Efforts on Capitol Hill to increase the number of federal contracts awarded to women continue to fall short, according to Denise Farris, managing member of the Farris Law Firm, LLC and Public Policy Chairperson of the Kansas City Chapter of National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).
A recent three day conference in Washington, DC jointly sponsored by NAWBO and WIPP (Women Impacting Public Policy), focused on this and other legislative issues impacting women owned businesses. “The conference presented an excellent opportunity for education about the importance of exercising a strong voice for small business”, said Farris. “It is extremely difficult to speak out on a shared social agenda, where we each have widely varying stances. However, nearly everyone recognizes the importance of legislation supporting small business. The success of our businesses translates to disposable income we can then use to support the social policies important to us”.
One of the most important pieces of legislation pending this session is the Small Business Administration (SBA) Reauthorization Bill, Senate 3778. A history of the bill is revealing. In 2000, Congress passed Public Law 106-554 which recognized an under-utilization of women owned businesses by the Federal Government. The 2000 law called for a 5% WBE goal to be achieved by federal agencies. Despite the enactment of this law in 2000, and a 2002 presidential initiative to implement the program, the government to date is struggling to achieve just under a 3% utilization.
“The current Senate bill specifically addresses this underutilization and contains procurement regulations increasing small business opportunities”, said Farris. Similar legislation is additionally being considered at the House level. “While the pending Senate bill addresses the WBE statistics, it also contains measures which benefit all small businesses”, she added.
The initiatives include recognition and reduction of the negative effects of federal contract bundling, whereby two or more contracts are combined into a single large scale agreement whose requirements are typically too large for small business to bid. Testimony from Government Affairs Officer Anne Sullivan, who serves as lobbyist for WIPP and NAWBO, stated: “Despite strong evidence that bundling is not good for small business or the government, a 2004 Government Accounting Office report showed that federal agencies are confused (about) what constitutes contract bundling,” Sullivan said. A 2002 report by the Office of Management and Budget found that for every $100 awarded on a bundled contract, there is a $33 decrease for small businesses. The report also said that competition is reduced in terms of the frequency and number of opportunities for small businesses. “The new legislation will hopefully clarify the definition of “bundling” while increasing procurement opportunities for small businesses nationally”, said Farris.
Additional Hill testimony was given by WIPP co-founder and President Barbara Kasoff. “Women business owners believe they should have a larger stake in government contracting,” said Kasoff, who noted that 48 percent of all privately held companies in the United States are owned by women. Kasoff noted that in annual WIPP surveys, access to government contracts is “one of the top challenges facing women business owners, who are losing billions of dollars in potential sales to the government.”
A summary of the key provisions of pending Senate Bill 3778 include:
- Reauthorization of all SBA programs for a three-year period through September 2009 with
- a 90 day requirement to implement the Women-Owned Small Business Contracting program designed to achieve the 5% procurement goal;
- provisions that direct the SBA to accept certification from state, local and national certifying entities for both women and minority owned firms;
- comprehensive legislative changes defining and limiting contract bundling; and
- rules strengthening subcontracting requirements.
As the majority of these provisions benefit small, women owned and minority owned businesses alike, individual business owners are encouraged to contact their state senators to request specific support of this bill.
Denise E. Farris is the managing member of the Farris Law Firm LLC, 20355 Nall, Stilwell, KS 66085 (913-685-3192). Farris currently serves as the local Public Policy Chairperson of NAWBO-KC (National Association Women Business Owners) and is a National Partner with WIPP (Women Impacting Public Policy). The two national bipartisan organizations cumulatively represent 10.6 million women business owners, with WIPP currently recognized as the preeminent voice for women business owners on the Hill and NAWBO being one of the few women business organizations with an organized PAC (Political Action Committee).For the specific wording of the bill, go to: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c109:1:./temp/~c109oxyQpS::. To contact your state senators, go to: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/directory/congdir.tt.
© Denise E. Farris (September 2005). All rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted nor reproduced in any manner without the express permission of the author, who can be contacted at: Denise Farris, Farris Law Firm, L.L.C., 20355 Nall, Stilwell, KS 66085. Tel: 913-685-3192. Fax: 913-685-3292. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.