Small Business Commission
The Small Business
Commission's purpose is to study, report and make recommendations on issues
of concern to small businesses in the Commonwealth. In its second meeting
of the year, the Commission continued its work of identifying matters
that concern the small business sector.
The Commission held
a public hearing in Richmond on the evening prior to its business meeting.
Twenty-three persons spoke at the public hearing. Members concurred that
the public hearing was a success and expressed the hope to hold similar
hearings in different regions of the Commonwealth next year.
Speakers at the public
hearing identified several areas of greatest concern, including government
procurement practices; aid to programs such as business incubators, the
Small Business Development Centers Network, and the Virginia Small Business
Financing Authority, that assist small businesses; and health insurance.
Small Women and Minority (SWAM) procurement was an issue of much interest.
Three persons urged the state to increase the use of SWAM contractors
and for the General Assembly to codify the Governor's SWAM program that
was instituted by Executive Order. An issue not previously considered
involved a prime contractor that identified a SWAM business as a subcontractor
during the bidding process, but then failed to use the SWAM business when
the contractor received the contract.
of Independent Businesses
of the National Federation of Independent Businesses provided the Commission
with the results of a poll of the organization's members. Their greatest
concern was the cost of health insurance. Other issues identified by NFIB
members included the cost and availability of liability and workers' compensation
insurance, energy costs, property and income taxes, cash flow, and unreasonable
The NFIB spokesman
reported that 65% of the organization's members rated health insurance
issue as critical. Rising costs are causing a decline in the percentage
of employers that are offering health insurance to their employees, and
start-up companies are particularly less likely to provide this benefit
for their employees. He favored keeping the current free market system,
and praised health savings accounts as a possible solution.
The Commission was
asked by the NFIB state director to examine the 2005 regulatory flexibility
legislation, which applies to firms with up to 250 employees, workers'
compensation and liability insurance, health insurance mandates, and unemployment
compensation taxes. Despite these concerns, the NFIB conceded that Virginia
generally has a pro-business
Director of Existing Business Services at the Department of Business Assistance,
demonstrated the agency's central Internet portal. The portal provides
a single source of information for over 100 state business assistance
and regulatory programs. The site connects users to resources for starting
a business, running a business, business resources, and out-of-state businesses.
A valuable feature is a "live chat" feature that allows users
to obtain information from DBA staff. In the future, the portal may be
expanded to include University programs and interactive matchmaking of
vendors and purchasers.
Members agreed that the profile of the Small Business Commission should
be raised. While it will endeavor to examine issues of concern to small
businesses, the Commission will attempt to avoid duplicating the work
of other groups, such as the Joint Commission on Health Care. The Commission
agreed to seek the inclusion, in the next biennial budget, of a line item
appropriation for the expenses of the Commission. However, the Commission
decided not to seek funding for an independent staff at the present time.
The Commission plans
to meet again prior to the start of the 2006 General Assembly Session
to review legislation that members will introduce pertaining to issues
of concern to small businesses.
The Hon. J. Brandon
Franklin D. Munyan
DLS Staff Attorney