Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to take from the Speaker's table the bill (H.R. 4560) to eliminate the deadlines for spectrum auctions of spectrum previously allocated to television broadcasting, with a Senate amendment thereto, and concur in the Senate amendment.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
Mr. TIERNEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Ose), the chairman of the subcommittee, and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee for their willingness to negotiate the amendments to H.R. 327 that we are considering today.
H.R. 327 is a substantial improvement over the small business paperwork bills that were considered by the House in the last two Congresses.
The controversial penalty provisions have been removed, and the bill includes provisions suggested by the Democratic minority that will reduce the paperwork burden on small businesses.
Mr. Speaker, small businesses are the backbone of the economy and are where the new jobs are being created. However, many small and family-opened businesses spend a great deal of their resources learning about and complying with applicable laws.
I am pleased that we are looking at ways to make it easier for small businesses to understand what information they are required to provide to the government and ways to simplify and streamline the paperwork process.
H.R. 327, as amended, requires OMB to annually produce a list of compliance assistance resources available to small businesses. This list must be printed in the Federal Register and posted on the Internet. This bill also requires each agency to establish one point of contact to act as a liaison with small businesses.
H.R. 327 requires agencies to make efforts to further reduce paperwork required of businesses with fewer than 25 employees.
The bill establishes a task force to make recommendations for electronic reporting and improving information dissemination. And H.R. 327 requires agencies to report on the number of enforcement actions they take and the number of instances when they reduce and waive penalties.
Mr. Speaker, 4 years ago we considered similar provisions when the House considered H.R. 3310. Unfortunately, H.R. 3310 also contained provisions that would have prohibited agencies from penalizing businesses for most [Page: H3627]
first-time information-related violations. These provisions would have removed agency discretion and created a safe haven for willful, substantial, and long-standing violations. They were strongly opposed by the Clinton administration,
labor, environmental, consumer, senior citizen, health, trade, and firefighter groups, as well as by some State attorneys general.
The gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Kucinich) and I offered an amendment to address these concerns. However, the amendment failed.
Because of the surrounding controversy, the bill was never considered in the Senate and we lost the chance to implement the provisions we are considering today. The bill was resurrected in the next Congress as H.R. 391. The Kucinich amendment, which fixed the controversial provisions, narrowly failed by a vote of 214-210. Again, because the controversial provisions remained in the bill, it never became law.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see that H.R. 327 does not include the controversial penalty provisions, and it will likely become law. I am pleased to say that this version of H.R. 327 includes suggestions made by the Democratic minority of the Committee on Government Reform. For instance, the focus of the bill is on compliance assistance. The bill helps businesses figure out what information they need to provide to which agencies and makes it easier for them to provide the information.
Furthermore, the task force will make recommendations for implementing interactive systems for information collection requirements and electronic reporting. This will allow small businesses to identify applicable requirements over the Internet and get immediate feedback on electronic submissions in order to help ensure that they submit consistent and usable data.
Moreover, the task force will recommend ways to strengthen information dissemination so that agencies can more efficiently share the information they gather with other agencies and the public.
In addition, the original bill required agencies to provide an annual list of paperwork requirements by statistical code. However, this list likely would not be used by small businesses, and it would merely provide a statistical analysis of the quantity of information regulations.
Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is not to count regulations, but to help small businesses understand and comply with the information collection requirements. The bill directs a task force to study the feasibility of such a list and whether such a list would actually benefit small businesses. And the bill requires a useful annual list of compliance assistance resources. While I understand, Mr. Speaker, that there will be a colloquy between the chairman of the Committee on Small Business
and the gentleman from California (Mr. Ose), that information that is shared with us is, of course, their opinion and is not part of the legislative history.
H.R. 327 includes a provision suggested by the gentleman from Vermont (Mr. Sanders) and adopted 4 years ago that focuses paperwork reduction on small businesses with fewer than 25 employees. This amendment helps direct our efforts to truly small businesses that need our help the most. The definition of small businesses that was incorporated into H.R. 327 originally was so broad that it included numerous businesses that many do not consider small. It included petroleum refineries with
up to 1,500 employees, pharmaceutical companies with up to 750 employees, and banks with up to $100 million in assets. Thus, the bill helps most businesses, not just small businesses. Therefore, I believe it is appropriate to focus agency efforts on businesses that really are small.
Mr. Speaker, information collection is one of the most important jobs of the Federal Government. It allows the government to enforce the law without burdening businesses with in-depth site investigations. Nevertheless, it is difficult for small businesses to fully understand what is required of them. And many businesses have expressed frustration with the fact that they have provided similar information to more than one source in government.
I believe the government should help small businesses understand their responsibilities and streamline the information collection process. This bill serves both purposes without jeopardizing the underlying protections. Furthermore, it should help us take advantage of the information age by using the Internet to gather and disseminate information. These changes have been suggested by numerous sources, including the General Accounting Office.
I urge my colleagues to support this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. BURTON of Indiana. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding time.
Let me start off by thanking the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Tierney), the gentleman from California (Mr. Ose) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Waxman) who worked with me to get this piece of legislation to the floor. This is an extremely important piece of legislation because if there is one thing that small businesspeople across the country are very chagrined about, it is the amount of paperwork that they have to deal with on a regular basis. As a matter
of fact, the cost to a small businessperson runs about $7,000 per employee to deal with the paperwork that faces them from the Federal Government. If you have got 20 employees, that is a $140,000 burden that you have to deal with, and it simply is not necessary.
This legislation is designed to streamline that effort to make sure that small businesspeople do not suffer from a tidal wave of paperwork that makes the profitability of their business almost impossible. I think my colleagues have covered this very, very well. The gentleman from California (Mr. Ose) has worked very hard on this. The gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Tierney) has as well. I think they have covered all of the provisions of the bill and the problems we had in
getting this bill drafted and to the floor.
I would just like to say that it is high time that we got this job done. If there is one thing that small business and business in America needs, it is a reduction of the amount of paperwork and regulation that they have to deal with on a daily basis with the Federal Government. I believe this is going to save them money, it is going to streamline the effort to comply with government regulations, and it is a giant step in the right direction.
All of the small businesspeople in America that may be watching this right now, you can take heart. We are moving in the right direction. There is a lot more that needs to be done, but this is a great first step.
Mr. BALDACCI. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentleman from Massachusetts for his leadership on this issue and helping to bring this very important piece of legislation to the floor. This is something that concerns an awful lot of small businesses in the State of Maine. I know how crucial it is. Over 97 percent of the businesses are represented by small businesses in our State. We have over 40,000 of them in all. These enterprises face a maze of regulations and requirements that impose
a heavy burden in time and expense. The Federal Government alone has over 7,000 forms that are required for one activity or another. State and local regulations add a further layer of almost equal complexity and cost. How can small businesses compete, innovate and grow to their fullest potential when they have to devote so much time and energy and resources just to figuring out what forms to fill out?
I know how difficult this situation is for small businesses. I know because I am a small business owner myself, and I have personally experienced the frustration of trying to navigate the system. I do believe that the innovations in this bill will make the process easier. It will make compliance assistance resources more readily available. It will require agencies to find ways to further reduce paperwork for smaller businesses. And it will establish a single point of contact for small businesses
in each of the Federal agencies, something that is sorely needed.
Mr. Speaker, this bill is a good start. I look forward to bringing this assistance to small businesses. However, as we all know, there is more work that we need to do. We need to find ways to help agencies to better coordinate their efforts both at the Federal level and between the State and local levels to make these services more seamless. Ideally, we should have a single point of contact for all small business so they can quickly and easily find what they need. Small businesses do not have
the resources of big corporations, but they should have the same chance to compete.
This bill is a good step towards having a level playing field. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.
Mr. MANZULLO. I thank the gentleman from California for agreeing to engage in this colloquy. I think it is absolutely imperative that the task force created by the bill obtains input from the small business community. I am sure the gentleman from California agrees.
Mr. MANZULLO. I thank the gentleman from California for clarifying that issue. I also note that the bill would require that the Office of Management and Budget, OMB, publish in the Federal Register and make available on the Internet an annual listing of the compliance assistance resources available to small businesses. I agree that this would make the information more accessible. However, I believe that more can be done. I think that OMB should establish a link on its Website to each agency's
single point of contact. Each agency's Website would then have links to each relevant paperwork required for small businesses. I would like the opinion of the gentleman from California on this point.
Mr. MANZULLO. I thank the gentleman from California for clarifying that issue. I also note that the amended bill is silent on reducing the frequency of small business reporting which would lessen paperwork burdens on small businesses. Since H.R. 327 is primarily intended to reduce paperwork burdens, should not OMB, the agencies and the task force consider reducing periodicity wherever possible?
Mr. TIERNEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, just to briefly say that the record should reflect, Mr. Speaker, that that colloquy, of course, reflects the personal opinions of the two Representatives involved and is not the opinion of the committee as a whole or of the House, and also just to indicate that small businesses, and this will put the gentleman's mind at ease, I think, small businesses certainly are included in the process through the provision for public comment
of the task force draft report. This committee and the committees over in the Senate did a lot of time negotiating out the resulting provisions of this bill, and we are pleased with that. It has come to a general agreement that I believe is going to pass in the form that is printed.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. MANZULLO. Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that I left out a point in our colloquy that is quite important.
Finally, I would like to clarify one point. H.R. 327 as introduced required OMB to annually publish a list of requirements applicable to small businesses organized by North American Industrial Classification System, NAICS, codes and industrial/sector description. In the amended version of H.R. 327 as passed by the Senate, this requirement is modified substantially.
Instead of requiring OMB to annually publish such a listing, it allows the task force to examine the feasibility and benefits to small businesses of publishing lists organized by NAICS code, industrial/sector description, or in another manner by which small businesses can more easily identify requirements with which they are expected to comply.
I would ask the gentleman from California (Mr. Ose), is it your opinion that the best method for classifying the information remains by NAICS codes because that would enable small businesses to best identify the paperwork burdens associated with their businesses?
Mr. TIERNEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I in no way intended to imply that this colloquy would not appear on the Journal. However, it will not be part of the history of this particular bill, having come through committees and subcommittees and been negotiated.
I daresay that there was no part of that colloquy to which the minority was privy. They were not given the courtesy of an advance copy of that colloquy through the subcommittee. I do not know what the reason for that was, but certainly I do not want to leave it with the public or the Speaker the impression that that was part of the legislative history, the negotiations between the subcommittees, the committees, the Senate or the House, in having the bill come before us.
I would also like to clarify a point that was made by my colleagues during their little discussion, and that is that the task force is required to consider whether publishing a list of the information collection requirements applicable to small businesses would actually be feasible and would actually help small businesses. This bill does not require publication of a list.
The task force should also consider different opinions for organizing such a list if they find it would be feasible and beneficial to small businesses. The bill leaves it up to the task force to consider whether any such list should be organized by NAICS codes or in some other manner that makes it easier for small businesses to identify applicable requirements.
Some people are concerned that such a list will be too unwieldy for anyone to use, and because businesses do not fit neatly into precise categories, businesses will still have to figure out which requirements listed for a given category actually apply to them. So we have asked the task force to look at and see if this would be helpful and to report back to us.
The key point here is that the bill clearly leaves it up to the task force to consider whether publishing any such list makes sense, and, if so, to determine what would be the best way to organize it. It would then be up to Congress to consider the task force findings, colloquies notwithstanding.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mrs. CAPITO. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from California for his leadership on this issue.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today and urge all of my colleagues to support H.R. 327, the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act. This plan has the ability to really fuel our economy to new heights by reducing the costs and improving the levels of efficiencies for our small businesses, thereby allowing them to expand and create new jobs.
In my home State of West Virginia, over 80 percent of our businesses are small businesses. In our State, good jobs are at a premium, and economic growth is our continual goal. This plan will support our State and other States in their goal to reach for more job creation and a stronger economy by helping small businesses thrive and perhaps even helping a small business begin.
Mr. Speaker, small business has always been and will continue to be the key to the American dream, but by erecting and ignoring the government barriers that hinder the success of small business, this slows the creation and stifles growth.
We have heard a lot of figures today, but I have a new one. According to recent figures by the Office of Management and Budget, American businesses spend 7.7 million hours each year complying with Federal paperwork at an astounding cost of $230 billion a year. Just think how many additional people could be employed or how many additional health benefits could be afforded with that much money.
Passing the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act will free the hands of our small business owners by removing the unnecessary regulations that prevent them from doing things that I have mentioned, offering expanded health benefits, employing new employees. All these things could be done with the cost they expend on filling out the mountains of paperwork.
We need to work quickly and pass this so that our constituents will not be cheated and our economy will not be stifled by depriving our businesses of many talented and capable workers. I urge my colleagues to recognize the tremendous benefits of this plan and to pass H.R. 327.