Washington Business Journal
by Jill R. Aitoro, Senior Staff Reporter
The House Small Business Committee will introduce Wednesday three bills that seek to up the influence of small business advocates in government, refine how government defines a small business, and streamline oversight of all programs that partner small businesses with larger mentor companies.
The proposals contribute to a growing flood of measures circulating in Congress to tackle small business issues.
Here’s what each of the three bills seeks to accomplish:
• The Small Business Opportunity Act, sponsored by Small Business Committee members Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and Rep. Kurt Shrader, D-Ore., would require small business advocates within agencies to be part of federal procurement and acquisition planning processes. Specifically, representatives from the offices of small and disadvantaged business utilization as well as procurement center representatives would gain access to acquisition plans before requests for proposal are ready for release. The bill would also refine the responsibilities of these representatives to eliminate overlap.
• The Small Business Protection Act, sponsored by Small Business Committee members Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., and Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., would redefine size standards to better match the type of products and services provided by the contractor, as defined by the North American Industry Classification System.
As an example for why such a change is needed, the Small Business Administration recently recommended that small architectural firms be defined as $4.5 million to $7 million in revenue. However, because the existing categories group architects with engineers, the latter of which often bring in higher revenue, the SBA proposed increasing the standard to $19 million. That size standard would include 97.8 percent of all architecture firms, thereby allowing large businesses to compete as if they were small businesses, according to information provided by a committee staffer.
• The Building Better Business Partnerships Act, sponsored by Small Business Committee members Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., and Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., would allow the SBA to oversee all civilian agency mentor-protégé programs — of which there are 13, according to the committee — to ensure they properly benefit small businesses. It would also expand the mentor-protégé programs to all small businesses, and not just those that that belong to certain small business categories.
These are the latest bills to tackle what some perceive to be shortcomings in the government’s program to ensure contracting opportunities to small businesses. Other bills focused on contracting fraud and unfair insourcing decisions by agencies, as well as failure by agencies to meet small business contracting goals.