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Expressing Sense of the House that American Small Businesses and Entitled to a Small Business Bill of Rights

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BARROW. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of today's Small Business Bill of Rights, but I feel it necessary to address the concerns of the one small business community whose concerns are not addressed in this resolution, America's minority-owned businesses. This is not a small part of the small business marketplace. It is not a niche market, though this resolution treats the minority small business market as though it were a niche market.

Despite the fact that nearly one-third of America's population consists of minorities, these individuals own only 15 percent of America's small businesses.

Earlier this month, the gentlewoman from Wisconsin (Ms. Moore) and I attempted to offer an amendment to address this disproportion. Our amendment was simply a call for modernizing and streamlining the eligibility criteria of the Small Business Administration's 8(a) program so that minority-owned small businesses had substantially the same eligibility criteria that we use to serve the rest of the small business community.

The 8(a) program was created nearly 40 years ago, and it is the major business development program that this government offers to help minority business development.

Currently, businesses applying for 8(a) certification have to meet a number of restrictive criteria. These include a net worth cap of $250,000; a 9-year maximum time in the program; a weaning off of government contracts; having been in business for 2 years prior to entering the program; and having to show written proof of ``prospects for success.''

Today these restrictions apply only to the 8(a) program. The eligibility criteria for the 8(a) program has not been updated, revised, or changed at all in the last 17 years. During that time, we have seen many other improvements in the Federal marketplace, including three new procurement programs targeting specific sectors of the small business community: the HUBZone program, the Women's Procurement program, and the Small Disadvantaged Business program. These are good initiatives that help America's small businesses; but in order to qualify for them, they do not have to jump through the same hoops they have to jump through to get 8(a) certification.

Mr. Speaker, 17 years without a legislative update is the equivalent of repeal by neglect. Instead of ensuring that minority entrepreneurs have equal access to Federal contracts and subcontracts, this resolution does nothing to eliminate out-of-date and unnecessary obstacles for minority-owned companies.

Mr. Speaker, this amendment was not even given the chance to be considered in committee. Just when it was time for us to introduce our amendment, a motion for previous question was made, preventing us from even introducing our amendment.

Yesterday, I argued before the Committee on Rules that this amendment be considered today, and that request too was denied.

Mr. Speaker, I understand that this is a House of procedure and protocol. But the curious and unusual procedure and protocol afforded this amendment has been unfair and unjust.

This resolution offered us an opportunity to help remove antique barriers that limit the potential of our Nation's minority-opened businesses. Until this Congress addresses the fact that minority small businesses have to jump through hoops that do not apply in other small business programs, minority small businesses will continue to be second-class concerns.

A bill of rights for small businesses ought to fix that.

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