May 17, 2005--Affordable healthcare, tax reform,
simplification of government procurement rules, and better access to capital
are among the top legislative issues that women owned businesses and small
business organizations would like to see taken up during the 109th
Congressional session, according to the National Women's Business Council's
(NWBC) May 2005 Issue Brief, Legislative Priorities Among Key Women's and
Small Business Advocacy Organizations.
Other issues "meriting legislative consideration," according to NWBC's
brief, are legal and regulatory reform in class action suits, tort reform,
small business liability limits, limiting damages in medical liability
lawsuits, curbing of frivolous lawsuits, simplification of pensions,
reducing barriers to trade, increasing market opportunities for women
entrepreneurs, and implementing free trade agreements.
Affordable health care for employees, however, topped the list of issue
priorities, with Association Health Plans (AHP), in particular, a focus for
the majority of women's and small business organizations.
With the exception of the National Small Business Association (NSBA), all
groups favor passage of legislation to expand the use of AHPs. Other health
care issues cited by business organizations include Health Savings Accounts
(HSAs) and tax credits to small business employers who pay a portion of the
cost of employee health insurance premiums or employee HSA
Women who own small businesses largely have the same concerns as their
male counterparts, but there are a few issues that are particularly
important to women business owners. Government procurement is one of the
issues, said the NWBC.
In 1994, the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act set a goal for Federal
agencies to award at least 5% of all prime and subcontract dollars to women
owned small businesses. However, the goal has never been achieved.
"Women business owners want the 5% award to be made into a requirement,
rather than a goal. There is a lot of discussion happening on that," said
Julie Weeks, executive director of the NWBC. "There is also more action
required to enlighten government officials about making the process friendly
for women business owners."
Access to capital is the second key issue women business owners would
like the 109th Congress pay more attention to.
"Women business owners want better monitoring to ensure that the SBA loan
programs offer sufficient support to women," said Weeks.
The demand for tax reform also is a priority among most organizations.
Simplification of the Federal tax code, permanency of the small-business tax
provisions passed in the previous Congress, personal income-tax reductions,
a standard home-office deduction, relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax
(AMT) and estate tax reform are all key legislative issues for small
businesses, according to the NWBC.
The NWBC, a bipartisan Federal government council that advises the
President, Congress and U.S. Small Business Administration on economic
issues important to women business owners, researched websites and position
papers sent to Congress, and contacted organizations directly to get their
stance on key issues affecting small business. The top 10 women's business
and small business associations, including National Federation of
Independent Business (NFIB), Business and Professional Women USA, National
Association for the Self Employed (NASE), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,