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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.

NEA Budget Restored in House Committee!

July 15, 2014

Following last week’s House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee recommendation to cut $8 million from the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), this morning the full Appropriations Committee reversed the cut, restoring NEA funding in the bill to the current level of $146 million.  Interior Subcommittee chairman Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) offered a manager’s amendment – a set of amendments that already have bipartisan support – which restored the FY15 recommendation for the NEA to matching last year’s allocation. Committee members Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Nita Lowey (D-NY) also showed strong leadership in support of restoring NEA funding.

The manager’s amendment was unanimously accepted, which demonstrates the 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. The Appropriations Committee has passed the overall bill, so the next step will be floor consideration by the full House of Representatives.

Many thanks to orchestra advocates for speaking up and telling Congress how important NEA funding is to communities nationwide!

House Subcommittee Advances $8M Cut for NEA FY15 Budget

July 10, 2014

The House Interior Subcommittee on Appropriations approved its funding bill yesterday, which includes an $8 million decrease in the FY15 budget for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This proposed cut, while not the drastic 49% reduction that the Subcommittee recommended last year, would be the lowest budget for the NEA since FY08.

Tell your elected officials how important NEA funding is to communities. Direct grants from the NEA to orchestras, as well as support to state arts agencies, enable public access to performances, preserve great classical works, bolster arts education for children and adults, and support the creative endeavors of contemporary classical musicians, composers, and conductors.

The full House Appropriations committee will consider the bill on the morning of Tuesday, July 15, at which point amendments are likely to be offered on a range of budgetary items. If approved by the committee, the entire Interior funding bill will then advance to the full House for a vote. The House and Senate would each need to complete their respective bills before the fiscal year ends on September 30, so this is an opportune moment to speak up in support of public funding for the arts to your Representative and Senators. 

Urge Your Members of Congress to Support the NEA Today!

Summer Policy Updates: Ivory, IRA, & NEA

July 1, 2014

New Action on Ivory in Instruments

A great many existing musical instruments that contain small amounts of endangered species material - while legally manufactured and purchased - are now subject to new requirements for international travel, and may be impacted by upcoming proposals to curtail their future sale and re-sale. As the Obama Administration considers next steps in regulating African elephant ivory and other protected species material, the League is providing resources to help musicians and orchestras understand the new travel requirements, and is in ongoing policy conversations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Congress to seek policy solutions that address wildlife conservation goals while also protecting musical activity.

Use our very latest Tips for International Travel with Instruments, including a link to the new U.S.-issued musical instrument “passport” application.

View the League’s June 9 Comments to the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking.

Prepare for important opportunities to speak up. The next wave of policies will be developed through the regulatory process. Federal rule-makers will invite public comments on drafts of new policies later this summer, and we will let you know as soon as the comment period is opened.

The League’s work on this very important topic is carried out in close partnership with other national arts organizations, including the American Federation of Musicians, the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, The Recording Academy, Chamber Music America, the American Federation of Violin and Bow makers, the National Association of Music Merchants, and the Performing Arts Alliance.

IRA Rollover Up for Reinstatement

As early as next week, the House may consider permanent reinstatement of the IRA Charitable Rollover and other important charitable giving incentives. The League has joined Independent Sector and hundreds of other organizations in signing a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, urging lawmakers to vote for permanent reinstatement of these key provisions that spur donors to give more. The IRA Charitable Rollover, 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. Under this provision, donors have given new and increased contributions to support the work of orchestras and other nonprofit organizations.

Find further background on the IRA Charitable Rollover provision in the League’s online campaign materials.

Jane Chu is New Chairman; Grant Deadline Quickly Approaching

Dr. Jane Chu was confirmed by the Senate last month as the 11th chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). She served since 2006 as President and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts—the performance home of the Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Symphony, and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Dr. Chu made her first public appearance as NEA Chairman at the June 27th convening of the National Council on the Arts in Washington, D.C., and describes in an NEA podcast how the study of music, visual art, philanthropy, and business strategy has shaped her approach to her new role.

Grants awarded to orchestras by the NEA provide critical funding for programs that increase public access to music in communities nationwide, preserve great classical works, support arts education for children and adults, and nurture the creative endeavors of contemporary classical musicians, composers, and conductors. Orchestras interested in applying for the 2nd round of Art Works grant funding should take note of the earlier deadline this year of July 24, 2014. Grant tips for your application are available on the League’s website.

Ivory Rules for Instruments Eased, Not Yet Fixed

May 15, 2014

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) today announced changes intended to ease international travel with musical instruments, agreeing that “common-sense” solutions are needed to address the unintended consequences of the recent African elephant ivory ban. The policy changes are a step in the right direction - in direct response to urgent appeals from the League of American Orchestras and other stakeholders - but are far from a complete resolution to the challenges faced by musicians intending to travel with and purchase existing, legally-crafted instruments that are essential tools of the trade.

A policy order was amended today to allow travel with instruments purchased prior to February 25, 2014 that contain African elephant ivory. New rules announced earlier this year prohibited most traveling musicians from entering the U.S. with instruments that contain small amounts of African elephant ivory. Following a new Obama Administration effort to protect African elephants by combating illegal trade in ivory, the director of USFWS ordered strict enforcement procedures related to the Endangered Species Act and the African Elephant Conservation Act, and this order went into effect immediately on February 25, 2014. The original order prevented travel into the U.S. with instruments purchased since February 26, 1976 that contain African elephant ivory. A great many musical instruments containing African elephant ivory, while legally manufactured and acquired, have been legally purchased after 1976, and would have been completely prohibited from entering into the U.S. It is not uncommon for professional orchestra musicians, particularly string players, to perform with instruments that contain small amounts of ivory, most frequently found in the tips of bows.

Under the latest version of the rules, a musical instrument that contains African elephant ivory may be brought into the U.S. if the instrument meets all of the following criteria:

  • The African elephant ivory contained in the instrument was legally acquired prior to February 26, 1976;
  • The instrument has not subsequently been transferred from one person to another person for financial gain or profit since February 25, 2014;
  • The person or group traveling with the instrument qualifies for a CITES musical instrument certificate; and
  • The musical instrument containing African elephant ivory is accompanied by a valid CITES musical instrument certificate or an equivalent CITES document.

While widening the scope of instruments eligible for travel across U.S. borders to encompass instruments legally purchased in the past 38 years is an important step in the right direction, many serious concerns remain: 

  • It is unclear at this time what documentation will be sufficient to prove that an instrument was purchased prior to February 25, 2014. And, instruments purchased after that date, if they contain African elephant ivory, will be banned from entering the U.S.
  • A reliable system has not been built for obtaining CITES permits and navigating complicated enforcement procedures at the very limited number of allowable U.S. ports of entry and departure, and across the globe.  The costs, uncertainty, and risks associated with attempting to travel with permits is a barrier to international cultural activity.
  • Upcoming U.S. Fish and Wildlife proposals to prohibit future domestic interstate sale and re-sale of legally-crafted instruments that contain very small amounts of African elephant ivory will strip essential musical instruments of their value, and render them unavailable for use by future generations of musicians.

USFWS Director Dan Ashe said today, “we have listened to the very real concerns expressed by the regulated community and have made common-sense adjustments.” Dialing back the limitation on the allowable purchase date represents a significant acknowledgement that the use of existing musical instruments that contain small amounts of ivory is not contributing to wildlife trafficking. The League is in ongoing dialogue with the Administration and key policy leaders to continue to seek solutions that address wildlife conservation goals while also protecting international musical activity. 

See the following League resources for more details and ongoing updates:

Weigh in on Musical Instrument Policies

Ivory Ban Impact on Orchestras

CITES Protected Species Travel Tips

For more information, please contact the League's Government Affairs office.

 

NEA Chair Nominee Clears First Step

May 14, 2014

The first step in the confirmation process of Dr. Jane Chu as the next chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was cleared today, with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions voting to approve the President’s nomination. The next step is floor consideration by the full Senate, to be scheduled by majority leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). Dr. Chu’s confirmation is eagerly anticipated due to her deep knowledge and experience in community engagement and revitalization through the arts. Her approval would fill a vacancy that has lasted for more than one year. Operating under an interim chair, the agency has continued to disburse grants, release impactful research, and most recently, move to a new office location.

The League has been a long-time advocate for increased funding for the NEA, submitting written testimony each year, and regularly communicates grant opportunities and key updates to orchestras throughout the year. For any organization that received an NEA grant this year, we encourage you to reach out to your Members of Congress to let them know how the agency’s support is strengthening your community at home!

Ask Congress to Reinstate the IRA Rollover!

May 8, 2014

A tax provision that has been proven to boost the impact of nonprofit organizations in communities nationwide is up for consideration in the Senate next week. Take a moment to weigh in today in support of the reinstating the IRA Charitable Rollover, which allows donors aged 70-1/2 and older to make tax-free charitable gifts directly from their retirement accounts. This important incentive to increase charitable giving expired at the end of 2013, and Congress is now considering potential reinstatement for 2014 and extension through 2015. Substantial new and increased donations are made to support the work of nonprofits when the IRA Rollover is available to donors.

The EXPIRE Act of 2014 (S. 2260), introduced by Senate Finance Committee chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), would reinstate and extend a number of tax provisions, including the IRA Charitable Rollover. The Senate will soon be voting on this measure, and the U.S. House of Representatives is also considering its approach to reinstating expired tax measures. This is a key moment to remind your elected officials of the impact that orchestras and other nonprofit organizations provide in communities, and the critical importance of charitable giving incentives, including the IRA Charitable Rollover provision.   

Orchestras partner with other nonprofit organizations to make a difference in the lives of people in their communities, and they also partner with the full array of nonprofits to impact federal policy. Your voice matters – make it heard today!

Urge Congress to Support Reinstatement of the IRA Charitable Rollover

NEA Announces 2nd Round FY14 Grants

April 23, 2014

NEA Announces Second Round of FY14 Grants

Orchestras in 51 communities will offer a variety of engaging, educational and innovative programming, as well as bring music to underserved regions and populations thanks to $1,237,500 in Art Works, Part 2 grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This essential support will enable orchestras to present live music experiences, make recordings and broadcasts, and provide valuable music education programs. NEA funding increases access to music in communities of all sizes nationwide, and in addition to providing direct support for local projects, the award of an NEA grant also enhances the ability of grantees to pursue support from other sources like private foundations, corporations, and individual contributors. The NEA requires at least a one-to-one match of federal funds from all grant recipients, and on average, each NEA grantee far exceeds that requirement and generates at least nine dollars for every one dollar the NEA gives.

The League submits written testimony to Congress in support of NEA funding every year, provides orchestras with customized tips for applying for an NEA grant, and complies the project descriptions for grants awarded to orchestras and projects related to the orchestra field. Complete lists of grant amounts and project descriptions for awards in all disciplines may be found on the NEA website in a state-by-state listing or a discipline/field listing. In addition, the NEA maintains an online grant search system which allows members of the public to search all of the NEA's grants since 2000 using a variety of attributes to customize search results.

View Complete Orchestra Project Descriptions


FY15 NEA Grant Application Deadlines

The NEA’s next FY15 Application deadlines are May 8, 2014 for Challenge America Fast-Track and July 24, 2014 for Art Works, Part 2.

Members attending the League’s national Conference this June may schedule a one-on-one appointment to discuss the NEA grant process with an NEA music specialist. Both Court Burns and Anya Nykyforiak will be at the League’s Conference in Seattle this year, so please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Read the League’s Tips for Orchestras Preparing an FY15 Application

Designated Ports for International Travel with Instruments Containing Protected Species

If you plan to travel internationally with musical instruments that contain Brazilian rosewood, elephant ivory, tortoiseshell, or another protected animal or plant species, you must travel through specific designated ports.

ANIMAL

If your musical instrument contains elephant ivory, tortoiseshell, or another protected animal-derived species, you will need to travel through one of the following 18 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) designated ports:

  • ALASKA: Anchorage
  • CALIFORNIA: Los Angeles
  • CALIFORNIA: San Francisco
  • FLORIDA: Miami
  • GEORGIA: Atlanta
  • HAWAII: Honolulu
  • ILLINOIS: Chicago
  • KENTUCKY: Louisville
  • LOUISIANA: New Orleans
  • MARYLAND: Baltimore
  • MASSACHUSETTS: Boston
  • NEW JERSEY: Newark
  • NEW YORK: New York
  • OREGON: Portland
  • TENNESSEE: Memphis
  • TEXAS: Dallas/Ft. Worth
  • TEXAS: Houston
  • WASHINGTON: Seattle

PLANT If your musical instrument contains a CITES-listed plant species, such as Brazilian rosewood, you will need to travel through one of the following 15 USDA-APHIS CITES designated ports:

  • ARIZONA: Nogalez
  • CALIFORNIA: Los Angeles
  • CALIFORNIA: San Diego
  • CALIFORNIA: San Francisco
  • FLORIDA: Miami
  • FLORIDA: Orlando
  • GEORGIA: Atlanta
  • GUAM: Barrigada
  • HAWAII: Honolulu
  • NEW JERSEY: Linden (Newark)
  • NEW YORK: New York
  • PUERTO RICO, San Juan
  • TEXAS: Brownsville
  • TEXAS: Houston
  • WASHINGTON: Seattle

ANIMAL AND PLANT Please confirm with the regional authority whether separate inspections will be required.

If your musical instrument contains both protected animal and plant species, you may need to go through two separate inspections at separate facilities – be sure to phone the regional authority in advance to determine whether this is the case. The following nine cities have both FWS and USDA-APHIS designated ports (please refer to the links above for inspection station addresses):

  • CALIFORNIA: Los Angeles
  • CALIFORNIA: San Francisco
  • FLORIDA: Miami
  • GEORGIA: Atlanta
  • HAWAII: Honolulu
  • NEW JERSEY: Linden (Newark)
  • NEW YORK: New York
  • TEXAS: Houston
  • WASHINGTON: Seattle

Reach Out to Congress on March 25, National Arts Advocacy Day 2014

March 24, 2014

March 25 is National Arts Advocacy Day, a special coordinated moment for arts advocates across the country to speak up with one voice in support of the arts! As a national co-sponsor of Arts Advocacy Day and part of its legislative planning committee, the League helps to create the requests and key talking points for arts advocates, whether they come to the nation's capital or participate from home throughout the year. Please take a few moments to contact your Senators and Representative on the issues that matter most to you!

1) Write to Congress on March 25
Choose any of our policy issues that impact orchestras, such as protecting charitable giving incentives, improving the visa policy for engaging foreign guest artists, strengthening arts in education in our nation's schools, and supporting the capacity for the National Endowment for the Arts to expand public access to performances, preserve great classical works, and nurture the creative endeavors of contemporary classical musicians, composers, and conductors. Then with a few details from home, customize letters to Congress the League has begun for you. Your elected officials need to hear about the impact national policies have on local communities! Make sure Congress hears from you!

Click here to see the full range of issue areas impacting orchestras and choose one or two that matter the most to you.

2) Engage with elected officials at home

The most powerful advocacy happens regularly and in person, so take some time to maintain relationships throughout the year. View our 2014 Calendar of Advocacy Opportunities to see when your Representative or Senators are at home for a work period: invite them to tour your offices, attend an event, and see powerful community programs in action.

Share your stories with us and don't hesitate to contact the League with any questions. Thank you for joining advocates nationwide in support of the arts on Arts Advocacy Day and every day!

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