Small business Congress-watch: new laws and your company

Periodically I check in on the good people in our nation’s capital to see what they are up to and what they have been doing lately for (to?) us and our businesses. Our Congress has the ability to impact what we do every day and how we do it. The profitability of our companies, the welfare of our workers, and our ability to run our businesses effectively is directly dependent on their ability to pass law, provide oversight, and set priorities.

There are currently several pieces of legislation proposed or pending in Congress that you should be aware of, which have the potential to affect us in ways small and large – here are 5 currently proposed laws and short summaries for each. Use your own judgement about whether they will have a positive or negative impact and be sure to contact your elected representative to let them know how you feel! (AND be sure to leave a comment here to let us know, too!)

H.R. 585: Small Business Size Standard Flexibility Act of 2011 (Introduced 2/9/2011)
This change to the Small Business Act allows the SBA to change or specify the definition of what constitutes a small business, based on the size of that business. Potential impact: the SBA could adjust the definition such that businesses which are then deemed as too large, could no longer quality for certain programs, such as loans, tax incentives, etc. While this limitation would mean that many businesses would no longer be eligible for these programs, it could also provide savings within the program and limit it to businesses that most need the support.

H.R. 448: Small Business Innovation Enhancement Act of 2011(Introduced 1/26/2011)
This law will increase the SBA budget for awards to business via the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs over the next 5 years. Potential impact: more dollars could flow to small business to pursue research and innovation, but the additional dollars would have a budgetary impact in a time of large deficits.

S. 128/H.R. 1770: Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2011 (Introduced 1/25/2011)
This amendment to the Paperwork Reduction Act specifically disallows the imposition of fines for first-time paperwork violations be small businesses, unless a direct threat of criminal activity or “harm to the public interest” is determined. As long as a business corrects the violation within 6 months of being notified. Potential impact: small business would gain relief from certain fines for errors in their paperwork, but does limit agencies from the rapid enforcement of regulations.

S. 257: Small Business Broadband and Emerging Information Technology Enhancement Act of 2011 (Introduced 2/2/2011)
This law will require the SAB to assign an employee to specifically oversee all programs related to broadband and emerging information technology (BEIT). The SBA will also be required to train SBA employees in BEIT and to assist small businesses in the use of broadband and information technology. Potential impact: small businesses would have much greater support from the Federal Government in the areas of technology and internet access, but with an added layer of bureaucracy within the SBA.

H.R. 1418: Small Business Lending Enhancement Act of 2011 (Introduced 4/7/2011)
This amendment to the Federal Credit Union Act limits the amount an insured credit union could lend to any member company at any given time. Designed to protect the integrity of credit unions, prevent fraudulent lending, and require adequate capital reserves for lending by these institutions. Potential impact: small may find themselves with less access to credit, but would also help ensure sound lending practices.

photo: Erin Kinney