Is the House Small Business Committee just wasting everyone’s time?
There’s no argument that the House Committee on Small Business is working hard.
Under the leadership of Ohio Republican Rep. Sam Chabot, the 22-member committee (and its subcommittees) have met approximately 26 times in the past year. They have heard testimony from dozens of industry experts, government officials, watchdogs and small business owners. They have held hearings on important topics affecting small business owners from “How Tax Compliance Obligations Hinders Small Business Growth” to “Mismanagement At The SBA” and “Reauthorizing the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs.”
The committee’s website (which has been recently updated) has blogs, videos, summaries and frequently asked questions about its activities. Its staff tweets out updates to more than 4,400 followers and members are active on Facebook and Instagram. Chabot, who became chairman last year and has served on the committee since 1994, is interviewed frequently on national TV and newspapers and periodically participates in panel discussions on topics of interest to the small business community.
Members are working hard for small business owners like me and I appreciate it. But in the end, what’s really being done?
During the most recent congressional session, according to the Library of Congress , the committee has been involved in 70 bills and resolutions that affect small business. Some of these are quite important, like the Small and Disadvantaged Business Enhancement Act of 2016 and the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2015. And the committee was very actively involved in last year’s PATH bill which made permanent the accelerated depreciation deduction and research and development tax credit – both huge benefits for small business owners. That’s good news.
But here’s the bad: Of those 70 bills and resolutions, only two have become law (RISE After Disaster Act of 2015 and Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015). Of the 70 bills introduced in the 114th Congress, 11 have passed the House but are currently stuck in the Senate. The rest sit in various committees for their review. Welcome to limbo.
Committee members will tell you that these hearings are important. And they’re right. Listening to the stories of actual small business owners describing how government regulations affect their ability to grow and profit is critical for lawmakers who need to better understand the constituents they serve. Getting advice from industry experts is very important to those on the committee who may not have the same expertise. Asking hard questions and making recommendations to government officials at the Small Business Administration, IRS and other agencies serves a purpose. And each time the committee meets there is media coverage that spreads awareness of the issues.
“My committee is making a difference.” Chabot told me recently. “I participate every week with the majority leader and group of congressman on small business matters. We get a fair hearing there and they’re aware with the issues we’re dealing with.”
Chabot’s is deeply committed to reforming healthcare and he’s committed to simplifying the tax code so that business owners can “spend more time working on their business and less time filling out tax forms.” I get the sense, though, that he’s as frustrated with the slow progress of Washington as we all are.
There are dozens of committees like this one in Congress. And most suffer the same fate. The House Committee on Small Business represents all the frustrations that small business owners like myself feel about Washington. In the end, our representatives in Congress are responsible for making laws. That’s supposed to be the reason why all 435 of them are there. Hearings, meetings, panel discussions and raising awareness are important. But if small businesses don’t see any results we scratch our heads and shake our heads wonder whether it’s all worth it. We see time and money being spent with very little accomplished. This is not the fault of Rep. Chabot or his committee. It’s the fault of Washington’s gridlock. And it’s a perfect example why this year’s election is attracting so many small business voters to candidates from outside of D.C.