens jobs.
"What we're doing is working," Scott said. "I don't understand where their common sense has gone."
Scott spent the morning touring the Charleston area of his coastal district, railing against various business rules emanating from executive branch agencies in Washington, D.C. Aside from the truck stop, his "Regulations Tour" took Scott to an unfinished house in Summerville, a fireplace manufacturer in Mount Pleasant and a seafood wholesaler on Shem Creek.
The scenery changed each hour, as Scott's Lexus SUV traveled the Lowcountry's highways and byways, but the theme was consistent: Washington is over-regulating businesses with unnecessary, ill-conceived and expensive rules and it's choking job creation at a time when the American economy needs a boost.
It's a complaint made by many Republicans, who have taken aim at President Barack Obama, accusing him of stifling business with costly new rules. Obama has approved 4.7 percent fewer new regulations than George W. Bush did at the same point in his term, according to an analysis by Bloomberg News, though the number of significant rules that each cost businesses at least $100 million annually is greater under Obama.
And popular opinion is mixed on the matter, with many Americans calling for greater government oversight of businesses, especially large industries such as energy and finance.
Scott said he is not against all regulation but thinks Obama's agencies have overcorrected after disasters such as the housing crisis and the Gulf oil spill.
"Under the Obama administration, it's been put on steroids," Scott said. New regulations this year have added 60,000 pages to the federal register and cost $70 billion in the past year, he said. That the federal government knows better than business owners is "hogwash," Scott said.
One common allegation between his stops was that proposed regulations or those on the books are based on old or no data or bad science.
Speaking to watermen on the Shem Creek dock, Scott said annual catch limits on fish such as black bass are based on "inconclusive data" and have "nothing to do with protecting our environment."
"Our people want to be set free," he said.
Keith Logan, a North Myrtle Beach fishing charter boat captain, said the moratorium on catching black bass has resulted in the cancellation of more than 50 of his charters this year. Based on "old data and what they call best available science," the catch limits have cost him $27,720, Logan said.
"There's a lot of us in the same boat," he said, referring to his peer group as "endangered species."
Mike Lata, the chef behind the menu at FIG who showed up to the Shem Creek stop on a motorcycle, admitted there has been overfishing and said his restaurant, which focuses on sustainable, local seafood, doesn't want to contribute to that trend. But the regulations have to be up to date, he said.
"We have to rely on good information to make good decisions," Lata said.
Earlier, Scott used the wood frame at 148 Red Bay Lane in The Ponds housing development to criticize homebuilders' and homebuyers' inability to get bank loans because of the more stringent standards enacted after the economic collapse.
"Dodd-Frank stands in the way of finishing this house and many like it," Scott said, suggesting the repeal of the reform bill authored by Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank, both Democrats.
At the Blue Flame Gas Co. office on Shipping Lane in Mount Pleasant, Scott said the U.S. Department of Energy intended to "stretch its long arm into your households" by regulating gas fireplaces the same way it does furnaces.
"That's a scary concept," said Scott, a Blue Flame customer. "But it's reality."
An unfinished house in The Ponds development in Summerville to demonstrate the effect of new regulations that make it more difficult to build and buy homes. Specifically, they restrict banks' ability to offer and continue so-called Acquisition, Development and Construction loans to builders and require potential homebuyers to put more money down and have higher loan-to-value and debt-to-income ratios.
Bulldog Hiway Express in North Charleston to highlight new regulations that would decrease the number of hours a truck driver can drive (11 to 10) and work (14 to 13) in a day. These new rules will not increase safety, Scott said, but will reduce truckdrivers' pay.
Blue Flame Gas Co. in Mount Pleasant to illustrate plans to regulate the energy efficiency of gas fireplaces just like furnaces and other primary sources of heat. Scott argued the fireplaces are more decorative and will become much more expensive if subject to additional regulation.
Geechie Seafood on Shem Creek to talk about annual catch limits that have cut into local watermen's revenues.