McCaskill seeks to simplify, tighten small business contract process

Thursday, September 22, 2011 | 12:09 p.m. CDT

WASHINGTON — Sen. Claire McCaskill plans to introduce legislation Thursday that would simplify the way small businesses get federal contracts while also ensuring the recipients truly are small businesses.

In an interview with The Associated Press, McCaskill said the legislation is an outgrowth of hearings she held this summer about the small business funding process. She said she was amazed to learn that many companies that reap government contracts designed for small businesses are actually large companies or subsidiaries of large companies.

"If there's one thing that's true, it's that we have to do all we can to make small businesses viable," McCaskill said. "This is really about the government getting its act together and stopping what I would call a huge scam that's going on."

McCaskill's legislation would require the Small Business Administration to craft a new classification system for small businesses. It will also require the agency to revise the size rules for applicants and urge the agency to create rules closing loopholes that now let larger businesses qualify for SBA contracts.

McCaskill said she has spoken with colleagues about the legislation and hopes to attract bipartisan support in the Senate. She said it should be less controversial because it is aimed at making government work more efficiently, not adding regulations to businesses.

Calls by The Associated Press to several Republicans on the committee were not immediately returned Wednesday.

Kit Price, a small business owner in Columbia, said she appreciated McCaskill's efforts.

Price owns a dry cleaning business that competes for federal contracts with other businesses in southern Missouri. One of the companies she competes against for small business contracts, she said, is a $35 million enterprise.

"That small business designation needs to be defined," she said. "If they're truly trying to set these aside for small businesses, they need to define it correctly."

Price, 40, said she thinks legislation aimed at streamlining the process would make things better.

"Every government contract I've ever done requires so much work — you have 100 page contracts with 20 pages of amendments," she said.

McCaskill said the legislation will be aimed at ensuring people like Price can sift through the process.

"This is about making the rules that currently exist make sense and applying common sense rules," McCaskill said.

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