Capitol Hill Grab Bag

There's been a handful of interesting developments on Capitol Hill during the last couple of weeks that could affect small businesses. It's a mixed bag - some of the issues affect small businesses in general and some may affect just a portion, but I pass them along in case they could affect you.

Two senators introduced the Healthy Workforce Act earlier this month that includes tax breaks for small businesses that promote wellness programs. Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) say workers spend more than a third of their day on the job, making employers in a unique position to promote the health and safety of their employees.

The bill would offer a tax credit of up to $200 per employee for the first 200 employees of a business, and then up to $100 per employee thereafter to businesses that offer comprehensive programs. S1753 defines a "qualified wellness program" as one that is certified by the Health and Human Services secretary and addresses health awareness and education, behavioral change and a supportive environment. The tax credit would end after 2017. The bill has been sent to the Senate Finance Committee for action. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a lobbying group representing businesses of all sizes, sent a letter to the senators supporting the measure.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who chairs the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, last week attached an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations measure that would make the Transportation Security Administration accountable to federal contracting laws. The agency was exempt from doing so in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Kerry's amendment would mandate that the TSA follow the regular government-wide contracting goals that say at least 23 percent of federal contracts go to small businesses. Kerry introduced a similar change to Homeland Security's spending bill, but lawmakers stripped the language from the bill.

The House Small Business Committee held a hearing last Wednesday on small, local medical laboratories and whether they would be impacted by a new Medicare and Medicaid proposal. There are about 5,000 of these community labs across the nation. In the current market, small labs have carved out a niche by providing high quality service and serving vulnerable populations like nursing homes, according to the committee. The bidding process may threaten the current system with a pricing structure that favors the large labs that already control 70 percent of the market because the proposal would allow larger firms to bid at a lower rate. "In the end, it is the communities that these labs serve that will be forced to carry the burden of the flawed process," according to a committee statement.

By Sharon McLoone |  July 31, 2007; 9:30 AM ET Regulation Legislation
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