If you want to look ahead at the small-business agenda as the new session of Congress gets underway, it helps to look back. Senators and representatives typically launch initiatives or make final pushes for the upcoming year just as the past year's session is drawing to a close.
Certainly, when a senior member of the Committee on Ways & Means drops a bill in September that would increase the minimum wage and offset the impact on small businesses with concessions, small-business groups go on point. Rep. Phil English's (R-PA) bill increases the current minimum wage of $5.15 per hour to $6.50 over three years but exempts companies with less than 10 employees from paying the higher rate. While small-business groups will likely fight such a hike, English tries to make the bill more palatable by including a new home-office deduction and increasing the number of small businesses exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act for three years.
Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, also sent up a legislative flare last year when she introduced a bill to force federal regulatory agencies to produce compliance guides for small businesses. The guides are required under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, but Snowe argues that agencies have used loopholes in that law to thwart the compliance guide requirement.
While the SEC doesn't typically affect a majority of small businesses, it can and has made life difficult for business development companies (BDCs) that invest in small firms, according to Rep. Sue Kelly (R-NY). Because of definitional changes by the Federal Reserve Board-which then apply to SEC rules-the number of small companies in which BDCs can invest has nose-dived. Kelly's bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), would remove that definitional snafu.
Stephen Barlas is a freelance business reporter who covers the Washington beat for 15 magazines.