By Pete Kasperowicz
The House on Tuesday afternoon approved the final, Senate-passed version of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, sending the non-controversial bill aimed at helping small companies raise capital to the White House for President Obama's signature.
The bill, H.R. 3606, was approved last week with a single Senate amendment that requires stricter reporting requirements for companies that obtain capital from "crowdfunding," the practice of using the Internet to get many small investments.
While this addition did little harm to the bill's prospects, one House member who has several proposals in the final bill argued Tuesday that the Congress should at some point in the future look to undo the Senate's change.
"The Senate has amended that in such a way that I believe it does great damage to the goal of a much more egalitarian, technologically advanced, using-the-Internet way for people to invest," Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) said. "And I'm hoping I can reach out to my friends here and say, let's fix what the Senate did."
A Democrat, Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes, warned that Congress should be careful not to deregulate too much, a point with which House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) seemed to agree.
"That is a concern, and the Senate addressed those concerns," Bachus said on the floor of the crowdfunding language. "We'll continue to look at crowdfunding. You know, we'll see how this goes."
The bill spent a few weeks bouncing back and forth between the House and Senate, although its fate never seemed to be in doubt, as key House Democrats said they would support the bill, as did the Obama administration. Both Bachus and Himes said the bipartisanship shown as the bill moved through Congress should be celebrated.
"The JOBS Act is proof that Republicans and Democrats can come together and find common ground, work together, and offer legislation that will help small businesses," Bachus said.
"This is important legislation, but the process by which it moved I think is something that we should celebrate," Himes said. "This is a time, of course, when the American people are none too happy with us, but this bill was done collaboratively."
In addition to allowing crowdfunding -- the practice of raising money over the Internet, bundling small amounts from many contributors -- the bill would create a new class of companies labeled as "emerging growth companies" that would receive relaxed rules under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The bill would also end an SEC ban on small-company advertisements to solicit capital; increase the offering threshold from $5 million to $50 million before SEC registration is required; raise the shareholder registration requirement from 500 to 1,000 shareholders; and increase the number of shareholders allowed to invest in community banks from 500 to 2,000.
After approving the first JOBS Act earlier in March by a 390-23 vote, the House approved the final version Tuesday 380-41. The bill had the support of 13 fewer Democrats the second time around, even though it was the same bill except for the Senate amendment. The Senate approved it last week, 73-26.