House Republican bills seek to assist small businesses

WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a package of largely uncontroversial measures that they said will help small businesses raise capital and create jobs, while showing that Congress can put aside its partisan differences and act in the country’s economic interests.

The White House said it was encouraged by the GOP action, but House Democrats noted that four of the six bills in the package have already passed the House by wide margins, and said it fell well short of the comprehensive jobs legislation that is needed.

The six bills would ease federal security regulations to make it easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs to attract investors and go public.

The legislation would take such steps as removing a Securities and Exchange Commission ban preventing small businesses from using advertisements to solicit investors; eliminating SEC restrictions that prevent “crowdfunding” so entrepreneurs can raise equity capital from a large pool of small investors; making it easier for small businesses to go public by increasing the threshold under which companies are exempt from SEC registration; and raising the shareholder registration requirement threshold from 500 shareholders to 1,000 shareholders.

Greece approves more cuts to clear way for rescue loans

ATHENS, Greece – Greece’s Parliament has approved new cuts in public sector pensions and government spending that had been demanded to secure a second package of international rescue loans.

Lawmakers voted 202-80 late Tuesday in favor of new cutbacks worth a total of (euro) 3.2 billion ($4.31 billion) aimed at bringing the 2012 budget back in line with targets. Earlier, the debt-crippled country’s Cabinet decided to apply labor reforms, including deep cuts to the minimum wage, retroactively to Feb. 14.

Greece is obliged to adopt a series of austerity measures and reforms before it can receive any funds from its new (euro) 130 billion ($174 billion) package of rescue loans from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.

Nature group, Shell Oil join to restore an eroding island

ARANSAS PASS, Texas – The Nature Conservancy of Texas and Shell Oil are partnering to restore an island that provides habitat for nesting birds in the Gulf of Mexico.

The type of collaboration announced Tuesday between the conservation group and the oil industry is becoming more common as state and federal funding shrinks. Some agencies say such partnerships have increased 20 percent since 2005.

Texas’ Shamrock Island provides habitat for more than 20,000 birds. The refuge was created in 1970 when Hurricane Celia destroyed a 300-yard sandbar that had connected Shamrock to Mustang Island, not far from Corpus Christi.

But storm surges, waves and wind eat up miles of Shamrock Island every year.

Shell Oil will pay $500,000 for the first phase of a $2.3 million project to build the island back up.


— From news service reports