Committee continues review of SBA reauthorization

House legislation that would reauthorize spending by the Small Business Administration for fiscal 2004 and 2005 has been delayed because of concerns about its procurement provisions, according to House Democrats on the Small Business Committee.

The main point of contention is the bill's provisions dealing with contract bundling, according to a committee member. Small businesses can be adversely affected by bundling, which groups several requirements under one contract, when those requirements have previously been provided under separate contracts. The size or scope of bundled contracts is often too large for small businesses to bid on as a prime contractor.

The bill was unanimously passed by the Small Business Committee in October and is under review by the Government Reform Committee. Government Reform asked the House parliamentarian to grant its review, according to a Small Business staff member. Government Reform has since received three extensions on the time it was granted to review the bill, and now has until Jan. 31 according to legislative records.

Government Reform requested the review "because they don't like that we included procurement practices in the legislation," Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., ranking member of the House Small Business Committee, said Dec. 8.

A spokesman for the Government Reform Committee had not responded to a request for comment by press time.

The bill, H.R. 2802, states that: "It is the declared policy of the Congress that each federal agency should comply with congressional intent to foster the participation of small-business concerns as prime contractors, subcontractors and suppliers; structure its contracting requirements to facilitate competition by and among small-business concerns, taking all reasonable steps to eliminate obstacles to their participation; and avoid unnecessary and unjustified bundling of contract requirements that precludes small-business participation in procurements as prime contractors."

The bill also amends the Small Business Act to allow small businesses at least 60 days to bid after a solicitation of offers for a bundled contract is issued by the head of an agency.

"We are asking for more teeth on bundling," Velazquez said. "We are providing a tool through the SBA reauthorization. We need action."

A Small Business Committee staff member said the SBA's programs had been temporarily reauthorized until March 15. The 2004 fiscal year began Oct. 1.

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