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Accused of being anti-business, Council looks to deregulate

Following complaints that City Council has passed too much anti-business legislation, Council President Darrell L. Clarke on Thursday announced plans to rid the city's regulator laws of archaic, conflicting, and confusing codes.

Clarke said some of those regulations were passed with good intentions but must be scrutinized.

"When you look at the code, there are a number of things that you actually in most cases have to pay a lawyer to go through," he said. "It is somewhat ridiculous."

Mayor Kenney endorsed the effort. His spokesman, Mike Dunn, said in a statement that the administration was focused on finding "ways to make this government more effective and efficient."

The move comes a month after the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia issued a news release listing nearly a dozen of what it described as "restrictive, anti-job growth measures" passed by Council since 2011.

Most recent was a bill that sought to ban employers from asking a job a applicant's salary history, with the goal of closing wage gaps. The legislation riled the chamber and Comcast Corp. After it passed, a lawyer hired by Comcast sent a memo to the city arguing it was unconstitutional and threatening to sue if Kenney signed it into law.

The chamber said that legislation and others passed by Council had fostered a climate that dissuades new businesses from locating in Philadelphia and pushes current businesses into the suburbs.

Rob Wonderling, president and CEO of the chamber, on Thursday called Clarke's decision to dig into the city's regulations "welcome news."

"This is a really strong step forward in ensuring that there's a stronger partnership between the employer community and City Council," he said.

Clarke pointed to a series of laws he sponsored as a younger councilman meant to address concerns regarding pawn shops. He said that in hindsight, the regulations were too broad.

He did not, however, signal a willingness to reopen discussion on the regulations the chamber listed as hurting job growth, including laws that mandate that employers offer paid sick leave, ban them from asking an applicant's criminal history until after the first interview, and impose a $12-per-hour minimum wage for city contractors and subcontractors.

"There are in fact some things that should come off the books," Clarke said. "But there are some things that clearly need to stay on the books."