There's little doubt that this year in Congress we will see a renewed push for civil-rights and parental-leave legislation. But what are some of the other small-business issues to watch for?

Environmental law.
Tom Cator, lobbyist for National Small Business United, thinks this area will be a big focus for small businesses in the next few years as several major laws come up for revision. One issue that he expects will get attention this year: indoor air quality. Cator anticipates a research-oriented bill on the subject. That, he says, will set the stage for later standards and regulation.

Independent contractors.
This year may see discussion of clearer rules about the differences between an independent contractor and an employee, according to John Satagaj of the Small Business Legislative Council. One factor in favor of change: neither the IRS nor businesses are happy with the status quo, which relies on vague guidelines.

Americans with Disabilities Act Regulations. Last year's law expands businesses' duties in employment and public accommodation of the disabled. But businesses complained that the language was so nonspecific they couldn't tell what was required. That makes it even more important to pay attention to the regulations now being written by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, advises Terry Hill of the National Federation of Independent Business.

-- Martha E. Mangelsdorf