Executive Order Bonanza has Implications for Business

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

President Trump will complete only his third full week on Friday and has already left a lasting mark on how small businesses and government itself work with 20 Executive Orders. Through a series of presidential actions, Mr. Trump has touched on topics ranging from Immigration to healthcare. It’s time we took a deeper dive into what’s come down the pipeline and how it affects the small business community. Read the blog here.

The domestic policy action that was signed in the presence of a number of small businesses, is the “Two-for-One” Executive Order.

Here’s the rundown. The Executive Order has two parts – one aimed at Fiscal Year 2017 and one for Fiscal Year 2018:

  • FY17: “1 in and 2 out.” If a federal agency proposes a new regulation, it must recommend two regulations to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to be terminated. OMB, not the agency will have the final word on which regulations are eliminated.
  • FY18 and subsequent fiscal years: Agencies are ordered to offset costs of new regulations and the OMB is ordered to create a budget that limits how much a new regulation can rise.

On its face, this Executive Order spells relief for lenders and small businesses but there are a raft of unknowns still to be resolved. One question is when this directive will be implemented. For example, the administration’s OMB Director-designate Congressman Mick Mulvaney is undergoing a tough confirmation process and the timeline for his confirmation by the full Senate is still unclear.

Executive Orders generally provide broad guidelines rather than detailed plans on its execution. Questions to be answered are: What actually constitutes a “regulation?” Is it simply a single rule or a whole host of interwoven regulations that, together, provide guidance for an agency on an individual program or policy? What constitutes a “cost?” Will the benefit in a cost-benefit analysis be considered or will the analysis include only the cost? OMB is stocked with experts so we anticipate much more clarity on this as soon as the OMB director is confirmed.

Now, on to more straightforward presidential actions regarding President Trump’s infrastructure plans. One such action expedites environmental review and approval for high priority infrastructure projects and gives any Cabinet member or governor the unilateral ability to designate a project as “high priority” thus shortening the approval process, laid out in the NEPA law. He’s also issued a “Build the Wall” action which orders the Department of Homeland Security to begin building a wall along the U.S. and Mexico border using existing funds. It also authorizes the hiring of 5,000 new border agents. Congress will have to appropriate additional funds for completion because the current budget does not have funding for this project.

Additionally, there were two more Executive Orders issued almost immediately upon President Trump’s inauguration. One of the first actions signed by President Trump was an Executive Order that begins the process of repealing Obamacare. While it does not directly repeal the law, it directs federal agencies to give states, insurance companies and consumers maximum flexibility in complying with Obamacare until such a time as it is repealed. Full repeal and/or replace is going to take an act of Congress which has been openly wrangling with itself on whether to repeal, repeal and replace, or to “repair” the existing law. Regardless, this presidential action starts the ball rolling with respect to repeal of Obamacare while Congress considers its course of action.

The other significant action taken by the president instituted a federal agency-wide hiring freeze on all existing and open positions with exceptions for national security, military, and public safety.  The president intends this as a stopgap and allows agencies to reallocate to prevent public safety and national security from being adversely affected. The kicker, however, is that the memorandum explicitly prevents the hiring of outside contractors to prevent the circumvention of the spirit of the order. Given the number of waivers and exceptions allowed, it’s not altogether clear how this will work in practice, but it certainly lays down a marker that the president is serious about reining in the growth of the federal government.

Finally, on Feb. 3, the president signed two Executive Orders aimed at decreasing regulations for the financial industry; the first calling for a review and the scaling back of existing financial laws, including Dodd-Frank, and the second halting the implementation of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule, which was set to go into effect this April.

Dodd-Frank, enacted after the 2008 meltdown, was responsible for creating more stringent rules regarding bank capitalization, increasing compliance and reporting standards for banks, introducing stricter mortgage requirements, creating the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and curbing excessive risk-taking and the existence of too-big-to-fail institutions on Wall Street. Mr. Trump’s action on Dodd-Frank requires regulators to produce a study on financial rules within 120 days—appearing as more of a demand for a review than a complete dismantling of the law.

The fiduciary rule was intended to prevent consumers from receiving conflicted advice when it comes to retirement savings. The president’s order calls for the DOL to examine the rule to determine whether it may lead to the unintended consequence of making it more difficult for advisors to provide financial advice to their clients. However, embraced by much of the financial industry, this order is expected to move quickly compared to the order on Dodd-Frank.

These Executive Actions have the potential to clear the way for even greater gains by women-owned small business moving forward. As we reach for new heights in 2017, WIPP will be fully engaged with the Congress and administration to ensure that burdensome regulations harming the growth of women-owned small business are eliminated and we continue to be the robust engine powering the small business economy.

It’s a Big MACs World

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

Earlier this week, WIPP submitted comments on a proposed rule changing the rules related to small business participation on multiple award contracts, also known as MACs.

The FAR Council, which oversees federal acquisition regulations, sought to clarify the use of set-asides, reserves, and orders placed against MACs. As contractors already know, use of these large contracts is steadily growing. Ensuring all socioeconomic groups, including women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) have access to these opportunities, is a top priority for WIPP.

The rule adds coverage for the new concept of a “reserve.” A reserve would be used on MACs where a partial set-aside is not feasible, but where agencies still want small businesses to participate as prime contractors. This “reserve” concept is very similar to the tracks outlined in WIPP’s Do Not Enter report, which shows how agencies have utilized certain socio-economic set-asides, and discriminated against women-owned firms.

While the proposal provides clarity for contracting officers, it falls short by including an out-of-date policy regarding the limitations on subcontracting. In May 2016, the Small Business Administration finalized a rule change that substantially revised the limitations on subcontracting by making it easier for women-owned firms to comply. The new rule focuses on the percentage of the award amount that has been subcontracted, not the percentage of work. The rule also provides an exemption for similarly situated entities, so WOSBs subcontracting to other WOSBs does not count against the percentage of the award subcontracted. This new policy is a win-win for small businesses, but the FAR Council does not acknowledge the new policy in its rule. If one of the purposes of the rule is to clarify small business authorities for contracting officers, the FAR should use the most up-to-date performance of work requirements.

WIPP appreciates the interest of the FAR Council in providing greater flexibility and clarity for the role of small businesses in multiple award contracts. But this proposed rule does not do enough. Without additional small business protections, this rule could hurt our nation’s biggest job creators- small businesses.

WIPPs full comments on the rule can be found here.

Reimagining Health Care

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

Affordability, predictability, and flexibility were three themes reiterated at the Feb. 7 hearing held by the House Committee on Small Business entitled “Reimagining the Health Care Marketplace for America’s Small Business.” It was held for the purpose of taking a look at the current marketplace and its recent difficulties, and to explore options to improve access, affordability, and consistency.

While no clear legislative path has yet been paved, many facts, figures, and ideas were floated around regarding how to ensure that small business is not an afterthought in the revamping of the healthcare system. Solutions presented and discussed at the hearing included tax credits for small business, across state line coverage, and Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements.

Here is more about the items discussed.

  • Tax credits for the self-employed: As the Tax Code currently stands, self-employed individuals are restricted from deducting their health insurance premiums. Small, self-employed business owners end up paying more for health insurance because their premiums are not treated the same for taxes as other businesses.

Leveling the playing field by giving these small businesses tax credits would improve affordability for small business owners, as well as expand the pool of coverage, according to Keith Hall of the National Association of the Self-Employed (NASE).

  • Across state line coverage: The number of insurers participating in the marketplace varies widely from state to state, as do the number of coverage plans. The lack of competition among insurers in the current exchanges decreases pressure to keep costs down.

Mr. Hall of the NASE believes that allowing for the sale of health insurance across state lines will boost competition, driving costs down. In order for this to happen, Congress will have to enact a health plan that will modify the existing law that inhibits the sale of health insurance across state lines.

  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs): A provision of a law signed into Congress last session allows small employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees that do not offer a group health plan to fund employee HRAs to pay for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses and for non-group plan health insurance premiums, including plans purchased on the public health care exchanges.

Allowing small businesses to offer a bare bones plan and HSAs would allow individuals to decide the best choice for themselves and their families, according to Tom Secor of Durable Corporation, who testified on behalf of the National Small Business Association (NSBA).

This hearing was the first of a continuing series that will take place on the discussion of healthcare repeal and replacement. To read full written testimony from each witness here.

10 Things You Should Know From the Linda McMahon Hearing

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

On Jan. 24, the Senate Small Business Committee held a hearing on the confirmation of Linda McMahon (former WWE CEO), to become Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA). Here are the 10 things you should know about her hearing:

  1. SBA is still part of the cabinet—President Obama elevated the position of SBA Administrator to cabinet level. President Trump is sticking with that change.
  2. Existing programs are safe…for now—When questioned by numerous senators on specific program commitments, McMahon repeatedly said that if the program is working then it should be continued.
  3. She will go to bat for small business in the executive branch—McMahon sees herself as the small business advocate within the executive branch, and will go to other agencies and make sure that more federal contracting opportunities are provided to small businesses.
  4. She will work to expand the 5% contracting goal for women—Senator Duckworth (IL), asked about the 5% goal, and McMahon expressed support for women entrepreneurs, broadly, “I have been very forthcoming in wanting women entrepreneurship to grow. And I will continue to support that, it is very near and dear to my heart.”
  5. She has a history working with Veterans—According to McMahon, WWE was always concerned about veterans and how to help create jobs for them. Senator Cardin (MD) discussed the Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP) program and noted its impact and high performance.
  6. Look for an emphasis on mentoring—Given McMahon’s background in business mentoring, she may focus on programs that incorporate mentorship. As co-founder of Women’s Leadership LIVE, McMahon’s organization educates entrepreneurs about all facets of starting and expanding their business.
  7. She wants to help free small businesses from burdensome regulations—While many senators asked questions about regulatory burdens on small businesses, Senator Ernst brought up the PROVE It Act—legislation passed out of committee last session that empowers the SBA Office of Advocacy to require agencies to analyze rules for their small business impact.
  8. Speaking of advocacy—McMahon expressed support for expanding the independent SBA Office of Advocacy to ensure that the voice of small business is heard on federal regulations.
  9. She wants small businesses to participate in anticipated Infrastructure projects—When asked about promoting fair opportunities for small businesses to compete for work in the highly anticipated infrastructure plan, McMahon stated that small business participation was a given.
  10. Streamlining cumbersome federal contracting—McMahon expressed support for streamlining the alphabet soup of federal websites and databases like SAM and FBO.

This was a conciliatory confirmation hearing. Given the contentious nature of other confirmation hearings, it was unknown what tone McMahon’s hearing would take. But the hearing went well. Senators were polite and McMahon was responsive to concerns. With so much partisanship in Washington, it was positive to see McMahon’s interest in working with the committee—both sides.

Senate Begins Process to Repeal Obamacare

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

The 115th Congress is already at work and taking votes that impact women business owners. The Senate voted 51 to 48 early Thursday to approve a budget resolution that instructs Congressional committees to begin work on legislation repealing major portions of the Affordable Care Act.

Senator Rand Paul was the lone Republican “no” vote and Republicans defeated Democratic amendments defending popular portions of the ACA, including expanded Medicaid and Medicare and allowing kids to stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26.

The House is expected to take up the resolution this week, though debate may extend into the weekend.

WIPP will work with Congress to ensure that whatever changes are implemented address accessibility and affordability—issues that have plagued the small business market.

WIPP will stay on top of legislative developments like this in 2017 to make sure you have the latest information you need.

In With the New

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

With inauguration festivities up ahead and a newly elected Congress hard at work, it is time to get down to business. The New Year serves as a good reminder that while there may be some new faces in Washington, many of the policy ideas are those we have seen before. Below are some highlights of what is both old and new in Washington for 2017.

Old and New. For the first time in years, our Country has unified government in the House, Senate, and White House. The difference this time is that the government is united by the Republicans, not Democrats. Amazingly, it’s only been six years since the Democrats controlled the government. New—now the Republicans are in change.

Old. Some problems don’t change. Creating more opportunities for women entrepreneurs to access capital continues to be a major theme for WIPP in 2017. Today, women entrepreneurs receive only 4% of commercial loan dollars. WIPP’s access to capital platform Breaking the Bank has been well received by policy makers because it is focused on solutions.

New. Some problems just surfaced. WIPP recently released a report, “Do Not Enter: Women Shut Out of U.S. Government’s Biggest Contracts,” finding clear evidence that women-owned small businesses have limited opportunities to win some of the federal government’s most sought-after contracts, despite a proven ability to deliver innovative goods and services. The report also outlines steps policy makers can take to rectify the problem.

Old. 2016 Was certainly a year of regulations for federal contractors. From Paid Sick Leave, to Overtime, Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces—it was often difficult to keep them straight.

New. 2017 is the year of deregulation. President-elect Trump and the U.S. House have strongly indicated many Obama administration rules will be repealed. The House just passed the Midnight Relief Act to quickly repeal any rule finalized in the last 60 days of an Administration. WIPP supports efforts to make it easier for women entrepreneurs to work with the government.

New. Government contracting finalized. While it took many years, SBA has finally released the new all-small business Mentor Protégé Program, and new rules making it easier for WOSBs to work with other WOSBs. WIPP looks forward to working with SBA to ensure WOSBs can use these program changes to grow our businesses.

Old. Wait –Nothing gets repealed in government contracting, there is just more to pile on.

Old and New. In 2017, 125 women hold seats in the U.S. Capitol building. One hundred and four women hold seats in the U.S. Congress, making up over 19 percent of the chamber. A greater percentage of women serve in the U.S. Senate, where there are 21 women (making up 21 percent). While the total number of women is identical to the number last Congress, there is one key difference—64% of the new women elected are women of color.

New. Firsts in Congress. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware is the first woman, and woman of color to serve from Delaware. Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto is the first woman, and first woman of color Nevada has elected to the U.S. Senate.

As WIPP prepares to work in the 115th Congress, we plan to present our ideas based on input from membership. We will work with all Members of Congress, and the new Administration, because one of the few things everyone agrees on is that enabling businesses to grow strengthens our economy. Women are entering the ranks of business ownership at record rates, and launching a net of more than 1,100 new businesses each day. We will work for the next several years to reinforce and grow the success of women’s business owners.

So what are we waiting for—let’s get to work.

Santa’s Wish list for Eight Crazy Nights

By: Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

Being located in the Nation’s Capital and leading the advocacy team for WIPP, gives us the opportunity to wish for things uniquely Washington. So, in the spirit of the holidays, and maybe a little tongue in cheek, here’s our wish list for Santa with a nod to Hanukkah.

Santa, please bring us:

1. A Congress that knows how to make deals. This is also called bipartisanship but at the heart of the matter, it requires willingness to bend without compromising principles (or giving away the store). A lost art in Washington, straight party votes and initiatives lead to a “do-nothing” Congress. Perhaps the new President–elect, who wrote a book on deal-making, can assist.

2. More women in Congress. Building on the first wish, we know firsthand that women in Congress are inclined to be practical and open to working with the opposing party. The 114th Congress will start with a record 108 women. Santa, please get more women to run for public office.

3. Busting through the 5% women-owned small business goal for federal contracts. We know that record $$$ were awarded to women-owned firms in 2016, but there is so much work to do to ensure they have equal access to federal contracts. Santa, you may have to place some of your elves in federal agencies to make this happen.

4. Rethinking Red Tape. Federal contractors got hit with lots of new requirements, for example, the Executive Order called Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces. Although the contracting community pointed out many flaws in these Executive Orders, they were largely ignored. So, Santa, just get rid of these Executive Orders.

5. More WIPP accomplishments for 2017 than we had in 2016. Ok, we know this one’s on us. We have a pretty long list of 2016 accomplishments on the legislative and regulatory side but we want the sled to overflow. Because of our efforts, Health Reimbursement Accounts are an option for small employers, contracts through the WOSB procurement program increased to over $18 billion, there is a new Mentor-Protégé Program for WOSBs, and more!

6. The end of massive motorcades. This really is an inside Washington request, but the motorcades for the President and visiting dignitaries have now reached epic proportions and wait times have stretched to half an hour. Talk about impeding commerce. We could really use a little Santa ”stealth” when it comes to moving the president around the city.

7. A fresh look. We are in the final days of the 114th Congress and about to head into the 115th Congress. Out with the old and in with the new. Here’s hoping Congress hits the reset button to look at women’s business issues in a new way.

8. A stable federal budget cycle. Actions of Congress directly affect the behavior of the economy and the stock market. Congress has all the tools it needs to produce a budget and accompanying appropriations every year. These last budget minute shuffles and funding extensions damage the economy and really put small contractors in a tough place. We realize this is a really big ask. But our understanding is that Santa can work his magic anywhere.

WIPP’s advocacy throughout 2016 has yielded great results for women entrepreneurs, but our strong advocacy is never over. There is still much work to be done. Thank you for your support and happy holidays from the WIPP Policy Team!

2016: What Kind of Year it has Been

While there is little doubt that most Americans think our political system is broken, quite a bit was accomplished in Washington this year.

In February, two announcements by SBA marked the result of more than 15 years of WIPP’s advocacy. For the first time ever, the federal government met its goal of awarding 5% of all contracts to women-owned firms. The following day, the WOSB procurement program, which helped make reaching the goal a reality, was expanded from 83 to 113 industries. The government now contracts $18 billion a year with women-owned small businesses, largely due to this program we spent so many years building.

As the snow began to melt, focus turned to the final months of the Obama Presidency. The Administration moved swiftly to issue Executive Orders aligned with their priorities. New rules were finalized from the U.S. Department of Labor including Fair Pay Safe Workplaces, Overtime, and Paid Sick Leave (though all three are under litigation and are expected to be rescinded by President-elect Trump). The General Services Administration finalized the Transactional Data Rule which adds an unnecessary burdensome reporting requirement for GSA schedule contract holders.

Regulations can also help small business. SBA released its updated Limitations on Subcontracting rule, making it easier for WOSBs to follow subcontracting rules by encouraging additional work with other WOSBs. SBA also began accepting applications for the long-awaited all-small Mentor Protégé Program, that helps WOSBs team with a mentor business and pursue federal opportunities.

In the fall, we welcomed Jane Campbell as the new President of WIPP. Her longtime advocacy for women entrepreneurs, coupled with her experience as a business owner, as the first woman Mayor of Cleveland, and as Staff Director of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, allowed her to hit the ground running.

At the end of the year, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill that include policies to help women small business owners by establishing a pilot program to allow subcontractors to seek past-performance credit and dedicates additional agency resources to assist small contractors. These are positive changes that will expand access to the federal market for women entrepreneurs.

Also passed as Congress comes to a close was the “21st Century Cures” legislation that addresses medical funding, cancer research, and changes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process. Inside the legislation is the reintroduction of Health Reimbursement Arrangements or HRAs, which offer business owners a tax-friendly way to subsidize employee medical costs, including insurance premiums. WIPP has long advocated for the return of HRAs because allowing employees to find their own individual insurance and reimbursing them was popular with small firms wishing to offer health benefits.

Finally, in 2016 our country elected the most diverse Congress, with more female senators than ever before. As departing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated during his farewell speech, “the Senate is a better place because of the women being here.” We know women in Washington get more done.

As we look forward to 2017, WIPP and women entrepreneurs will continue to press for important policy changes with the Trump Administration and the new Congress. We count on your support to make that happen.

EVENT: The Primary Process & What to Expect at the Upcoming Conventions

Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) invites you to a special, complimentary WE Decide 2016 event for women in business in Washington D.C. You’ve heard the buzzwords – “delegates”, “super delegates”, “brokered or contested convention”, now join us to learn more about how primaries work and get a preview of what to expect at the upcoming Democratic and Republican Conventions in July.

Join us on Tuesday, May 3rd from 3:00pm – 4:30pm in Washington, D.C. to hear from Elaine Kamarck, Founding Director of the Center for Effective Public Management and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution.

kamarck_elaine_1x1Elaine is a public sector scholar with wide experience in government, academia and politics. She is an expert on government innovation and reform in the United States, OECD countries and developing countries. In addition, she also focuses her research on the presidential nomination system and American politics and has worked in many American presidential campaigns.

Elaine is the author of “Primary Politics: Everything You Need to Know about How America Nominates Its Presidential Candidates.” She will be speaking with women in business on what to expect at the upcoming party conventions and how the delegate process works.

REGISTER HERE FOR THIS FREE EVENT!

This is an important election year, and through WE Decide 2016, you have the opportunity to educate the candidates, the media and voters on issues impacting women business owners, like you.

Join Me and Other Women Entrepreneurs this Election Season! #WEDecide2016

WE-Decide-2016_Landscape_edited

Dear WIPP Members and Friends,   

BK headshotWomen business owners are 10 million strong. When we engage in the political process with a positive message there is no stopping us!

WE Decide 2016 is mobilizing thousands of women in business to raise their voice and share their message this election season.  It is a wonderful opportunity to learn and to share our views on issues important to us with the candidates and the media.

So please, sign up today and encourage your friends and employees to join you. To immediately get involved you can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and sign up for WE Decide 2016 online. Below are the links to make an immediate impact –and it will only take 5 minutes of your time!

Sign up for WE Decide 2016.

Like WE Decide 2016 on Facebook.

Follow WE Decide 2016 on Twitter.

We also encourage you to spread the word in your networks, click here to view the most recent weekly partner and supporter newsletter. This newsletter provides links to logos, pictures for social media, sample social media, the topic for the weekly #WEDecideChat on Twitter, content for your website, and the most recent poll or survey. If you would like to sign your organization up as a supporter, please click here or email Lynn Bunim at lbunim@wipp.org.

Thank you again for your support – we couldn’t do all we do without you!

Sincerely,

BK single

Barbara Kasoff
WIPP President Emeritus
bkasoff@wipp.org