NFIB: 75 Years of Historic Wins for Small Business

Date: June 17, 2018

A look at NFIB’s major milestones for small business throughout the past 75 years.

NFIB has advocated for the independence of small business for 75 years. We are the only member-driven organization dedicated solely to upholding the public policy interests of small and independent businesses nationwide, and we do so every day in Washington, D.C., in each state capital, and in the courts. These are the biggest victories we’ve won for small business—and the organization-defining moments that brought us to this point.

Expanding Full-Time Lobbying Efforts

The first step to becoming the voice of small business in America was to solidify NFIB’s presence on Capitol Hill. In 1949, founder C. Wilson Harder hired George Burger Sr.—a well-established lobbyist for tire dealers—as NFIB’s first full-time lobbyist in Washington, D.C. 

Joining the Federal Policy Debates

Our second president, Wilson S. Johnson, met with Nixon for the first time in 1971 to discuss small business problems. Thereafter, Johnson met with White House staff quarterly to discuss these issues. To make the most of these meetings, we began conducting quarterly economic surveys of our members to produce current data on the topics most concerning to small business owners. These reports boosted NFIB’s credibility and visibility in D.C., and they eventually became NFIB’s highly regarded Small Business Economic Trendsmonthly report.

Expanding State Focus

Before Johnson became president of NFIB, his role on the NFIB sales team allowed him to meet with members almost daily. Johnson understood that members were often most concerned about state legislation, which could have a huge impact on small business. So, in 1972, Johnson started the NFIB State Affairs Department with three regional directors and a national director. By 1985, we had a lobbyist in every state.

Advocating for Regulatory Reform

In 1980 and 1996, we helped secure passage and enactment of two key bills, the Regulatory Flexibility Act and the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, which require federal agencies to consider small business impacts when promulgating regulation. We’ve continued to advocate for regulatory reform and celebrated several victories in 2017, including the defeat of the overtime rule, the persuader rule, and others. 

Becoming a Major Player

In 1986, the White House Conference on Small Business was held. NFIB played a prominent role in shaping the recommendations that were proposed to the Regan administration after the conference. When the same conference was held in 1995, approximately 500 NFIB members served as delegates, voicing their opinions on small business issues. In 1997, NFIB was ranked the fourth most powerful lobbying group in Washington, D.C., by Fortune. It moved up to No. 2 in 1999.

Entering Into the Healthcare Debate

Under NFIB’s fourth president, Jack Faris, NFIB stood alone and opposed President Bill Clinton’s healthcare plan, under which all employers would have been required to provide health insurance for their employees. The plan was defeated in 1994, despite the support of Big Business. NFIB—thanks to the strength of our grassroots mobilization—earned the lion’s share of the credit for its defeat.

Securing Tax Cuts

NFIB worked with the George W. Bush administration to pass meaningful small business tax relief in 2001 and 2003.  With NFIB’s help, individual rates were lowered, Section 179 expensing was significantly expanded, and the impact of the estate tax on small businesses was greatly reduced. President Bush is pictured with Jack Faris below. 

Making Section 179 Permanent

During the Obama era, NFIB was able to work with the administration and Congress to support a permanent extension of Section 179 expensing, making this important small business tax provision part of permanent tax law.

Opposing the Affordable Care Act

After President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, we filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law. In 2012, the Supreme Court narrowly upheld the law—and its mandate that everyone purchase health insurance or pay a penalty—as constitutional under Congress’ taxing authority.

 “Although we did not overturn Obamacare, in NFIB v. Sebelius the U.S. Supreme Court created positive legal precedent that limits government power over small businesses and all Americans,” says Karen Harned, Executive Dir. of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center. “The case was an organization-defining moment and significantly raised NFIB’s profile.”

Striking Down the Persuader Rule

In 2016, NFIB successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Department of Labor’s persuader rule in court. Had we not won, employers would have been required to report to DOL any time they hired legal counsel for assistance in dealing with unionization issues. This would have put small businesses at a severe disadvantage when trying to navigate the complexities of labor laws, and failure to comply would have resulted in criminal penalties.

Defeating the Overtime Rule

“In terms of courtroom victories, our biggest and most impactful win was striking down the Obama administration’s overtime rule, which would have imposed extreme burdens on many small businesses,” Harned says. “This was a crucial win where NFIB proved itself the guardian of small business interests.”

This rule would have more than doubled the salary threshold at which employees would be exempt from earning overtime pay, costing small businesses thousands of dollars in labor costs and compliance time.

Achieving a Tax Reform Victory

In 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law, delivering hundreds of billions of dollars in tax relief. NFIB stood up for small business during the legislative process, securing significant tax relief, including a new 20 percent deduction. Our support of the final bill was crucial to getting it over the finish line.

The Voice of Small Business

NFIB members say our work allows them to focus on what matters to them most: growing their own companies.    

“As a small business owner, you are involved in every aspect of your business,” says Alan Schenck, owner of Earl Schenck Corporation in Clarinda, Iowa, and an NFIB member since 1964. “You are busy and do not have time to follow some of the political taxes and regulations being proposed by politicians. Therefore, you hire NFIB to do this for you. The ballot is a way for the busy small business owner to have our lobbyist, NFIB, handle these important issues by presenting our views to politicians.”

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