Legislative Update Week of December 15
Monday, December 15, 2014
Policy Briefing Week of December 15
Women’s Contracting Program Gains Parity Through Defense Bill
In a big win for women-owned businesses and WIPP, Congress passes defense authorization bill with WOSB sole source authority.
Passed Friday in the Senate and a week earlier in the House, the final version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contained a big win for WIPP and women entrepreneurs. Sole source authority, a critical tool to increase awards of federal contracts to women-owned businesses, was one of few amendments to be included to the $577 billion measure.
Much like the 8(a), HUBZone and service-disabled veteran (SDVOSB) programs, the provision will allow contracts of up to $4 million ($6.5 for manufacturing contracts) to be directly awarded to companies through the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program. A contracting officer will be able to award contracts through the WOSB program, if he or she “does not have a reasonable expectation that two or more [women-owned] business will submit offers,” and it can be awarded at “fair and reasonable price.”
In addition to adding sole source authority, the bill modifies the WOSB program in two ways. It requires WOSBs to be certified by either a federal agency, the SBA, state governments, or 3rd party certifiers approved by SBA. The legislation does not make clear how this impacts WOSBs currently registered in the program. In addition, the law accelerates the process by which SBA identifies which industries are eligible to participate in the program.
Other small business contracting program’s have this authority, and it should bring more WOSBs to the federal market. WIPP’s Chief Advocate, Ann Sullivan, authored a commentary on how it happened and what it means.
The NDAA also included other small business contracting changes, including prohibitions on reverse auctions for certain contracts, increased transparency on bundled contracts, and simplified design-build acquisition processes. A complete list can be found here. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law later this week.
Money Matters: At Long Last, FY2015 Funding Clears Final Hurdles
Increases to business programs that support women entrepreneurs, a victory for WIPP members.
In a rare weekend session, the Senate passed the FY2015 “cromnibus” spending bill on a 56 yeas to 40 nays vote. The bill included increases to a number of small business lending and business assistance programs, a victory for WIPP members, especially since the overall bill is significantly below the President’s budget request.
The Women’s Business Center program received a 7% increase to $15 million, funding for the Microloan Program’s Technical Assistance component was increased by 12% to $22.3 million, and the SBA’s small business export program, STEP, was more than doubled to
$17.4 million. These are significant increases for programs that benefit women entrepreneurs directly. About half of all microloans go to women-owned businesses, while the increase in funding for the WBC program will allow the SBA to reach more women entrepreneurs. A full list of funding levels for programs that WIPP advocates for is available here.
The bill also included policy provisions that will enhance the microloan program, increase access to capital for veterans, and require the General Services Administration (GSA) to report to the Congress on steps it is taking to improve payments to subcontractors.
The President is expected to sign the bill into law early this week ending the FY2015 appropriations process more than nine months after it began.
113th Congress Comes to Close - 114th Congress to Begin in January
The final week of the 113th Congress is here, while the new faces of the 114th get ready to take charge in January.
While the Senate remains in Washington this week to finish up business, the work of the 113th Congress is largely complete. Members will return home for the holidays, and for a majority will begin thinking about the 114th Congress -- slated to begin January 6, 2015.
The new Congress will bring some new faces atop the House and Senate Small Business Committees:
Senate Small Business &
House Small Business Committee
Chair: David Vitter (R-LA)
Chair: Steve Chabot (R-OH)
Ranking Member: Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Ranking Member: Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)
An entire list of new Committee chairs is available here.