Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I am pleased to join with my friend and colleague, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business, KIT BOND, in introducing the ``Independent Office of Advocacy Act.'' This legislation will help ensure the Small Business Administration's (SBA ) Office of Advocacy has the necessary autonomy to remain an independent voice for America's small businesses. I would like to thank the Chairman and his staff for working with me and my staff to make the necessary changes to this legislation to garner bipartisan support.

This legislation is similar to a bill introduced by Chairman BOND, which I supported, during the 106th Congress. While this legislation received strong support in the Senate Committee on Small Business and on the floor of the Senate, the House did not take any action. I am hopeful that this legislation will be enacted during the 107th Congress.

The Independent Office of Advocacy Act rewrites the law that created the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy to allow for increased autonomy. It reaffirms the Office's statutory and financial independence by preventing the President from firing the advocate without 30 days prior notice to Congress and by creating a separate authorization for the Office from that of SBA's . It also states that the Chief Counsel shall be appointed without regard to political affiliation, and shall not have served in the Administration for a period of 5 years prior to the date of appointment.

The legislation also makes women-owned businesses an equal priority of the Office of Advocacy by adding women-owned business to the primary functions of the Office of Advocacy, wherever minority owned business appears. It also adds new reporting requirements and additional functions to the Office of Advocacy with regard to enforcement of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, SBREFA. The provisions regarding SBREFA are already a part of existing law in Chapter 6 Title 5 of US Code, and will now, rightly, be added to the statute establishing the Office of Advocacy.

But at its heart, this legislation will allow the Office of Advocacy to better represent small business interests before Congress, Federal agencies, and the Federal Government without fear of reprisal for disagreeing with the position of the current Administration.

For those of my colleagues without an intimate knowledge of the important role the Office of Advocacy and its Chief Counsel play in protecting and promoting America's small businesses, I will briefly elaborate its important functions and achievements. From studying the role of small business in the U.S. economy, to promoting small business exports, to lightening the regulatory burden of small businesses through the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) and the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, SBREFA, the Office of Advocacy has a wide scope of authority and responsibility.

The U.S. Congress created the Office of Advocacy, headed by a Chief Counsel to be appointed by the President from the private sector and confirmed by the Senate, in June of 1976. The rationale was to give small businesses a louder voice in the councils of government.

Each year, the Office of Advocacy works to facilitate meetings for small business people with congressional staff and executive branch officials, and convenes ad hoc issue-specific meetings to discuss small business concerns. It has published numerous reports, compiled vast amounts of data and successfully lightened the regulatory burden on America's small businesses. In the area of contracting, the Office of Advocacy developed PRO- Net, a database of small businesses used by contracting officers to find small businesses interested in selling to the Federal government.

The U.S. Congress, the Administration and of course, small businesses, have all benefitted from the work of the Office of Advocacy. For example, between 1998 and 2000, regulatory changes supported by the Office of Advocacy saved small businesses around $20 billion in annual and one-time compliance costs.

Mr. President, small businesses remain the backbone of the U.S. economy, accounting for 99 percent of all employers, providing 75 percent of all net new jobs, and accounting for 51 percent of private-sector output. In fact, and this may surprise some of my colleagues, small businesses employ 38 percent of high-tech workers, an increasingly important sector in our economy.

Small businesses have also taken the lead in moving people from welfare to work and an increasing number of women and minorities are turning to small business ownership as a means to gain economic self-sufficiency. Put simply, small businesses represent what is best in the United States economy, providing innovation, competition and entrepreneurship.

Their interests are vast, their activities divergent, and the difficulties they face to stay in business are numerous. To provide the necessary support to help them, SBA's Office of Advocacy needs our support.

The responsibility and authority given the Office of Advocacy and the Chief Counsel are crucial to their ability to be an effective independent voice in the Federal Government for small businesses. When the Senate Committee on Small Business held a Roundtable meeting about the Office of Advocacy with small business concerns on April 21, 1999, every person in the room was concerned about the present and future state of affairs for the Office of Advocacy. These small businesses asked us to do everything we could to protect and strengthen this important office. I believe this legislation accomplishes this important goal.

I have always been a strong supporter of the Office of Advocacy and I am pleased to join with Chairman BOND in introducing this legislation, which will ensure that it remains an independent and effective voice representing America's small businesses.