Small business Congress-watch: Some Pending Bills (and Why They Matter)

On occasion, I write about legislation pending in our houses of Congress that has the potential to positively impact your business and mine. It is fascinating to read in the news about some of the ideas and priorities that our elected representatives are pursuing as we speak. Some of these efforts gain a great deal of attention via the media, but most of them are somewhat obscure (unless you’re willing to dig a little) and will never even make it onto our radars.

These often important bills can take years to become law, and many (read “most”) will never survive the legislative process. However, as small business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs, we can hope, we can dream, and most of all, we can call our representatives in Washington to express our opinion and ask that they support our priorities. And… we can VOTE!

Here is a small batch of bills in the current session that will impact small businesses, startups, technology companies and entrepreneurs, and that I believe are worthy of support.

S. 824: Promoting U.S. Jobs Through Exports Act of 2015  (Introduced 3/19/2015)  The Export-Import Bank of the US is designed to support businesses small and large by helping foreign buyers of US-made goods finance their purchases, and this bill seeks to reauthorize EX-IM through 2022 and to strengthen its core mission. EX-IM helps small businesses that manufacture goods for sale overseas to get their products into markets that might be otherwise closed to them, and allows these businesses to compete with their foreign competition on a level playing field. There is controversy surrounding this bill, as the EX-IM bank is under an ideological attack that could kill this 80-year old institution.

S. 177: Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015 (Introduced 1/13/2015) Although this bill is intended primarily to protect consumers, small businesses and startups will benefit as well. We are all vulnerable to data breaches whenever we use a credit card or bank account. Let’s face it – our personal data, as well as our business data, is out there in databases scattered across the globe, and like it or not, bad guys are working hard to break in and steal whatever they can get. Small businesses are susceptible because their resources are limited, and their options few when it comes to protecting the integrity of their data and business information. This bill directs Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to implement regulations to require corporations and other entities that gather data that contains personal information to enact policies to safeguard that information. In addition, the bill will also require that these businesses establish procedures to provide notice if (when!) there is a breach.

H.R. 254: Support Our Startups Act of 2015 (Introduced 1/9/2015) Here is a great piece of legislation, sponsored by (friend of crowdspring!) Representative Mike Honda. The bill is designed to modify the tax code to increase the deduction for start-up expenses for businesses just like yours and mine. In the context of this legislation, startup expenses are defined as “expenses for investigating the creation or acquisition of an active trade or business.” In other words, the money we all spend as we are just starting the process of determining whether our great business idea has the potential to be an actual business. Millions of dollars are spent every year by entrepreneurs in the early stages of creating their businesses, and this money will never be reimbursed to them, nor can they deduct these expenses on their tax returns. Rep. Honda’s bill would allow us to expense those dollars and get them back once our new business is profitable. Sweet.

And, as a special bonus piece of legislation, what could be more important to your startup and your team than this? H.R. 232: Small BREW Act (Introduced 1/8/2015) This bill (AKA the “Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act“) updates the IRS tax code to reduce taxes on beer made by small producers who are under a limit of 6,000,000 barrels per year. This legislation will serve to support the growing main street craft and local beer industries that have become regionally important businesses and that support thousands of jobs in cities across the country. Not to mention, delicious!