WASHINGTON -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today introduced legislation to make it easier for small businesses to comply with federal regulations.

“Small-business owners have enough on their plates without worrying about complying with confusing regulations.” Kerry said. “This legislation will decrease the burden on small businesses by helping them cut through government red tape.”

The SBA’s independent Office of Advocacy estimates that small businesses with fewer than 20 employees -- which make up 89 percent of all U.S. businesses -- pay nearly $7,000 per employee to comply with federal regulations. This is nearly 60 percent higher than the cost to larger firms.

The National Small Business Regulatory Assistance Act of 2005, creates a 4-year pilot program offering regulatory compliance assistance to small businesses across the country through the Small Business Administration’s nationwide network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs).

The SBDCs participating in this pilot program would form partnerships with federal compliance programs, offer free-of-charge compliance counseling, conduct training and educational activities, and provide access to regulatory information and resources to small-business owners. As with other SBDC counseling, the small businesses seeking assistance through this program would be guaranteed privacy. The legislation would complement, not duplicate, current small business development assistance and expand upon existing regulatory compliance help.

Kerry’s bipartisan bill is cosponsored by Sens. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), Chair of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), James Jeffords (I-Vt.), Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), and John D. Rockefeller, IV (D-W.V.).

Companion legislation (H.R. 230) introduced by Congressman John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) has passed the House of Representatives in each of the last three Congresses and was approved by the House Small Business Committee yesterday.