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. Both Earth Day and National Small Business Week occurred in April, and much of the activity centered on those events.

Legislation

The House approved legislation reauthorizing programs that provide federal support for new technologies emerging from private-sector small businesses. H.R. 5819 reauthorizes through 2010 the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Research programs.

The House Small Business Committee and its subcommittees in hearings last month examined a number of issues, including the effects of the ailing economy, rising gas prices, credit card lending, hiring a diverse workforce, entrepreneurs and their role in stimulating the economy and the inclusion of small firms in federal contracting programs.

It also heard from witnesses about how to maintain public lands for hunting, fishing, ranching and other small business uses. In 2006, more than 87 million Americans spent more than $122 billion on wildlife-related recreation.

Both the House and Senate small business panels held hearings on the impact of the credit crunch on small businesses, centering on the impact of the tightening credit markets.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who chairs a Financial Services subcommittee, announced that she has secured the 100th co-sponsor for her bill, H.R. 5244, introduced in February, that aims to reform major credit card industry abuses and improve consumer protections. She also held a hearing on the matter. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced in mid-March a similar bill, praising similar measures by Maloney and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

The National Small Business Association expressed concern with the Menendez bill, saying that its language requiring credit card companies to verify an applicant's ability to pay -- based on current and expected income -- could hurt small firms and preclude them from using credit cards as a source of funding.

The Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee held a field hearing in Chelsea, Mass., listening to witnesses discuss the "underground economy" and what happens when some firms don't abide by lawful hiring practices.

Administration

President Bush nominated Steven Preston, the head of the Small Business Administration, to oversee the Housing and Urban Development Department. The nomination process is expected to be difficult because of the fragile state of the nation's housing market. Jovita Carranza, the No. 2 at the SBA, is expected to take over for Preston if he is confirmed as HUD chief.

The SBA hosted National Small Business Week in Washington and New York. A list of the winners and more is available here. Next year's celebration of small firms will be May 18 to 22.

The SBA's Office of Advocacy asked the Homeland Security Department to better word its rules on "no match" letters. Those are the letters the department sends to firms who have employees whose data don't match, i.e. their Social Security numbers appear to be incorrect. The SBA office said the department should give more time for small entities to correct discrepancies, among other things. Separately, the office applauded a new bill that would give it a separate line item in the federal budget. The measure is sponsored by Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)

By Sharon McLoone |  May 9, 2008; 10:50 AM ET Policymakers , Regulation Legislation
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