Small Business on Capitol Hill (and Beyond)
Here is the Small Business blog's monthly roundup of legislation, regulation and other government activity affecting small businesses:
Senate Democratic leaders postponed action until next week on the much talked about plan intended to stimulate the nation's economy. The version agreed to by House legislators includes several provisions applauded by the small business community, such as a dollar amount for expensing limits, which would allow small-business owners to immediately write off business purchases. The Senate version also includes language addressing expensing and an increase in the net operating loss carry-back period. The broader House and Senate bills differ significantly and the chambers still must hammer out their differences.
The House and Senate approved a bill, H.R. 4253 to help veterans and military reservists keep their small firms afloat during and after deployment. The measure increases funding for a Small Business Administration office overseeing veterans' issues, among other things. The bill now heads to the president for signature.
The House Small Business Committee held a hearing on the issue of healthcare, or lack thereof. The panel noted that of the 47 million people in the United States who don't have health insurance, more than half live in a household headed by a small business owner or employee. The committee also took a look at the Small Business Innovation and Research program - an initiative Congress created in 1982 but scheduled to be phased out on Sept. 30. The program has used small firms to help federal agencies meet research and development goals.
Earlier in the month, the panel drilled into the U.S. Export-Import Bank, saying that even though the bank has a clear directive to aid small businesses, export opportunities for the nation's entrepreneurs are lagging. The hearing revealed that the main reason that opportunities are lacking for small firms is that the bank has failed to successfully implement a 2006 law. The government's watchdog group, the Government Accountability Office, had a different opinion.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who chairs the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, chided the Bush administration for its latest disaster response framework, saying it falls short by "ignoring the key immediate role that agencies like the Small Business Administration need to play in a time of emergency." He said he's seeking to pass legislation to reform the disaster loan program.
In a Senate small business hearing where SBA chief Steven Preston was the only witness, the administrator was grilled on issues such as increasing opportunities for women entrepreneurs, including in federal contracting. The House held a similar hearing on women's procurement issues.
Preston this month also headlined an event at the National Press Club where he detailed the state of the agency.
By Sharon McLoone |
February 1, 2008; 1:13 PM ET
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