In the depths of a tech slump, Congress wants to pump up new-product pipelines. A bill from Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Kit Bond (R-MO) would increase five federal agencies set-asides for the Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT) program from 0.15 to 0.5 percent of their R&D budgets by fiscal 2007, upping annual awards from $65 million to $150 million.
SBTT requires the Departments of Defense and Energy, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, and the National Science Foundation to set aside a small portion of their budgets for small companies that partner with nonprofit universities, research organizations and foundations. The Bush administration opposes an increase in the set-aside percentage.
OSHA wants to delay some changes in the way companies record worker injuries and illnesses. The Department of Labor will now seek comment on two proposed modifications to new rules that would have gone into effect in January 2002. First, it suggests criteria for work-related hearing loss not be implemented for one year pending further study of what constitutes a "significant" health condition. Second, DOL wants to delay using the rules' definition of MSD and placing an MSD column on the OSHA log for one year.
In addition, OSHA recently decided that the yardstick proposed for determining hearing loss may not be as reliable as previously thought. The agency is preparing to make a final decision on both issues by year-end.
Stephen Barlas is a freelance business reporter who covers the Washington beat for 15 magazines.