Major Policy Action on IRA, NEA, Ivory, and More

July 17, 2014

IRA Rollover Approved for Permanent Reinstatement by House

Today, the House passed by a vote of 277-130 H.R. 4719, a set of five charitable giving provisions, which includes reinstating and making permanent the IRA Charitable Rollover. The IRA Charitable Rollover has generated new and increased contributions to support the work that orchestras and other nonprofit organizations carry out in communities every day. The provision, which expired at the end of 2013, permits donors age 70 ½ and older to make tax-free charitable gifts directly from their IRAs, up to an annual ceiling of $100,000. Orchestra advocates rallied in response to the opportunity to weigh in with Congress, urging their Representatives to support this vital provision and the work it enables. The League has played a lead role in communications with key decision-makers on the Hill, and side-by-side with more than 850 organizations, signed on to an open nonprofit coalition letter to the House of Representatives in support of reinstating these important provisions that sustain the work of charitable organizations nation-wide. This letter was cited during the bill's debate and entered into public record. Advocates are now pressing Congress to finish final approval of the provision so that nonprofits will be able to put the resulting charitable donations to use as soon as possible.

NEA Funding Restored in House Committee

Earlier this week, the full House Appropriations Committee voted to restore FY15 NEA funding to the current level of $146 million, reversing an 8% cut initially offered by the Interior Subcommittee. This action demonstrates notably strong bi-partisan support for the NEA among policymakers, and represents a major departure from last summer’s attempt to slash the NEA’s budget nearly in half. Now that the bill has been approved by the Appropriations Committee, the next step will be floor consideration by the full House of Representatives. Timing of a floor vote is uncertain.  Many thanks to orchestra advocates for speaking up and telling Congress how important NEA funding is to communities nationwide.  If you’ve not yet weighed in, please make your voice heard!

Ivory Policies Remain Center Stage

The League continues to work with the Administration, Congress, conservation groups, and music industry partners to pursue immediate solutions that will protect the domestic and international use of musical instruments, while addressing threats to endangered species, as  a national strategy for regulating African elephant ivory continues to develop. 

· The League and the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) submitted joint testimony to the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) plan to implement a ban on the commercial trade in objects that contain African elephant ivory. The testimony conveys the immediate impact of policies now in place that jeopardize international travel with musical instruments that legally contain small amounts of African elephant ivory, and calls for exemptions from travel limitations and future restrictions on sales of existing musical instruments.

· The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a new application form for a Musical Instrument Passport that enables qualifying U.S. musicians to travel through multiple countries, good for up to three years. Confusion abounds for U.S. and foreign musicians attempting to navigate the rules for international travel with instruments that contain protected species – including not only small amounts of ivory, but also tortoise shell, Brazilian rosewood, and other protected species. The League continually updates its Tips for International Travel with Instruments webpage with the latest news, instructions, and forms.

Net Neutrality Debate Continues

Earlier this week, the League joined with more than 20 national arts and cultural organizations in joint comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of an open internet. With ever-increasing public demand for broadband, the League and co-signatories support safeguarding a platform for free expression and entrepreneurship. As stated in the testimony, “it is crucial that our creative communities are not disadvantaged as we advance and promote the diversity of expression that comprises American culture.” The group comments in support of “net neutrality” are available online.