Despite some expected political spade work from congressional Democrats, the so-called "blacklisting" rules canceled by the Bush administration at the end of December are expected to stay dead and buried.
The Federal Acquisition Regulation, imposed by President Clinton in December 2000, allowed federal contracting officers to block a company from obtaining a federal contract based on "any credible evidence" the business had broken any laws. "This rule gave government agents blanket discretion to blacklist federal contractors based on subjective and arbitrary notions of satisfactory compliance with any federal, state or even foreign law," says Randel Johnson, vice president for labor and employee benefits at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Johnson contends that the rule, had the Bush administration allowed it to go into effect, would have hit small businesses especially hard.
While the Bush administration is blocking the imposition of any new pesky federal rules, Congress is trying to make it easier for small businesses to comply with the rules that exist. Following a similar bill passed in the House in March 2001, the Senate recently passed the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2001 (S.1271), which would require the White House Office of Management and Budget to publish a list of compliance assistance resources on the Internet. In addition, each agency would designate one point of contact to act as a liaison between the agency and small businesses.
Stephen Barlas is a freelance business reporter who covers the Washington beat for 15 magazines.