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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, the FAA bill we are considering contains important new changes in both the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, DBE, and the Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, ACDBE, program. While we have made progress, discrimination in airport related business remains pervasive. Both of these programs are critical to our Nation's efforts to level the playing field in airport related contracting.
Over the past couple of years, both in my role on the Commerce Committee and Aviation Subcommittee and in my former role as chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I have received an enormous amount of evidence about the ongoing existence of race and gender discrimination against minority and women owned businesses. Discrimination impacts every aspect of the contracting process, every major industry category and hurts all types of disadvantaged business owners including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and women. Here in the Congress, we have received a great deal of evidence about the discrimination that specifically impacts minority and women owned businesses in the airport business context. In September of 2008 the Committee on Small Business heard testimony from diverse perspectives about the ongoing problem of discrimination in lending and access to capital across the disadvantaged business perspective, including discrimination against minority and women businesses in airport related business issues. In March of 2009, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure conducted an extensive hearing focused on the DBE and ACDBE programs. They heard testimony about discrimination and needed program improvements from the administration, researchers, advocates and minority and women businesses themselves. And the Senate Aviation subcommittee itself received similar testimony and evidence in our May 2009 hearing--including a large number of disparity studies outlining extremely compelling statistical testimony of discrimination in airport related contracting.
The present day effects of past discrimination, and ongoing current discrimination, continue to be barriers to minority and women owned businesses. Even in the context of the highest constitutional scrutiny required by the Supreme Court, this powerful evidence of discrimination makes the maintenance of these programs imperative and constitutional. It also makes all the more important the changes we have proposed to improve the programs--adjusting the personal net worth cap for inflation, prohibiting excessive and discriminatory bonding, and improving certification training. The disturbing fact is, discrimination is still a major impediment to the formation, growth and success of minority and women business owners. That is unacceptable. Race and gender discrimination are bad for minority and women business owners, bad for our economy and morally wrong. With this bill, we are seeking to remedy that wrong in the FAA context.
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