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Latest Arts Policy Developments
February 17, 2017
|How to Stay A Step Ahead of Rapid Policy Changes|
|There is no shortage of recent policy developments in Washington, D.C. that intersect with the many ways orchestras serve their communities. Following is a summary of key actions that have taken place in just the past few weeks, and the ways the League and orchestras are getting engaged in the policy process. Here are some ways to act now that will position the arts well for the policy action that's ahead of us:
|New Visa Enforcement Actions Anticipated|
Artists Visas: The League has partnered with 20 other national arts organizations ona joint statement that urges policy leaders to retain access to artist visas and support opportunities for worldwide cultural exchange as the Department of Homeland Security takes next steps in its review of national security measures. President Trump announced yesterday that a new executive order on immigration policy will be issued within days, following court action that suspended implementation of his prior executive order. The League provides up-to-the minute guidance for navigating all changes to the artist visa process on our dedicated website, www.artistsfromabroad.org, to help orchestras ensure that they can continue to engage international guest artists for performances.
|Nonprofits Unify to Support Giving Incentives in Tax Reform|
Charitable Giving: In the coming weeks and months Congress is crafting comprehensive tax reform proposals, and the Senate is likely to take action to see that a tax package can pass its chamber by a simple majority vote before the end of the year. Any big-picture changes on tax rates and the size of the standard deduction could significantly impact the private contributions that support orchestras and the full array of nonprofit organizations that serve community needs. The League is an active member of the Charitable Giving Coalition and issued a call to action for orchestras to join nonprofit organizations nationwide this week to ask Congress to protect and expand incentives for giving.
|States Move Ahead to Implement New Education Law|
Arts Education: On February 10, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a letter to all state education leaders encouraging continued progress on state plans for implementing the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which are due to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education this spring and fall. ESSA was crafted with bipartisan support in 2015 and includes new provisions to support a well-rounded education while also handing more flexibility to the states for implementation. The League is asking Congress to fully fund the arts education and well-rounded provisions of the new law, while orchestras engage at the state and local level to call for more equitable access to a complete arts education as states shape their ESSA implementation plans.
NEA Edition: funding process, bipartisan Congressional support, and your voice
March 2, 2017
- NEA funding process begins!
- Pres. Trump releases topline budget; details still to come
- House talks begin with bipartisan NEA support, on the record
- Your next steps
This week marked the first wave of action in Washington, D.C. on future funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Amidst the new Administration's proposal to deeply cut non-defense spending, leaders in Congress are already signaling that they will take a different path as they set FY18 funding levels. Read on for details and actions to take.
On Monday, February 27, an initial outline of President Trump's FY18 budget was announced, with the promise to send Congress a more detailed budget on March 16, and a final full proposal in May. The President is proposing a $54 billion increase in defense spending, while recommending cutting that same amount from nondefense discretionary spending. While these topline budget numbers were announced, the plan did not specify a request related to NEA funding.
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID02), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee with a record of supporting funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), has voiced skepticism about such drastic cuts to nondefense spending. Rep. Simpson was quoted by Congressional Quarterly as saying, "I don't think you could pass any of the bills... There's a lot of members that have a lot of interest in a lot of these programs. There's more to our government than just defense."
While the President's ultimate budget request will influence the debate on the Hill, the funding levels for each federal agency will ultimately be set by Congress before final spending bills are passed and handed back to the President for his signature.
Congressional action on FY18 funding levels for the NEA began on February 28 as the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee heard testimony from members of Congress regarding programs funded through the Interior Appropriations bill, which covers a broad territory, from sage grouse conservation to wildfire suppression. Given the wide variety of issues at hand, it is significant that 5 of the 19 members testifying -- including Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY25), who co-chairs the Congressional Arts Caucus, Rep. David Price (D-NC04), Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY26), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX18), and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC12) -- spoke up in support of the NEA and NEH, praising both agencies' impact in communities across the country, and the NEA's Healing Arts program for wounded veterans. Arts Caucus co-chair Leonard Lance (R-NJ-07) submitted a statement for the record in support of the NEA and NEH, saying, "Art is now, has been, and will always be a part of our Nation's fabric."
This is just the beginning of the funding process, and ongoing advocacy will be needed in a year when every vote will matter. Current bipartisan support on the Hill is the result of years of effort to help Congress understand the impact of NEA grants to orchestras and the full array of NEA support in states nationwide. As the funding committees in both the House and Senate take next steps throughout this spring, the League will keep you informed of key moments to raise your voice in coordination with the broader community of arts advocates. In the meantime, here's a reminder of the action steps that lay the groundwork for more action to come:
President's budget proposes eliminating NEA; join in the national response to current arts policy issues
March 16, 2017
President's budget outline proposes eliminating NEA, NEH, and CPB
Earlier this morning, President Trump released his budget outline for fiscal year 2018, including a call for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), along with deep cuts to afterschool funding and State Department cultural exchange programs -- all as part of a broader effort to decrease nondefense domestic discretionary spending by $54 billion.
In a public statement this morning, NEA Chair Jane Chu said, "We understand that the President's budget request is a first step in a very long budget process ... At this time, the NEA continues to operate as usual and will do so until a new budget is enacted by Congress."
From creating educational collaborations with the Anchorage Public Schools, making new music that honors the sounds of the traditional Lakota drums in South Dakota, to preparing the next generation of professional musicians in Miami, orchestras across the country form partnerships that strengthen the fabric of their communities with the support of NEA funding.
Today's announcement is just the beginning of the many next steps of the federal budget process. As the League recently reported, leaders in Congress have voiced bipartisan support for the NEA, both in the past two years of funding proposals, and in public statements made in just the past two weeks. Action by Congress will determine the future funding levels for the NEA, and coordinated advocacy by stakeholders in communities across the country will make a difference in ensuring continued support
Arts Advocacy Day is March 21
Given today's budget news, the NEA will be a key focus of Tuesday's events. Here is one action you can take right now:
- Contact your member of the U.S. House of Representatives to urge your Representative to sign onto the Congressional Arts Caucus letter in support of NEA funding. This letter will be open, at minimum, through March 24. Congressional offices can contact the leaders of the letter to sign on: Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ). Also, ask your Senators to sign onto this letter in support of NEA funding by contacting Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM).
Partner with others and keep advocating, all year on issues
Action is underway on a wide array of policy issues that affect the arts, including supporting the NEA and its capacity to provide public access to great art, strengthening arts in education in our nation's schools, protecting the value of charitable giving incentives, and improving the visa policy for engaging foreign guest artists. We have prepared background and talking points on all these issues. Make a point of reaching out to other arts groups in your area and partner up to carry out these actions together. There are a number of ways you can make contact:
- Make plans for an in-person visit. Check out our 2017 Calendar of Advocacy Opportunities to engage your policymakers when they are back at home. This relationship building can ensure your officials know your orchestra's value in the community.
- Pick up the phone to call the district office.
- Personalize a message through one of the League's easy-to-use email campaigns to Congress.
- Post on your elected officials' social media pages. To find the social media and district office information, simply enter your zip code here, and select your official.
Talk to us
Orchestras and Congress speak up for arts policy
March 31, 2017
SHIFT festival brings orchestras to nation's capital
The long-anticipated SHIFT festival of American orchestras is taking place this week in Washington, D.C., celebrating the vitality, identity, and extraordinary artistry of orchestras and chamber orchestras. Washington Performing Arts and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts are hosting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Boulder Philharmonic, The Knights, and the North Carolina Symphony in an immersive festival experience including full-orchestra performances in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall and community events throughout the city. The festival also included a symposium that featured League President and CEO Jesse Rosen at the Library of Congress.
The participating orchestras have been warmly welcomed by members of Congress throughout the week, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. David Price (D-NC), and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). Several musicians have also been meeting -- and sometimes performing for -- their members of Congress, sharing their experiences as musicians, and describing the importance of the policies that their elected officials contemplate in D.C.
Photographed: North Carolina Symphony Music Director Grant Llewellyn, Violinist Jacqueline Saed-Wolborsky, Violist Samuel Gold, Cellist Nathaniel Yaffe, and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC)
Orchestras and Congress speak up for NEA funding
- Ron Predl, executive director of the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra
- Joint op-ed by Anne Parsons, president and CEO of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Wayne Brown, president of the Michigan Opera Theater; and Salvador Salort-Pons, director, president and CEO of the Detroit Institute of Arts
Tax talks heat up
On March 24, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) was quoted as saying, "We want to move forward this spring in the House and to be ready to deliver tax reform in 2017." Orchestras have joined the broader nonprofit sector in asking Congress to ensure that comprehensive tax reform will expand incentives for charitable giving and support nonprofit services to communities. On March 17, Ways and Means Committee Members Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and John Lewis (D-GA) introduced House Concurrent Resolution 34, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the charitable deduction that was enacted into the federal tax code in 1917. The resolution reinforces that "individual contributions benefit the arts, humanities, religious institutions, education, human services, the environment, health programs, and many other sectors" and that "philanthropy serves as a dynamic force to direct private resources toward addressing the difficult issues and evolving needs of society over a period of time, beyond a single act of good will." As Congress continues to work on the details of a tax reform proposal, check out our tips for how to take action.
Artist visa update: League leads policy statement and guidance
The League and a growing number of national arts organizations have signed an arts statement in response to the President's March immigration executive order. The statement urges policy leaders to retain access to artist visas and support opportunities for worldwide cultural exchange during ongoing consideration of new immigration policies. The White House has revoked its initial executive order that was announced in late January and issued a new executive order that would have the effect of imposing new limits on travel to the United States, beginning on March 16, for certain foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. As judicial action in response to the order continues, and as the Administration considers next steps, you can find up-to-date information on Artists from Abroad, a website that the League manages and which provides guidance for engaging foreign guest artists for performances in the U.S.
Arts education grants opportunity at U.S. Department of Education
The U.S. Department of Education's Assistance for Arts Education Program is inviting applications for new FY17 awards for Professional Development for Arts Educators (PDAE). The deadline to submit a notice of intent to apply (recommended but not required) is April 27, 2017, with an official application deadline of May 30, 2017. The PDAE program is a highly competitive program that will support 20 to 25 new awards for professional development programs for kindergarten through grade 12 arts educators and other instructional staff for students in K-12 in which 50 percent or more of the students are from low-income families. For complete information, please view the PDAE grant guidelines online. Ultimate funding for grant awards is contingent on Congress finalizing as-yet-unfinished FY17 spending levels across the federal government. You can weigh in with Congress to ask for continued support for this program through the League's Arts Education Funding policy campaign.
Update! Tax Reform Proposals and Charitable Giving to Your Orchestra
April 28, 2017
While further details are still to come, the Trump Administration's tax reform outline includes the following provisions:
- Retains the charitable deduction. This is a very encouraging sign of support in light of prior proposals to place a specific dollar cap on the deduction of charitable gifts.
- Doubles the standard deduction, which would simplify the tax process for many, but could reduce the share -- from 30% to 5% -- of taxpayers who are incentivized to give by claiming the charitable deduction.
- Eliminates the federal estate tax, which has been a proven incentive for charitable giving.
- Preserve incentives for charitable giving by protecting the full scope and value of the charitable tax deduction.
- Ensure that any comprehensive tax reform legislation encourages more giving by more Americans. In the context of a potential increase in the standard deduction, charitable giving could grow by giving all taxpayers the opportunity to deduct their charitable donations through a universal "non-itemizer" deduction.
Next steps on tax reform proposals will continue throughout the coming months. We'll keep you posted as the House Ways and Means Committee unveils a detailed reform proposal, which might be released before summer begins. You can make a difference in this policy conversation now by letting your members of Congress know how your orchestra's service to its community could be affected if charitable giving declines, and how you could put charitable dollars to work if incentives for giving improve.
- Meet with your elected officials when they return to their home districts and states. The League's Calendar of Opportunities can help you plan.
- Speak up. Visit the League's Tax Policy Advocacy Center for a two-page backgrounder, talking points, and a sample message to personalize with information about your orchestra.
Out of Many, One – actions to take now
An advocacy message from Jesse Rosen, the League’s president and CEO.
New Overtime Rules Halted
November 23, 2016
New overtime regulations scheduled to go into effect December 1 were temporarily halted yesterday as a federal judge in Texas imposed a nationwide injunction.
The delay buys time for further legal consideration of the regulations, and court action could stretch beyond the January 20 inauguration of the Trump Administration. President-Elect Trump has been sharply critical of the new rules, and the Republican majority leadership in Congress has supported slowing their implementation. If court consideration extends beyond January 20, it is likely that Congress may act to undo the new rules, and the Trump Administration may drop defense of them in court.
According to Judge Amos Mazzant of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, "A preliminary injunction preserves the status quo while the court determines the department's authority to make the final rule as well as the final rule's validity."
Many orchestras and other nonprofit employers have already put employee compensation changes in place, with just eight days left before the new rules were to take effect. The Society for Human Resource Management points out that while employers are now permitted to maintain their current compliance with overtime rules, it may be difficult to back-track on upcoming salary adjustments that were already communicated to employees. Alfred Robinson Jr., an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Washington, D.C. and a former acting administrator of the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division said, "Employers will likely want to leave decisions in place if they have already provided salary increases to employees in order to maintain their exempt status ...It would be difficult to take that back... If there are exempt employees who were going to be reclassified to nonexempt, but haven't been reclassified yet, employers may want to postpone those decisions and give the litigation a chance to play out."
The League will keep you posted as further information becomes available. In the meantime, this update from the National Council of Nonprofits may be helpful additional reading.
Mid-Winter Managers Weekend: Jan 28-30
Executive directors and youth orchestra administrators, please join us in Dallas for professional development and peer learning.