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Up to 20 million entrepreneurs took their concerns to the polls for November's midterm election. Now that the results are in, both parties say they will work together to create solutions to America's problems. But can the newly appointed Congress bring about the change entrepreneurs are seeking?
Speaking to Entrepreneur shortly after the election, the expected Chair of the House Small Business Committee, Rep. Nydia M. VelÃ¡zquez (D-NY), says yes, and so does her newest partner in the Senate, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). When the Senate reconvenes, Kerry will become chair of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Kerry believes that, with VelÃ¡zquez's help, Congress will be able to accomplish many of their shared goals for small business. "Now, what we pass in the Senate can go to a conference committee, where I believe it can be fairly heard and worked on, and that's a very exciting prospect for us," says Kerry.
Among the issues VelÃ¡zquez wants to tackle are strengthening the SBA, creating a plan to offer affordable health care and simplifying the tax code. "We will proactively develop policies aimed at reducing the cost of capital, encouraging greater small-business participation in the federal marketplace, and most important, reauthorizing the SBA to ensure its programs are fully funded and able to meet the needs of small businesses," she says.
Another top priority on VelÃ¡zquez's agenda: addressing the needs of women entrepreneurs. "Women-owned firms are among the fastest-growing in the nation and are proven job creators," says VelÃ¡zquez. "Unfortunately, many of the programs that enable their sustained success have been cut." She plans to expand the SBA's Microloan Program and implement the Women's Procurement Program, which was signed into law in 2000 by President Clinton but is still not operating.
Entrepreneurs will also be affected by other legislation this year. Presumptive Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has promised to pass a bill that would boost the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour. Some say this would be a defeat for small-business owners, while others say they won't be affected. Lloyd Chapman, president of the American Small Business League, thinks the election results will make it easier for entrepreneurs to compete for federal contracts. And he believes that with advocates like VelÃ¡zquez, there's now hope for the preservation of the SBA.