House Clears 2 Small Business Bills

The House yesterday afternoon passed two small business bills -- one aiming to help small firms gain a larger voice in trade negotiations and the other reforming a loan program administered by the Small Business Administration.

The SBA Trade Programs Act (H.R. 2992) would require the agency's international trade office to develop policies and programs to better enable small businesses to conduct trade with foreign countries. It also would require the office to notify congressional small business committees of pending international alliances and to have a small business trade strategy.

Additionally, the bill would require the SBA office to create counseling services for small firms taking legal action to secure their domestic patents in foreign countries, and to increase the number of trade finance specialists working at SBA export assistance centers. It also would mandate that the SBA develop a system to track the volume of exports produced by small firms and require the agency to fill some positions that have been vacant since 2003, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

"We think the bill is a very important step forward for small business to be better able to have a voice in trade talks," said James Morrison, president of the National Small Business Exporters Association in Washington. His group worked with the House Small Business Committee on the bill's language and Morrison is hopeful that the Senate will pass a similar bill soon. The Senate's small business panel approved a broader bill this year that includes similar trade language.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.), also would increase SBA business loan limits for small and medium-sized exporters participating in export working capital and international trade programs.

Implementation of the bill would cost the government $2 million in 2008 and $19 million from 2008 to 2012, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis.

Meanwhile, the Microloan Amendments and Modernization Act would update a program administered by the SBA to provide loans to startup, newly established or growing small firms. H.R. 3020, sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), would require the SBA administrator to establish a process where a lender would provide some information about a borrower to major credit reporting agencies. It also would remove the requirement that micro loans only be short term, increase the loan amount in certain cases and include disabled entrepreneurs under the program. The CBO estimates that the bill would cost less than $500,000 to implement in fiscal 2008 and $7 million from 2008 to 2012.

By Sharon McLoone |  September 5, 2007; 2:36 PM ET Regulation Legislation
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