Advocacy and Government
DC Update: A Cornucopia of Policy Developments!
November 22, 2013
Orchestras Speak Up to Protect Giving
On November 20, the League and member orchestras across the country joined nonprofit advocates in urging Congress to protect incentives for charitable giving. As part of a long-term effort to prevent policies that would reduce donations to nonprofits programs, advocates - including four League representatives joined in meetings with key policy leaders on the Hill, while hundreds of others sent messages to their elected officials. As budget decisions and tax reform efforts move ahead, you can do your part to describe how services to your community would be harmed by declines in charitable giving.
IRA Rollover Expiring December 31!
As 2013 winds to close, a significant charitable giving incentive is also nearing its expiration date. The IRA Rollover allows donors aged 70 ½ and older to instruct their IRA administrators to make tax-free distributions of up to $100,000 directly from their IRAs to charitable organizations through December 31, 2013. While this provision has proven to generate new and increased charitable donations for orchestras and other nonprofits in the years it has been available, legislation to extend the IRA Rollover is not likely to gain steam until well into the 2014 calendar year. Learn more about this important giving incentive.
New EU Rules Ease Travel with Instruments
The World Customs Organization (WCO) has announced that, effective November 21, musicians traveling through the European Union (EU) with portable musical instruments as professional equipment may use the “green” or “nothing to declare” customs channel at airports. According to the new regulation adopted by the EU, “Total relief from import duties shall be granted for portable musical instruments temporarily imported by a traveler…with the intention of using them as professional equipment.” The WCO Secretary General has said the policy change will improve “cultural life and economic activities.” Read more in the League’s Travel with Instruments resource center.
Down, Set, Mic!
Decisions will soon be made by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that could negatively impact wireless microphone users, including orchestras, other performing arts organizations, and even the NFL. Your member of Congress can go on record in support of the performing arts by becoming a cosponsor of The Wireless Microphone Users Interference Protection Act of 2013, introduced by Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-IL-01), which would protect performing arts wireless technology from potential interference. The League has been active on Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of protecting wireless microphone use, joining with such varied partners as the National Football League and the Southern Baptist Convention. Learn how you can weigh in.
Possible Postage Increase in 2014
Orchestras should prepare for a possible postage rate increase as early as January. The Postal Service has proposed a rate hike of more than 6 percent, once again claiming “exigent” circumstances. Although its 2010 proposed rate increase was ultimately rejected by the Postal Regulatory Commission due to lack of sufficient evidence, orchestras should consider the budget implications if the latest proposal succeeds. Exigent rate increases are ones that exceed the rate of inflation due to severe and unusual circumstances. The League is part of a broad nonprofit network that opposes disproportionate increases that would do harm to nonprofits, and we will keep members up to date as more information becomes available.
IRA Charitable Rollover Expiring December 31!
November 13, 2013
As 2013 winds to close, a significant charitable giving incentive is also nearing its expiration date. The IRA Charitable Rollover provision was reinstated in the broad deal passed by Congress earlier this year, but it will once again expire on December 31, 2013.
This provision has proven to generate new and increased charitable donations for orchestras in the years it has been available. In the course of its history, the IRA Rollover has expired and been renewed several times, leaving many donors confused about the status. The provision has been reinstated through the end of 2013, meaning that donors aged 70 ½ and older can instruct their IRA administrators to make tax-free distributions of up to $100,000 directly from their IRAs to charitable organizations through December 31, 2013.
It is always wise to advise donors to contact their IRA administrator and/or tax advisors for more detail as you inform them that this important charitable giving incentive is still available for the next several weeks.What’s next for 2014? Policy leaders in Washington tell us that a provision to extend the IRA Rollover into 2014 is not likely to gain steam until well into the 2014 calendar year, as Congress is currently committed only to addressing tax provisions through “comprehensive reform.” Please feel welcome to be in touch with the League's DC office with any questions, and stay tuned, as we will keep you informed of further policy developments!
USCIS Launches Website Improvements
October 30, 2013
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today launched a redesigned website available in both English and Spanish. The website upgrades seek to provide customers with a simplified and user-friendly experience thanks to improved navigation menus, a tools section that helps customers complete certain electronic transactions, and a home page with a banner that rotates time-sensitive information and alerts as well as a larger search bar. Visa petitioners familiar with the layout of the previous home page may wish to note that the link to check on a case status has moved from the upper left corner to a more prominent position below the rotating banner.
Keep Wireless Mics Interference-Free
October 30, 2013
Decisions will soon be made by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that could negatively impact wireless microphone users, including orchestras and other performing arts organizations. Your member of Congress can go on record in support of the performing arts by becoming a cosponsor of a bill that would protect performing arts wireless technology from potential interference.
The Wireless Microphone Users Interference Protection Act of 2013 has been introduced by Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-IL-01) and it asks the FCC to protect the existing space designated for wireless microphone users, so that users will not suffer interference during performances. The League has been actively meeting with offices on Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of protecting wireless microphone use, joining with such varied partners as the National Football League and the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as fellow performing arts organizations.
Shutdown ends, Government Reopens
October 17, 2013
Government Reopens for Business
With the looming threat of the U.S. defaulting on its debt obligations, both chambers of Congress passed a Senate proposal to end what has been a 16-day shutdown of the federal government, essentially buying more time to resolve deep divides over spending and policy priorities. The deal reopens the government through January 15 and lifts the debt ceiling through February 7, meanwhile instructing Congress to come to an agreement on long-term FY14 spending by mid-December. All eyes have been on the deal-making process, but thorny budget negotiations are far from over and vast differences remain regarding spending caps and cuts. There is a great deal of advocacy to be done before the end of this year, and the issue areas that will need the most immediate support of orchestra advocates are funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, support for arts education, and the status of charitable giving incentives, as Congress considers revenue and spending priorities. The League represents orchestras on the Hill and will keep you informed of ongoing opportunities to weigh in with your elected officials.
Happy Birthday to Artists from Abroad!
October is Arts and Humanities Month
Arts and Humanities Month is celebrated every October, and in an official proclamation, President Obama declared: “Throughout our history, America has advanced not only because of our people's will or our leaders' vision, but also because of paintings and poems, stories and songs, dramas and dances. These works open our minds and nourish our souls, helping us understand what it means to be human and what it means to be American.” Please feel welcome to share via the League’s Facebook page the ways in which your orchestra is celebrating the capacity of the arts and helping to nurture and inspire citizens of all ages.
Impact: From Showdown to Shutdown
October 1, 2013
In what has felt like an extended game of high-stakes chicken, the Senate and the House of Representatives have failed to fund the federal government, resulting in a long-feared shutdown beginning today – the first since 1996. Congress must break the stalemate as quickly as possible in order to minimize the fall-out. If the shutdown is brief, here’s what to expect:
- National Endowment for the Arts (NEA): For all intent and purpose, the agency will be considered closed, with approximately half a dozen staff approved to hold down the fort. All other employees will be furloughed and most contractors must stop working while a shutdown continues. In most cases, current grantees can continue to expend funds they have already received but should not expect to receive payments during a shutdown. In the very unlikely event that a specific grantee's work must be disrupted, grantees will be notified and given specific guidance by the NEA’s Grants Office. For more information, see the plan published by the NEA.
- Visas for Foreign Guest Artists: If you are in the process of obtaining a visa for a foreign artist, plan for possible delays during the government shutdown. Obtaining a visa is a three part process, starting with approval of a petition by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), followed by processing of a visa application by the State Department at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, and completed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, on inspection and admission to the U.S.
- USCIS and Petitions: On the plus side, because USCIS is a fee-based agency that, for the most part, does not depend on Congressional appropriations, USCIS has resources to continue processing visa petitions. However, given the strain of the government shutdown on overall infrastructure, delays are a real possibility.
- State Department and Visa Processing: Again, the good news is that consular visa processing, too, is supported by fees, not appropriations. Many consular offices thus will continue conducting interviews and issuing visas, so long as their buildings can remain open. The longer the shutdown persists, the more likely it is that consular services will become unavailable. Visit the web site for a specific consulate to determine whether the location is in operation. One major unknown is the fate of any visa applications that might be delayed by "additional administrative processing," meaning security-related concerns. A number of other U.S. agencies are involved in the clearance process and their ability to continue visa-related clearance operations is unclear.
- Arrival in the U.S.: Customs and Border Protection officials are considered “essential” personnel. Entry to the U.S. for visa holders should not be interrupted.
This is what we know as of today, and we will keep you posted as more information becomes available. The big takeaway when it comes to visas is (as always) – leave as much time as possible for the visa process to be completed. The longer the government shutdown remains in place, the more likely the process is to be delayed and disrupted.
Additional Disruptions Possible
As nonprofit cultural organizations serving local communities and touring domestically and internationally, orchestras interact with a broad array of federal agencies, from the Internal Revenue Service to U.S. Fish & Wildlife.
Please contact League Government Affairs with any additional questions you might have about how the shutdown will impact your orchestra. We will keep you posted as further information becomes available.
Tick-Tock: Fall Countdown on Policy Concerns
September 4, 2013
With summer coming to a close, Congress is returning to a packed policy agenda, including an array of issues that impact the arts and the nonprofit sector. Thanks to all in the orchestra community who connected with policymakers while they were home for the August recess. There are plenty more advocacy opportunities ahead:
- NEA Funding: The House Appropriations Committee halted its FY14 budget debates for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and a number of other agencies just before the August recess, leaving up in the air a drastic proposed 49% cut to the NEA. Meanwhile, the Senate Interior Appropriations Committee has recommended a level of $154.5 million for the NEA’s FY14 budget – an increase over the current funding level of $138.4 million. With time running out to finalize a number of funding decisions before the new fiscal year begins on October 1, it is likely Congress will pass a short-term funding package at current spending levels while negotiations continue.
- Tax Policy: Many thanks to orchestras that have been supporting the League’s strategic efforts on Capitol Hill to protect charitable giving incentives. This policy area will continue to heat up this Fall as debt ceiling limits and tax reform efforts once again create a scenario in which “everything is on the table.”
- Education: National Arts in Education Week is September 8-14, 2013. In D.C., the League continues to meet with policymakers to urge support for arts education as Congress re-writes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as well as in specific program funding at the U.S. Department of Education. At home, you can make a difference by taking local action and speaking up in support of in-school music education.
- International Policies: The ARTS visa provision was included in the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, while the House of Representatives has decided to take a piecemeal approach. The League is seeking opportunities for inclusion of the ARTS provision as Congress determines next steps in the immigration reform effort. On another front, for U.S. musicians traveling abroad, the League has created a travel tips and resource webpage as U.S. officials begin to implement a musical instrument passport for instruments containing protected species. Updates will be made to the page as new information becomes available.
- Domestic Air Travel: In domestic air travel news, the President’s FY14 budget included a request for new Department of Transportation funds to support the implementation of new helpful rules on the transportation of musical instruments by air. Given the tense Congressional budget climate, however, the prospect seems dim for budget approval. The law containing helpful improvements for air travel was passed in early 2012, but has not been implemented by the FAA. The League continues to work with its coalition partners to pursue implementation.
- Updated League Resource Available: Ever wonder whether you are permitted to lobby? (The answer, by the way, is YES, you are!) Do you field questions from your board, trustees, or donors about the best strategies for communicating with policymakers or inviting them to events? The League has just completed an update of its free resource, Best Defense: A Guide for Orchestra Advocates. Download our guide today and share it widely!
As Fall unfolds, please keep a look out for League Advocacy Alerts and Advocacy Updates, and find further details and resources on the full range of policy areas posted online.
Electronic Media Policy Action
Orchestras and other performing artists and presenters have used wireless microphones to provide unrestricted on-stage movement and to deliver clear and accurate sound to appreciative audiences. Wireless systems operating on radio frequencies between TV broadcast channels are also used for backstage communications with stagehands to execute complex technical activity. Interference to these communications could compromise the safety of performers, technicians, and audiences.
Contacting Congress is simple and will make a difference. We have prepared an advocacy campaign with essential background, talking points, and a template letter for you to personalize your communication with policymakers.
Protect Wireless Microphone Use
- U.S. House Members Urge FCC to Preserve Dedicated Channels for Wireless Mics – October 28, 2013
- League Files Joint Comments for Protected Wireless Microphone Use in Future Spectrum Auction– January 25, 2013
- PAA Urges Payroll Tax Conferees to Protect Nonprofit Performing Arts in Possible Spectrum Reallocation
- Performing Arts Alliance Expresses Spectrum Auction Concerns to Super Committee
- FCC Announces Trial Database for Wireless Microphone Users
- Performing Arts Alliance Asks Congress to Protect Federal Funding for Non-Commercial Radio – March 8, 2011
- League Files Joint Comments to FCC Regarding Wireless Protection and Licensing Eligibility – May 19, 2010
- Performing Arts Alliance Voices Support to FCC of Preserving an Open Internet – April 26, 2010
- Performing Arts Alliance Urges FCC to Protect Nonprofit Arts Wireless Microphone Use – March 22, 2010
· U.S. House Members Urge FCC to Preserve Dedicated Channels for Wireless Mics – October 28, 2013
Silk Road Grant Seeking RFPs for South Central Asia
July 31, 2013
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has just announced a new Request for Proposals (RFP) with a very quickly-approaching deadline of August 16th. Proposals should highlight the relationship between any combination of two or more of the following nations: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan. This competition is designed to use people-to-people activities that advance the vision of a New Silk Road connecting Afghanistan to its neighbors through networks of trade, transit and people, or expand regional connectivity along the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor.
Each proposal must specifically respond to one priority theme: cultural heritage and understanding; access to education; journalistic ties & regional reporting; or cross-border networks and problem solving. Please go to Funding Opportunity Number SCAPPD-13-AW-150-SCA-07172013 at grants.gov for more information.