Straight Talk E-News
Small Biz Straight Talk
News from Ranking Member Sam Graves and Committee Republicans:
• Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) in Government Executive: “GAO finds extensive fraud in disabled veteran-owned small biz program”
• Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) in The Hill: “Lawmakers say broadband grants should be more accessible to small firms”
• Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Committee Member Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) sent a letter to the House Committee on Education and Labor “Small Business Owners Could Be Mandated to Pay Employees H1N1 Sick Leave” Read the letter here.
• Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Members of the House Small Business Committee wrote a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) and Rural Utilities Service (RUS) “Lawmakers Call Upon Agencies to Cut Red Tape on Recovery Act Broadband Expansion Grants for Small Biz” Read the letter here.
• Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) in Broadcasting & Cable: “House Small Business Committee Backs Focus on Broadband Funding For Remote Areas”
• Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL): “Bill to Help Small Business Passes House”
• Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) spoke out on the House Floor about small businesses and jobs.
• Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO): “Takes to House Floor in Support of His Bill to Help Small Business”
• Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) in The Hill: “Innovative bill would temporarily suspend small-business payroll tax”
Must-Reads from the Week:
• Time Magazine: Small Business, Key to Recovery, Is Still Hurting
• Wall Street Journal: Small Businesses Turn to Goldman
• CNN Money: Small biz lending freefall in spotlight
Administration and the SBA:
• Earlier this week, President Obama said he wanted to work towards approving a trade deal with South Korea in 2010. A trade pact with South Korea would represent the largest one since the North American Free Trade Agreement; however, groups such as labor unions and auto manufacturers remain opposed over barriers to U.S. auto exports. The South Korean deal represents one of three remaining pacts signed by former President George W. Bush that has yet to be approved by Congress. The other two trade pacts that remain include Panama and Columbia.
• This week the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the SBA held a small business financing forum with banks and small business owners to discuss the credit crunch and ways to improve access to capital to small business owners. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and SBA Administrator Karen Mills discussed ideas to improve the flow of capital to small businesses. At the forum, small businesses and banks were quick to point out that technical obstacles, such as time consuming paperwork requirements and regulatory hurdles, have slowed the flow of small business loans.
Review of House Activity:
• On Thursday, the House passed H.R. 3961, the Democrats’ Medicare “Doc Fix” by a 243-183 margin. This legislation provides a permanent adjustment to Medicare physician reimbursements. According to the CBO, H.R. 3961 would raise seniors' Medicare premiums by nearly $50 billion over ten years. These premium increases would be on top of the 20 percent increase in Part D prescription drug premiums as a result of the Pelosi health care bill, according to the House Republican Conference.
• On Thursday, the House passed H.R. 2781 by a 292-133 margin. This legislation designates 21.3 miles of the Molalla River in Oregon as “wild and scenic” within the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Conservatives have general concerns over designating lands under the “wild and scenic” system, including land acquisition authority and land use restrictions.
• The House passed five small business related bills this week aimed at improving business conditions for smaller firms. The legislation, all of which were approved by the House earlier this year, would provide loans for doctors in small practices to purchase health information technology; investment capital for targeted industries such as agriculture research and health information technology; expand the SCORE mentoring program for entrepreneurs; require the SBA to collect data on its entrepreneurial development programs; and establish an office within the SBA to specifically assist businesses owned by Native Americans. The bills are:
• On Tuesday, the House Education and Labor Committee conducted a hearing examining legislation that would impose new costly mandates on small business owners. The legislation, H.R. 3991 the Emergency Influenza Containment Act, would require employers with as few as 15 employees to provide five days of paid sick leave per 12 month period to all full or part time workers who are sent home by their employer or directed to stay home by their employer because of contagious illness, such as the H1N1 virus. One witness, Bruce Clark, President and CEO of Capital Associated Industries, Inc., representing the National Association of Manufacturers said “it’s important that Congressional activity not threaten employers' ability to creatively design programs that meet the unique needs and constraints of their workforce. Such requirements applied to the broad, diverse industries that make up our nation's economy negatively impact all employers, especially small businesses, and limit our ability to retain and create new jobs.” The Small Business Committee will continue to monitor this legislation.
• Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) Seeks Co-Signers for Letter to Pelosi Encouraging a Vote on the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement - November 22nd marks the third anniversary of the signing of the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, which levels the playing field and gives the United States the same access to Colombian markets that they currently enjoy to ours. While the agreement was sent to Congress last year, the House of Representatives has not yet voted on legislation to implement this important agreement. With unemployment rates in double digits, signing this agreement will create jobs in the United States without spending more taxpayer money. Please join Congressman Doc Hastings in encouraging Speaker Nancy Pelosi to allow a vote on the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, which will bring billions in new revenue for American families and businesses and create new jobs at a time when our country needs them the most. Please contact Kate Woods at 5-5816 or email@example.com for additional information or if you would like to sign on. The deadline is COB on Friday, November 20th.
Review of Senate Activity:
• On Tuesday, the Senate passed the FY10 Military Construction-VA spending measure by a vote of 100-0. The legislation now heads to conference where differences will be worked out with the House-passed version. The Senate bill provides $133.9 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction and housing. The Military Construction-VA measure is the 9th of 12 spending bills to pass the Senate. The House has completed work on all 12 appropriations bills.
• On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally unveiled his 10-year $848 billion health care bill. The legislation has major differences with the House version, including how taxes, abortion coverage, and a public option are addressed. News reports suggest that there will be a possible vote on Saturday, and 60 votes will be needed to proceed to a floor debate.
• On Thursday, the Senate passed S. 1963, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 by a 98-0 margin. The bill authorizes $3.7 billion to provide monthly stipends and medical benefits to family members who stay home to care for severely injured veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also included in the legislation are provisions that reimburse caregivers for travel expenses and training, improve health services for women veterans and rural areas, and nearly $1 billion for veterans medical facilities.
House Small Business Committee hearing summary this week:
• On Thursday, November 19, the House Small Business Committee held a hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Small Business Administration and its Programs.”
The witnesses at the hearing were: The Honorable Karen Mills, Administrator, United States Small Business Administration (SBA),Washington, DC; and Gregory Kutz, Managing Director, Forensic Audits and Special Investigations, Government Accountability Office (GAO), Washington, DC.
Administrator Mills praised the efforts of the Administration in trying to stimulate economic recovery by providing increased capital to small business owners. Administrator Mills noted an increase in lending since the enactment of the stimulus. The Administrator also noted her commitment to ensuring a transparent use of funds allocated in the stimulus. She also commented that there was no room for fraud or abuse in Small Business Administration programs, including the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) Contracting Program.
Mr. Kutz reported on GAO’s investigation into fraud in the SDVOSB program. He noted that it was a self-certification program without any checks or valid fraud prevention techniques. He recommended that SBA implement changes to ensure that firms ineligible firms no longer receive contracts under the SDVOSB program.
The Chair and Ranking Member promised to take legislative action if fraud in the SDVOSB program was not eliminated forthwith.
View the release here.
Other Small Business News off the Hill:
• The NFIB released its November 2009 Small Business Economic Trends