House Panel Approves Small Business» Contracting Bills

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Washington, March 5, 2014 | comments
House Panel Approves Small Business» Contracting Bills
By Cristina Marcos and David Michaels, CQ Roll Call

The House «Small Business» Committee on Wednesday advanced seven measures that would facilitate «small business»’ access to federal contracts.

“When «small businesses» compete for these contracts, there’s something that happens: jobs,” said House «Small Business» Committee Chairman Sam Graves, R-Mo.

“Helping small firms secure these opportunities fosters job growth, helps «small businesses»grow into larger ones and creates overall economic prosperity,” said Nydia M. Velazquez of New York, the panel’s ranking Democrat.

Two bills approved by the committee would boost contract procurement for «small businesses» owned by women and veterans.

Velazquez, who sponsored the first bill (HR 2452), which the panel approved by voice vote, said it would help women’s businesses by permitting agencies to award sole-source contracts to female-owned «small businesses» and «small businesses» run by economically disadvantaged women.

“The bill does not create new tools solely for women-owned businesses, but rather allows contracting officers to use existing tools available for other contracts,” Velazquez said.

“Ensuring that they [women-owned businesses] have access to government contracts is essential to their continued growth.”

The anticipated award price of the contracts could not exceed $6.5 million for a manufacturing procurement or $4 million in the case of any other contract opportunities.

The panel also approved, by voice vote, a second bill (HR 2882), as modified by a Graves substitute amendment, that would authorize the «Small Business» Administration to manage the appeals and verification process for veteran-owned «small businesses». The Veterans Affairs Department currently manages the process.

Panel members said the bill would save the federal government money and reduce fraud.

“I personally believe our veterans deserve better, and HR 2882 is a good first step,” Graves said.

The money to pay for the verification process would come from a Veterans Affairs reserve fund instead of congressional appropriations.

The panel rejected, 10-13, a Velazquez amendment that would authorize $15 million each fiscal year for the SBA verification program. Republicans said that allocation would exceed the annual $10 million in the fund’s budget.

Members gave voice vote approval to an amendment offered by Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., that would require the SBA administrator and VA secretary to meet with veterans service organizations to discuss how to increase opportunities for «small businesses» owned by veterans.

Contracting Goals

The panel approved, by voice vote, a bill (HR 4093) that would raise the government’s prime contracting goal from 23 percent to 25 percent. Under the bill, the subcontracting goal would be set at 40 percent instead of the Obama administration’s current aim of 35.9 percent.

“Raising these goals is going to help «small businesses» compete,” said Graves.

Members rejected, 10-12, a Judy Chu, D-Calif., amendment that would raise the government-wide contracting goal for «small businesses» owned by women from five percent to six percent.

Democrats said it would help level women’s competitiveness in the marketplace by awarding them more federal contracts.

“With March as women’s history month, it is the perfect time to recognize the irreplaceable contributions women make to the economy,” said Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.

Republicans said that federal policy should not provide advantages for one specific group over another.

“As chairman of the «Small Business» Committee, I try not to favor one particular group over another,” Graves said.

The panel also rejected, 10-12, an amendment by Yvette D. Clarke, D-N.Y., would raise the contracting goal for small disadvantaged businesses from five percent to eight percent.

«Small Business» Development Centers

The committee also advanced, by voice vote, a bill (HR 4121) that would direct the SBA to expand the use of «Small Business» Development Centers, which provide technical assistance for «small businesses» and entrepreneurs.

It would require the SBA to provide an annual report to the House and Senate «Small Business» Committees on all of the activities of the «small business» development centers.

The measure also would clarify that the SBA administrator could only award grants to establish«Small Business» Development Centers to entities that received such funding prior to Sept. 30, 2014.

It also would allow «Small Business» Development Centers to collect fees or other income from private partnerships and cosponsorships with the administration. It also would allow the centers to market their services.

The panel adopted, by voice vote, a Murphy amendment that would allow «Small Business»Development Centers to provide assistance to «small businesses» outside of their immediate geographic area, during presidentially-declared disasters.

Members also gave voice vote approval to a Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J., amendment that would require «Small Business» Development Centers to provide counseling to unemployed individuals on entrepreneurship and starting a new business.

Data Quality Improvement

Another bill (HR 4094), approved by voice vote, would require the SBA to collaborate with other agencies to create a plan for improving the collection of data regarding consolidated contracts.

The measure also would require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on the effectiveness of the improvement plan. It would require the GAO to begin the study by 2018 and report to the House and Senate «Small Business» Committees within a year.

A Chu amendment, adopted by voice vote, would require the SBA to present the data quality improvement plan to Congress before implementing it.

Reverse Auctions

The committee also gave voice vote approval to a measure (HR 2751) that would prevent the use of reverse auctions for construction services contracts that would be suitable for «small businesses. In such real-time, Internet-based auctions the award goes to the person who offers the lowest bid.

Bill sponsor Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., noted that two Army Corps of Engineers studies have indicated that reverse auctions put the government and contractors at risk while not saving much money.

Another bill (HR 776), approved by voice vote, would increase the guarantee rate, or how much the government will back, on the SBA’s bond program from 70 percent to 90 percent, as amended by substitute amendment offered by Sam Graves, R-Mo.

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