Small Business on Capitol Hill (and Beyond)
* The House on Tuesday, by a vote of 402-0, passed the Senate version of H.R. 3678, which extends a moratorium on Internet access taxes for seven years. The House on Oct. 16 had voted to prohibit the taxes for four years, but this week's vote supersedes that.
* The House on Tuesday passed a measure aimed at improving the relationship between small businesses and government contracting. The bill, H.R. 3867, was passed 334-80 and specifically aims to level the contracting playing field for women, minorities and service-disabled veterans.
The measure would implement the Women's Procurement Program and updates the economic criteria for the popular 8(a) loan program for small, disadvantaged businesses. "The last time Congress addressed the 8(a) program was almost 20 years ago when a gallon of gas was 90 cents and the average cost of a home was less than 90,000 dollars," said House Small Business Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.). The legislation would give service disabled veterans priority in contracting opportunities. And it would impose a "business code of conduct" upon contracting participants requiring the federal government to verify that individuals are who they claim to be.
* Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), on Monday held a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee to investigate federal government contracting problems and legislative remedies to help small and minority-owned businesses compete for federal contracts. At the event in Bowie, Md., Cardin's office said a large part of the testimony focused on the issue that many contracts intended for small businesses actually were awarded to large corporations.
* Democratic Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Tom Harkin of Iowa this week pushed congressional appropriators to include an additional $100 million in funding for the Small Business Innovation Research program at the Defense Department. According to a statement from Kerry's office, the House version of the department's spending bill included the funding to increase the use of small, high-tech businesses to help the military develop technologies, diversify the supply base and reduce costs. The Senate and House are negotiating differences in the department's appropriations bill. On Oct. 1, the Senate passed an amendment to extend the SBIR program through 2010 and prevent a shut-down or funding delays when the program expires September 2008.
* The House Committee on Small Business on Thursday held a hearing to examine the impact of the pending free trade agreements with Peru, Panama, Colombia, and South Korea on small companies. On Wednesday, a panel subcommittee looked at competitive bidding for durable medical equipment.
* The Small Business Administration announced a new alliance on Thursday with the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts to train the association's members on SBA programs. This alliance marks the first time SBA has tailored its resources and assistance to owners of small accounting firms, according to the agency. The SBA earlier this month announced an alliance with Operation HOPE to provide entrepreneurial training and business education to budding inner city entrepreneurs.
* The IRS is extending tax return filing and payment deadlines for victims of the Southern California wildfires. Taxpayers in the area declared a disaster by President Bush -- Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties -- will have until Jan. 31, 2008, to file returns, pay taxes and perform other time-sensitive acts. IRS computer systems automatically identify taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and apply automatic filing and payment relief. Affected taxpayers who live or have a business located outside the designated disaster area are required to call the IRS at 1-866-562-5227 to identify themselves as eligible for disaster relief.
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