Congress is grappling with a number of bills that would have an impact for small businesses, including online sales tax, transportation funding and immigration reform measures. (Pete Marovich/Bloomberg)

A review of the biggest small business and start-up stories from the past week, with a special focus on Washington.

A wide divide: A newly released congressional report revealsthat, while companies owned by women represent nearly a third of the country’s small businesses, they account for less than 5 percent of dollars borrowed through traditional small business loans. In addition, despite programs intended to direct government work to women-owned firms, many more federal contracts still go to companies owned by men. (OSB)

Obamacare suit tossed: A federal judge last week dismissed a lawsuit from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) challenging new rules that require lawmakers and their staffers to buy plans through the health care law’s new insurance exchanges for small businesses. Johnson had argued the rule forced him to participate in a program he considers illegal. A day later, two appelate courts issued dueling rulings on a key provision of the law. (OSB)

Back in business: A bipartisan group of senators has introduced what they’re calling the Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act, the latest attempt to give states more authority to collect sales tax on online purchases. Once thought to have no hope of passage in the House, the proposal appears to have new life as the senators are hoping to attach it this fall to a separate Internet tax bill that has broad support in both chambers. (OSB)

What skills gap? In its quarterly business conditions survey released last week, the National Association for Business Economics reports that less that a quarter of business owners are facing a shortage of skilled workers, down considerably from the same time last year, when one out of three reported difficulty finding candidates. In addition, 43 percent of employers say they raised wages in the past three months. (CNBC)

Come one, come all: The House of Representatives last week easily approved legislation reauthorizing Brand USA, a public-private program intended to attract more tourists to the United States. While opponents have said the industry shouldn’t be using taxpayer money to finance its profits, supporters of Brand USA argue the program has resulted in an additional $3.4 billion spent at U.S. businesses last year. (WBJ)

Switching hands: Sales of small businesses in the second quarter reached their fastest pace since before the recession began, with 2,029 companies switching hands, according to firms-for-sale marketplace BizBuySell. That’s just 3 percent shy of the record number (2,098) of sales reported during the second quarter of 2008, and it marks the sixth straight month of quarterly gains in the small business marketplace. (SABJ)

From H1B to O1A: With comprehensive immigration reform off the table, and still plenty of opposition to expanding the H1-B visa program, technology and start-up leaders are shifting their attention to another less-discussed angle on visas: expanding the O1A visa, which is set aside for “individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement.” (WP)

Bonus: Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran shares her business pitch pet peeve. (OSB)

What are you keeping an eye on this week? Please let us know below.

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