The 112th Congress promises to be very active in areas that will have a profound impact on small businesses.
While many small business owners try to stay out of politics, doing so is very risky. It’s important to understand which elected officials are making decisions that impact the livelihood of your business. This article provides an overview of who the key players are in Congress.
Profile legislators as if they were prospects.
Before attempting to sell to a potential customer, it’s expected that your company will conduct thorough research into their backgrounds and identify which ones can be considered prospects with a good likelihood of becoming customers.
It’s important to follow a similar strategy when identifying who you need to reach with your lobbying efforts. So let’s take a look at who in Congress is making decisions that impact small business owners.
Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
First, a word on committees
In order to work more efficiently, the Senate uses committees that specialize on specific areas of legislation. In the Senate there are a total of 20 committees, 68 subcommittees and four joint committees with members of the House. Standing committees evaluate proposed legislation while Select and Joint committees typically handle oversight responsibilities. Subcommittees are tasked with specific areas of work within a committee.
The Standing committees play a critical role in the legislative process.
Proposed legislation is typically sent to a standing committee for review. Unless the committee recommends the legislation continue on the path towards becoming law, it dies. This vetting process filters out over 90 percent of the thousands of bills that are “sent to committee” during a 2-year congressional cycle. They are the gate keepers, and here is where important lobbying action takes place.
Members of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship deals with legislation that impacts small business owners directly. They primarily provide oversight for the Small Business Administration (SBA) but can also handle other matters related to small businesses. However, for any matters that aren’t directly related to the SBA, any other committee can request responsibility for that additional legislation. Information on Committee hearings and events are available here.
The Committee consists of 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans.
- Mary L. Landrieu (LA) - Chair
- John F. Kerry (MA)
- Carl Levin (MI)
- Tom Harkin (IA)
- Joseph I. Lieberman (CT)
- Maria Cantwell (WA)
- Mark L. Pryor (AR)
- Ben L. Cardin (MD)
- Jeanne Shaheen (NH)
- Kay Hagan (NC)
- Olympia J. Snowe (ME) - Ranking Member
- Christopher S. Bond (MO)
- David Vitter (LA)
- John Thune (SD)
- Michael B. Enzi (WY)
- Johnny Isakson (GA)
- Roger Wicker (MS)
- James Risch (ID)
The Committee is currently working on the Small Business Broadband and Emerging Information Technology Enhancement Act of 2011 which is to expand broadband access to small businesses by directing the Small Business Administration to:
- Create the position of “Broadband and Emerging Information Technology Coordinator” to develop and promote initiatives within the SBA to expand broadband access among small businesses.
- Require that its resources partners like Small Business Development Centers provide technical assistance related to broadband.
- Expand the use of proceeds from 7(a) and microloan programs to include emerging technology equipment and services (including broadband).
House Committee on Small Business
This Committee has been in existence since 1941. Just like the Senate, it is a standing committee with oversight of the Small Business Administration, but follows rules and procedures in accordance with the House of Representatives, not the Senate. The members of the committee are:
- Sam Graves, Missouri, Chairman (MO-06)
- Roscoe Bartlett, Maryland (MD-06)
- Steve Chabot, Ohio (OH-01)
- Steve King (IA-05), Iowa (IA-05)
- Mike Coffman, Colorado (CO-06)
- Mick Mulvaney, South Carolina (SC-05)
- Scott Tipton, Colorado (CO-03)
- Chuck Fleischmann, Tennessee (TN-03)
- Jaime Herrera Beutler, Washington (WA-03)
- Allen West, Florida (FL-22)
- Renee Ellmers, North Carolina (NC-02)
- Joe Walsh, Illinois (IL-08)
- Jeff Landry, Louisiana (LA-06)
- Nydia Velázquez, New York, Ranking Member (NY-12)
- Heath Shuler, North Carolina (NC-11)
- Kurt Schrader, Oregon (OR-05)
- Mark Critz, Pennsylvania (PA-12)
- Jason Altmire, Pennsylvania (PA-04)
- Yvette Clarke, New York (NY-11)
- Judy Chu, California (CA-32)
- David Cicilline, Rhode Island (RI-01)
- Cedric Richmond, Louisiana (LA-02)
- Gary Peters, Michigan (MI-09)
- Bill Owens (congressman), New York (NY-23)
The Committee is organized into five subcommittees with various members from the Committee serving:
- The Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade
- The Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology
- The Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access
- The Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations
- The Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce
Where to start?
Both the House and Senate are preparing legislation to send to their respective committees that impact small business. Start with your Senators. If the House Committee has a member from your district, then reach out to them. Establish a relationship with a staff member from the legislator’s office. Position yourself as a resource for them and not just another constituent. These staffers need reality checks from time to time and if you can provide them, then you help influence legislation in a way that favors small businesses without going through the expense of hiring a lobbyist. If the legislation is important enough, then you can work together with other business owners to pool resources and hire a lobbying firm.
Mike Periu is the founder of EcoFin Media, LLC which develops financial training, financial education, entrepreneurship training and more to small business owners on television, radio, print and the internet. Over the past ten years he has started three companies and advised over 50 companies on financial strategies including fundraising. Post your questions in the comments of this article.