Amendments Stifle SBIR Reauthorization ConsiderationApril 6, 2011
The U.S. Senate’s consideration of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technical Transfer Reauthorization (STTR) Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S. 493) stalled this week, as the legislators wrangled over a series of amendments—most unrelated to the SBIR program—to the bill.
It appears the Senate is poised to vote today on four separate amendments related to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Supreme Court-mandated efforts to address greenhouse gas emissions. The Senate this afternoon will consider an amendment by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would block all current and future EPA regulation of greenhouse gases; an amendment by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) that would delay the EPA rules for two years; an amendment Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) exempting the agriculture sector; and an amendment by Sen/ Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that would delay the EPA rules for two years and exempt the agriculture sector.
NSBA urges the Senate to consider these important issues in a context other than the long overdue reauthorization of the highly-successful SBIR program. SBIR, which is responsible for 25 percent of the most critical U.S. innovations of the last decade, currently is operating via its tenth short-term reauthorization since 2008.
S. 493 provides an eight-year reauthorization of the program and a one-percent increase in it’s allocation over the next decade. It also contains a breakthrough compromise on the highly-contentious issue of Venture Capital (VC) participation in the program. Specifically, S. 493 would render firms that were majority owned and controlled by multiple VC firms eligible for up to 25 percent of the SBIR funds at the National Institutes for Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy, and up to 15 percent of the funds at the eight other participating agencies.
S. 493 boasts bipartisan support and, in addition to NSBA, has been endorsed by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the National Venture Capital Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Small Business Technology Council.
With both Republicans and Democrats supportive of both measures, it is now an issue of procedural wrangling to get both passed. Though the Senate is broadly supportive of S. 493, the House has yet to produce a bill to reauthorize the SBIR and STTR programs. It is likely that the House’s version will include a shorter reauthorization period and could possibly ignore the broadly endorsed compromise on the VC issue, which has been the major hurdle to enacting a full reauthorization of the SBIR and STTR programs.
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