HARRISBURG — A bill passed in the Pennsylvania House this week seeks to include veteran-owned small businesses in the Commonwealth’s Small Diverse Business program.
According to the main sponsor of House Bill 2682State Representative David Rowe, R-Snyder/Union.
Veteran-Owned Small Businesses has been removed as a qualifying indicator for the Diversified Small Business Program in 2015 under a Executive Decree by Governor Tom Wolf. Veterans can still qualify for the program, but not as easily. They must fit other designations like being a minority or being disabled.
The governor’s order was actually intended to address a lack of diversity in public procurement for construction work and much more, including for veterans, and created the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunity.
Veteran-owned businesses have moved into a specific program, the Veteran Business Enterprise (VBE). Rowe says the VBE didn’t help and points to program data.
“Our veterans have given so much to us and restoring the entrepreneurial advantages they enjoyed before Wolf’s executive order would allow them to continue to create jobs that fuel economic growth.” It would also allow them to invest in our communities in the same way they have invested in protecting and preserving our freedoms with their service,” Rowe said.
Target targets for contract supply across all agencies have been set following the release of a study of disparities in 2018Diversified Small Business (SDB), Small Business (SB), and Veteran-Owned, respectively.
The office one latest annual report shows that the Commonwealth does not achieve these objectives: 11.72% for SDBs, 8.13% for SBs, 0.40% for VBEs.
Of the $4.2 billion spent by the Commonwealth on goods and services in the 2021 financial year, $856 million, or 20.25% combined, went to SDB, SB and VBE businesses, according to the annual report. While this represented a 30% increase across the board from the prior fiscal year, the veterans share was only $17 million.
Rowe’s measure passed the House Committees on Commerce and Appropriations this month without a dissenting vote. Three attempts by Democrats to amend the measure before the final vote failed.
The law project past 189-13, the dissenting votes coming from the Democratic representatives. It now moves to the Senate, which has just seven sitting days left this year – six in October, one in November.
Despite the tight schedule, Rowe is optimistic that he will become law. The bill was introduced in June and made its way through the House. He said it takes three days in session to get a bill through either house and hopes it will in the Senate this fall.