Get Started: Small business committee, contracting

NEW YORK (AP) — NEW MEMBERS ON HOUSE SMALL BUSINESS COMMITTEE

The House Small Business Committee is adding five new Republican members and potentially three new Democrats for the 113th Congress.

Committee Chairman Sam Graves, R-Mo., announced Friday that the following House Republicans would join the committee: U.S. Reps. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, David Schweikert of Arizona, Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, Chris Collins of New York and Tom Rice of South Carolina.

Five Republican members left the committee as a result of not winning re-election to Congress. Only two Republican members who were re-elected are not rejoining the committee, U.S. Reps. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania and Renee Ellmers of North Carolina.

Barletta was appointed to the Committee on Homeland Security. He will continue to serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Education and the Workforce Committee. Ellmers was named as a new member to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The returning Republican members include: U.S. Reps. Sam Graves of Missouri, Steve Chabot of Ohio, Steve King of Iowa, Mike Coffman of Colorado, Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, Scott Tipton of Colorado, Jamie Herrera Beutler of Washington and Richard Hanna of New York.

The Democratic members on the House Small Business Committee are still being finalized. However, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday approved the recommended additions of the following Democrats: U.S. Reps. Janice Hahn of California, Donald Payne Jr. of New Jersey and Brad Schneider of Illinois to serve on the committee.

NEW LAWS AIMED AT BOOSTING SMALLBIZ CONTRACTS

Legislation aimed at helping small business owners win more contracts with the federal government has become law.

President Barack Obama signed the legislation last week as part of a $633 billion package of bills that authorized spending for the Department of Defense.

The new contracting laws are designed to help the government meet its goal of granting 23 percent of all federal contracts to small businesses. Senior employees of agencies will be held more accountable for meeting that goal, and under the new laws, their bonuses can be withheld if the target isn't met.

The new laws also aim to end contracting fraud, which can occur when large companies win contracts that should have gone to small businesses. One provision requires the Government Accountability Office, the auditing arm of Congress, to review what agencies are doing to prevent illegal contract bundling and issue reports on its findings. Bundling is when smaller contracts are combined into a larger one that is then awarded to a large company — which may not necessarily subcontract with small businesses.

Another law changes some of the rules for subcontracting to make it easier for small businesses to team up on contracts. And another aims to make it easier for women-owned small businesses to win contracts.

More legislation about contracting is likely to be introduced in the new Congress, which took office on Thursday. House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves, R-Mo., had sought an increase in the amount of contracts to be given to small businesses, but that increase, to 25 percent, was not included in the legislation that was approved last week

MIMIMUM WAGE ON THE RISE

Small business owners in 10 states will have to pay workers a higher minimum wage in 2013.

Washington, Rhode Island, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Vermont all increased the minimum amount that employees in their state must be paid as of New Year's day. Of the 10 states that increased their minimum wage, nine did so automatically to adjust for inflation. Rhode Island lawmakers approved that state's wage increase in the past year.

Among the states with automatic adjustments, the average minimum wage is $8.12 an hour, up from a little under $8. States that do not have automatic changes operate with an average minimum wage of about $7.40 — a difference of about $1,500 a year for a full-time worker.

However, many states across the country follow the federal minimum wage, which is currently at $7.25 per hour. They do this either because they've tied their minimum wage to that threshold or because the state minimum is lower.

CREDIT CARD FEES

MasterCard Inc. is raising some of its small business transaction fees in Canada and lowering others. The fees for small merchants will rise from 0.064 percent to 0.077 percent on July 1.

However, the credit and debit card company said it was lowering fees on PayPass transactions under $10. PayPass is MasterCard's quick-pay option that lets shoppers make purchases by just tapping their cards on terminals or by clicking on a button online.

When asked if the company plans a similar fee increase in the U.S., spokeswoman Robyn Cottelli said that MasterCard does not publicly discuss its pricing plans or strategy.

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AP Business Writer Sarah Skidmore contributed from Portland, Ore., AP Business Writer Joyce M. Rosenberg contributed from New York.

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