SMALL BUSINESS LEGISLATION: SOURCES OF INFORMATION
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Small Business Legislation:
Sources of Information
Bruce K. Mulock
Specialist in Business and Government
Government and Finance Division
This report seeks to respond to inquiries from congressional staff who request
information about major legislation affecting small business. More specifically, staffers
often ask CRS to furnish a list of bills of interest to small firms and their owners. For
reasons discussed below — including conceptual problems related to constructing such
a list — it seems unwise and inadvisable to do so. There are a host of resources,
including numerous CRS reports, dealing with issues important to small business. This
report considers some of the general subject areas that tend to be of particular
significance to smaller firms, and suggests approaches Member and committee staff may
wish to use in deciding which small business-related legislation is of consequence. This
report will be updated should circumstances warrant it.
Which Legislation Is Important to Small Business?
“Small business” is not a precise economic term, and no single definition commands
consensus. But even using the most narrow definitions, there are in excess of 6 million of
them operating in the United States.1 While they frequently share common concerns about
legislative issues under consideration by Congress, it is not too much of a stretch to say
each business has its own views and priorities.
Many small businesses have no employees. Indeed, the “sole proprietorship” — an
organization owned and usually operated by a single individual — is by far the most
common form of private business ownership. Relatively few of the nearly 18 million sole
1 How many small businesses are there is the United States? No single answer suffices. By the
broadest measure, there are about 25 million. This is the number of business tax returns filed with
the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In 1999, an estimated 24.8 million non-farm business tax
returns were filed for 5.3 million corporations (including about 16,000 large firms—those with 500
or more employees), 1.8 million partnerships, and 17.7 million sole proprietorships. For detailed
statistical information, go to the SBA’s Office of Advocacy website [http://www.sba.gov/ADVO/]
Congressional Research Service The Library of Congress
proprietorships are much interested in legislation having to do with minimum wages,
pension funds, or group health insurance. On the other hand, most of these issues would
be of considerable interest to many or most of the nation’s nearly 5 million small
corporations. And, much tax legislation and many bills concerned with banking and other
financial-related issues are of widespread interest to businesses of all sizes.
Firms in different industries often have specialized legislative interests. Whether an
enterprise is engaged in manufacturing, services, retail trade, etc., would almost surely
determine the bills to be included in a list “major small business-related legislation.” For
all these reasons and more, any list would have to be considered arbitrary.
Furthermore, it is prudent to keep in mind that legislation which often does not
appear to be small business-related will — in reality — have more of an effect on more
small businesses than many bills specifically tailored to assist small firms. Legislative
decisions relating to the hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending for highways
and national defense, to name two areas, have huge consequences for small business.
Nevertheless, it is understandable that from time-to-time congressional staff find it
necessary to seek information and analysis of certain bills that have relevance to particular
segments of the small business community or to compile lists of small business-related
legislation. So that CRS may best respond to those requests seeking information and
analysis, it is suggested congressional staff endeavor to be specific and focused — and,
to the extent possible, indicate the intended purpose of the request. With regard to
compiling lists, congressional staff will find the World Wide Web has greatly simplified
such a task. Useful websites abound.
Key Internet Resources
Perhaps the best starting points are the House Small Business Committee
[http://www.house.gov/smbiz/] and the Senate Small Business Committee
[http://www.senate.gov/comm/small_business/general/]. These sites show the bills the
committees are actively considering, and they offer press releases, testimony, publications,
information about hearings, and links to other useful websites.
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Communications with Congress
[http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/news/indextestimony.html] is a useful place to find
testimony on agency-related legislation, and its Business Resources links page
[http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/hotlist/] is also useful.
Recognizing that not all sources can be considered unbiased and non-partisan, other
useful websites include:
!National Federation of Independent Business [http://www.nfibonline.com/]
!National Small Business United [http://www.nsbu.org/]
!National Foundation for Women Business Owners [http://www.nfwbo.org/]
!U.S Chamber of Commerce [http://www.uschamber.org/]
!National Association for the Self-Employed
!National Association of Development Organizations