SBA Advocacy Office Pushes for Greater Autonomy

The Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy is applauding (pdf) new legislation that would give it greater autonomy from its agency parent and codify an executive order requiring all federal agencies to consider the impact on small businesses when crafting regulations.

For about the last 30 years, the advocacy office has acted as an independent advisor to the president and lawmakers on small business issues. However, since 2006 any distinction of the advocate's office was taken out of line-item format in the SBA's budget, according to Office of Advocacy Chief Counsel Thomas Sullivan.

Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who is the top Republican on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) have offered legislation, S. 2902, that would provide a separate appropriations line item for the office in the SBA budget. Supporters of the plan believe that would enable the office to have more independence and accountability.

The measure now awaits action from the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship panel. Similar legislation has been introduced in previous Congresses, but Sullivan said in an interview that the bill's bipartisan support gives it a good chance this time around.

The bill's language says that the purpose of the bill is to ensure that the office has "adequate financial resources to advocate for and on behalf of small business concerns."

Sullivan said the office does have adequate resources and gets a lot of support from SBA Administrator Steven Preston, but the issue is really about transparency. "Right now [the office is] in a large part of the SBA budget, which is called executive direction and the fact that the administrator of the SBA has control over the budget is offensive to the underlying independence of the office."

As for the issue of federal agencies mulling over the impact of their policies on small firms, Sullivan said that any type of political change -- such as the upcoming presidential election -- makes an executive order "suspect for change." Additionally, Sullivan noted, "sometimes independent agencies like the [Federal Communications Commission] don't believe that they fall under the direction of this presidential memorandum."

Sullivan called the two items detailed in the bill "equally as fab," saying they were both important, but for different reasons.

Many small business advocacy groups are pushing for action on the measure.

By Sharon McLoone |  May 20, 2008; 1:39 PM ET Legal Affairs , Policymakers
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It's always good to have an independent govt voice. These guys seem cool.

Posted by: rianne | May 23, 2008 11:30 AM

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