House committees agree on small-biz changes

Controversy lingers over recertification

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, (D-N.Y.), ranking Democratic member of the Small Business Committee

The House Government Reform and Small Business committees have negotiated changes to several procurement provisions of legislation that reauthorizes the Small Business Administration, said Government Reform Chairman Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.).

However, the bill's language, which could change how often businesses must prove to the government that they are still small, is still not final, and a full House vote has not been scheduled. Several other committees need to review the bill before a full House vote, said Rich Carter, spokesman for the House Small Business Committee.

The bill, H.R. 2802, reauthorizes spending for the SBA in fiscal 2004, which began in October 2003, and fiscal 2005. It was unanimously passed by the Small Business Committee in October and then referred to the Government Reform Committee, which was granted several extensions to continue reviewing the bill's procurement policy provisions.

John Brosnan, acting procurement counsel for the Government Reform Committee, said the committee objected to several provisions in the original bill, including one that would have reserved all acquisitions under $1 million for small businesses, up from $100,000. Such a provision would be devastating to competition for government contracts, he said.

Meanwhile, House Democrats are concerned because the compromise language has not been disclosed to them, said Wendy Belzer, spokeswoman for the Democrats on the Small Business Committee. Bipartisan discussions about it have not been held in at least six months, she said.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), ranking Democratic member of the Small Business Committee, said she fears that the bill is being whittled away.

"By the time it gets to the floor, all the most helpful provisions to ensure that small businesses in the federal marketplace are on equal ground with their large counterparts will be gone," Velazquez said.

Brosnan said the Government Reform Committee also objected to the original bill's proposal to give small businesses at least 60 days to bid after an agency solicits for a bundled contract. Other vendors would get 30 days. The committee objected to the unequal time frames, Brosnan said.

Brosnan said the committee also was more comfortable with small businesses being recertified as small every five years as opposed to annually, which the administration has proposed. The original bill included the five-year time frame.

"We've gotten together with the Small Business staff, and have reached an agreement that we're comfortable with and they are comfortable with," Brosnan said.

Staff Writer Gail Repsher Emery can be reached at gemery@postnewsweektech.com.

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