WASHINGTON - Senator John F. Kerry, chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today joined Senator Max Cleland (D-Ga.) to introduce legislation that would make it easier for small businesses to comply with federal regulations. The bill, the National Small Business Regulatory Assistance Act, would set up a pilot program through Small Business Development Centers in each region to provide regulatory compliance assistance to small businesses.

"Complying with reasonable protections should not have to distract small business owners from doing what's most important: running their business and growing our economy. This legislation will make the process faster, and easier and will simplify the red tape that puts small businesses at odds with their government," said Senator Kerry. "Small businesses should never have to fear that if they play by the rules they won't be able to make ends meet. Small Business Development Centers can help them bridge the gap between regulatory red tape and their business's bottom-line." Under the National Small Business Regulatory Assistance Act, SBDCs would form partnerships with federal compliance programs, conduct educational and training activities and offer free-of-charge compliance counseling to small business owners. Further, the measure would guarantee privacy to those who receive compliance assistance. The privacy provision has also been extended to all small businesses that seek any assistance.

The legislation only uses SBA funds and serves to complement current small business development assistance, as well as existing compliance assistance programs and will authorizes 20 grants between $150,000 and $300,000, depending on the population of the SBDC's state.

Companion legislation was introduced in the house (HR 203) and bears the same name as the Senate measure. The bill passed the House by voice vote in early October and received strong support from the House Committee on Small Business.