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Asm. David Chiu: The legislature does not prioritize small businesses

He joined the Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce to discuss ways to help minority-owned businesses.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce held its annual summit Wednesday to help communities understand how policies and changes in the law impact their diverse businesses. 

Democratic Assemblymember David Chiu said the legislature simply does not prioritize small businesses. He authored a bi-partisan bill he thought would help the community, but it failed in the final appropriations committee.

“If I had a dollar for every time an elected official said that small businesses are the ‘backbone of our economy,'" Chiu said while discussing AB915, the bill he authored.

“This is one of the very few times I literally copied a Republican idea,” Chiu said. 

It would have required state agencies to have an equity action plan to make sure disadvantaged businesses actually benefit from the agency. It also required 25% of all state contracts and procurements to go to small businesses. 

“Oftentimes, these contracts go to the largest businesses, not just in our state, but in the country, and in the world," he added, "and when you have a budget that is hundreds of billions of dollars that doesn’t completely make sense."

San Francisco's mayor appointed David Chiu as city attorney, so Senator Dave Min, who is one of two Asian Americans in the state senate, said he would commit to bringing the bill back in the next session. 

“Because I think it is very difficult to be a small business in the state, and I think we can try and make it easier," Min said. 

However, it’s not just state policies that they say need more work. Chiu said local governments don’t make it easy either. 

“There have been many examples in San Francisco of ice cream shop entrepreneurs who literally spent two or three years to open up the ice cream shop and could not get their business started because the bureaucracy in my city just choked it to death," Chiu said. "So there really is a role for city government, whether it be in thinking about how to streamline planning and zoning rules to thinking about the fees, to thinking about tax structures, to thinking about grant making opportunities."

Chiu said he knows different cities have different policies when it comes to dealing with minority-owned businesses, so he called on the California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce to cross-check which ones work and which ones don’t, and push the ones that work to the forefront. 

The assemblymember's office said nothing substantial will change in the next version of the bill, saying they already listened to everyone’s concerns and added quite a few amendments to the final bill. 

The appropriations committee did not give an explanation as to why the bill never made it through. 

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