Washington Watch - March 16, 2011


Washington Watch - March 16, 2011

Budget Negotiations Continue

Congress is expected to clear another stopgap funding measure, which will be in effect for three weeks. The current Continuing Resolution (CR), or temporary budget, is set to expire on March 18. The new measure is expected to cut $6 billion from funds unused in the 2010 Census operation.

The House GOP has said it would like to cut $100 billion from the 2011 budget. Thus far, Senate Democrats have refused House bill language that would cut $57.5 billion and language that would block funding to President Obama's health care law.

President Obama implored Congress not to cut education funding, referring to a House-passed bill that would cut $12 billion from the Department of Education's budget.

Read more about the budget process on the NASE Blog here.

Small Biz Bills Move In Congress

The Senate is set to analyze a series of small business legislation and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has indicated that it may be used as a vehicle for spending reductions (proposed as amendments to the bill). 

One bill is for the reauthorization of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant programs, both operated by the Small Business Administration. The White House has signaled its support for the bill and the Senate last year passed a similar bill that would extend funding to the programs for a number of years, but it did not clear the House. The NASE is very supportive of federal small business programs with a proven track record.

A small-business amendment may be offered to repeal the excessive reporting requirement for Form 1099, passed in the health care law. The bill, introduced by Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) would have an offset of reclaiming parts of underused tax credits for low- to middle-income individuals. While not necessarily advocating for a repeal of the measure, the NASE strongly recommends that Congress take action on the onerous 1099 requirement, so that the self-employed are not hit with a huge paperwork burden come 2012.

Senate Approves Patent Overhaul Bill

Congress is tackling patent reform for the first time in decades and the Senate has already signed off on a measure to do so. Supporters say that the bill is a long time coming and that they hope it will travel quickly through the House. There is one issue that the NASE finds particularly troubling, and that involves the issue of who is granted a patent. As it stands, the rules designate that the first person to invent is granted the patent, instead of the first to file. The "first to invent" provision requires dated proof that shows a person or group came up with the idea initially. This has been seen as a nod to small businesses, who may not have lawyers on staff to handle to paperwork and negotiations involved in obtaining a patent. The new rule would be changed to "first to file," meaning that whomever submits their paperwork to the Patent and Trademark Office first will be granted the claim.

Under current law, small businesses receive a break on filing fees. They would continue to get such relief, while micro-businesses would get a new additional reduction. The fees for maintaining patent applications and patents are reduced by 50 percent for small entities. Under the bill, the fees shall be reduced by 75 percent for micro-businesses.

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Courtesy of NASE.org