TCG is involved in key arts advocacy issues that are vital to the national theatre field—including supporting robust funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, funding for arts education at the US Department of Education, timely processing of visas for artists from abroad, and others detailed on our Legislative Issues pages.
Sign up today to receive Action Alerts from TCG in order to take immediate action on issues that affect the theatre field. Action Alert emails include brief descriptions of issues and a link to a sample message that you can personalize. Our VoterVoice-powered system then sends your message directly to your elected officials. It takes less than two minutes to take action and make a difference! Descriptions and links for previous Action Alerts are provided below in reverse chronological order.
TCG is also a founding member of the Performing Arts Alliance (PAA), the premiere advocate for America’s professional nonprofit arts organizations, artists, and their publics before the US Congress and key policy makers.
May, 2017: Action Alert: The President’s Expanded Budget Includes Closing Down the NEA
As promised in the President’s “skinny budget” released in March, the Administration’s detailed budget proposal released on May 23 begins the process of shutting down the National Endowment for the Arts. To that end, the Administration’s FY18 budget would reduce funding for the agency from the current $150 million to $29 million. In order to preserve and protect the NEA, your elected officials need to hear from you. They need to know that you, their constituents, support a federal role for the arts and that you oppose the President’s proposed elimination of the NEA.
ACTION: Take action now by contacting your elected officials to urge their support for the NEA!
May, 2017: Action Alert: The Administration’s Tax Reform Proposal and Charitable Giving
At the end of April, the White House released its tax reform proposal. While tax deductions for charitable giving were maintained, the proposal would double the standard deduction, thus reducing the percentage of people who itemize on their tax return from 30% to 5%. Since the charitable deduction is currently available only to itemizers, this proposal would vastly reduce the number of taxpayers who are incentivized to give by being eligible to claim the charitable deduction. It is estimated that 28 million people will lose their tax incentive to give to charities, resulting in $34 billion less in giving each year.
ACTION: Help protect incentives for charitable giving! Please take two minutes to let your Members of Congress know how your theatre’s service to its community could be affected if charitable giving declines.
May, 2017: Action Alert: FY17 Omnibus Spending Bill Includes Increases for NEA and Arts Education
The House Appropriations Committee released an omnibus appropriations bill on May 1, which is scheduled for votes in the House and Senate by the end of the week. Once funding for the current fiscal year is settled, Congress will swiftly turn its attention to FY18 funding priorities and shape its response to the Trump Administration’s proposal to eliminate funding for the NEA and NEH. Your advocacy has made a difference—please keep speaking up for the arts!
ACTION: Please take two minutes to contact your Members of Congress to voice support for NEA funding in both FY17 and FY18.
March, 2017: Action Alert: The President Proposes Mid-Year Cut to the NEA
Once again, President Trump has targeted the National Endowment for the Arts. On March 28, his Administration released a new proposal calling for $18 billion in cuts to federal agencies and programs in the current fiscal year. The proposal calls for a $15 million cut to the NEA which, if approved by Congress, would reduce its budget from $148 million to $133 million for FY17, which ends on September 30, 2017. The last time the NEA’s budget was that low was in 2007. A mid-year cut does not allow for planning and is harmful to theatres serving their communities.
ACTION: Please take two minutes to contact your Members of Congress and let them know where you stand on this proposed funding cut. Tell them to oppose the Administration’s destructive budget proposals for the NEA - for both FY17 and FY18.
March, 2017: Action Alert: National Arts Advocacy Day 2017
Tuesday, March 21 is National Arts Advocacy Day, the most visible, activist day of the year for arts advocates from all disciplines, all states, and every Congressional district to join together and speak up in support of the arts. Theatre Communications Group is a National Co-Sponsor of Arts Advocacy Day and is a member of the legislative planning committee that identifies the issues and creates the issue briefs for all of the Arts Advocacy Day policy issues. Congressional staffers have told us that when a group of constituents write at the same time on a particular topic, elected officials take notice! Be sure to describe how national policies impact your theatre and your local community and encourage your friends and colleagues to do the same on March 21!
ACTION: Encourage your Representatives to support the arts on Arts Advocacy Day!
March, 2017: Action Alert: The President Proposes Elimination of the NEA
On March 16, President Trump released his first budget proposal, which includes total elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. While the Administration’s goal may be to reduce federal spending, this short-sighted proposal would reduce spending by a tiny amount—the NEA represents only 0.004% of the federal budget—and would eliminate this very effective mechanism to leverage private funding—every NEA dollar generates an additional $9 from the private sector. The President’s budget proposal is for FY18, and that this budget proposal is just the first step in the annual appropriations cycle. Historically, arts advocacy has generated significant bipartisan support for the NEA. But this support can continue only if we speak up with power and persuasion!
ACTION: The time has come to raise our voices, and we all need to step up! Contact your Representatives and urge them to reject the President’s proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. Together, we can prevail - but only if we make our voices heard!
February, 2016: Visa Policy Alert: ARTS Act Reintroduced in the Senate!
On Monday, February 8, the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act was reintroduced in the Senate by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The bill (S. 2510) would improve opportunities for international cultural activity by ensuring that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) processes artist visas within a reasonable timeframe. Many U.S. nonprofit performing arts organizations partner with guest artists from abroad for performances and educational projects. Petitioners often navigate lengthy processing times, inconsistent interpretation of requirements, and unwarranted requests for further evidence when seeking O and P visas to bring those artists to the United States. The ARTS Act would make the visa process more reliable and affordable. It would require that a petition filed on or behalf of a U.S. nonprofit arts organization be processed within 14 days or be treated as a Premium Processing case, free of charge. The ARTS Act has a strong history of bipartisan support. It was most recently included as a provision in the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate in June, 2013. Your voice was vital then, and we need you to speak up for the arts again and ask your Senators to co-sponsor this bill!
ACTION: Write your Senators and take action on the ARTS Act!
December, 2015: Weigh In On the IRS’ New Gift Substantiation Proposal
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is proposing new regulations that would establish a voluntary process for nonprofits to substantiate gifts of $250 or more from individual donors. Under this new process, nonprofits could file a voluntary alternative information return that would require collecting donors’ Social Security numbers (SSN) or taxpayer identification numbers (TIN) to substantiate gifts. This form would have to be filed in addition to the organization’s 990 and sent to the donor by February 28 of each year for donations received in the previous tax year. Currently, the IRS requires nonprofits to substantiate gifts of $250 or more by providing donors with written documentation, typically an acknowledgement letter stating the amount of the gift or value of any non-cash item that is donated. Many arts organizations already have a sufficient practice in place to send donors acknowledgement letters for contributions and feel that this additional proposed process–though voluntary–would be unnecessary and cause additional administrative burdens.
ACTION: Submit your comments to the IRS about how this proposal would affect your organization.
November, 2015: Ask Congress to #Act4Good!
The IRA Charitable Rollover expired at the end of 2014 and has been unavailable this year to donors as an option to support the nonprofits serving their communities. There has been support for this provision in Congress this year: in February, the House passed the “America Gives More Act” to permanently reinstate a set of charitable giving incentives that included the IRA Rollover. The Senate Finance Committee passed a similar bill in July. With only six weeks left until the New Year, we need Congress to #Act4Good and reinstate and make permanent this important tax provision!
ACTION: Write your lawmakers and urge them to support the IRA Charitable Rollover!
November, 2015: Action Alert: FY16 Appropriations!
Congress recently passed a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government through December 11 at FY15 levels. Appropriators are now working on an omnibus spending bill for FY16. This spending bill will govern how the federal budget is distributed to various agencies and government programs. It’s important that legislators hear from the performing arts community!
ACTION: Write your lawmakers and urge them to protect and advance the National Endowment for the Arts, Cultural Exchanges, and Arts Education.
7/21/15: Tell Your Senator to Extend the IRA Charitable Rollover (Targeted to Senate Committee)
Your Senator, who sits on the Senate Committee on Finance, will be considering a bill tomorrow that would extend the IRA Charitable Rollover along with other expired tax provisions. The IRA rollover expired on December 31, 2014, and nonprofit advocates across the country have been asking the Senate to reinstate and make this permanent. The Senate bill that will be marked up tomorrow would reinstate these provisions for two years, retroactively from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016. Nonprofit performing arts organizations are able to serve their communities with educational programming, partnerships, and high quality arts experiences with support from IRA Charitable Rollover donations. The longer Congress waits to take action, the fewer resources will be available to support community needs.
ACTION: Please take action and contact your Senator on the Finance Committee today! Send a letter to your Senator about the Rollover and include a personalized message about the importance of this support for your organization’s work.
7/2/15: House & Senate Debate Education Policy Next Week!
Next week is a big week for arts education on Capitol Hill! Both the full House and full Senate will debate their own versions of legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA is the federal education law that funds primary and secondary education and aims to provide all students with fair and equal opportunities to achieve a high quality education. It was last reauthorized in 2002 as "No Child Left Behind." Next Tuesday, July 7, the Senate will debate its ESEA legislation, the "Every Child Achieves Act" (S. 1177), and will consider amendments to the bill. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) are offering an amendment encouraging states to measure and report on indicators of student access to critical educational resources. Core academic subjects are one of these indicators, and this includes the arts. This type of transparency from states is key to ensuring that all students have equal access to high quality arts education. As early as next Wednesday, July 8, the House will debate its ESEA legislation, the "Student Success Act" (H.R. 5), and will consider amendments to the bill. In ESEA reauthorization, PAA is advocating for:
- retaining the definition of "core academic subjects" which includes the arts,
- retaining the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program which funds afterschool and summertime learning programs,
- retaining the Arts in Education program at the Department of Education, and
- requiring states to be transparent and report annually on student access to arts education.
ACTION: Join the effort and write to your lawmakers! Encourage them to support arts education in their versions of ESEA. PAA has drafted letters that you can send to both the House and Senate. Take action before next Tuesday, July 7!
6/30/15: NEA Appropriations Resume Next Week! (Targeted to House)
Next week, the House of Representatives will resume debate of the FY16 Interior Appropriations Bill which contains $146 million for the NEA’s budget. The last time the Interior bill was debated on the House floor was 2011; your Representative voted against an amendment to decrease NEA funding. As a member of the majority party, your Representative’s vote was particularly important in 2011 and is needed again should any harmful amendments be introduced against the NEA. Please contact your Representative and ask for that same support next week!
ACTION: Representatives are back in their districts for the July 4th recess. If you get a chance to meet with your legislator, thank him/her for supporting the NEA in the past and ask him/her to preserve NEA funding in FY16. You can also click here to send a letter to your Representative. Include a personal message and share the NEA-supported work your organization is doing in your community.
6/24/15: House to Debate Interior Bill Including the NEA Budget!
Tomorrow, the full House of Representatives will consider the FY16 Interior spending bill which includes funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Both the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and the full Appropriations Committee approved $146 million for the NEA. When the Interior bill goes to the House floor, there may be hostile amendments introduced to decrease NEA funding. Members will debate the bill tomorrow, and any amendments that are introduced will be voted on after the July 4th recess. The FY16 appropriations cycle stands out from previous years because neither the Interior Subcommittee nor full Appropriations Committee recommended a cut to the NEA. Also, this is the first time since 2011 that the House is following regular order and considering this appropriations bill. This normal procedure allows lawmakers to debate and vote on the bill and is an important opportunity for you to speak up and advocate for the arts.
ACTION: Your participation is essential to warding off threats to funding. Contact your Representatives today and urge them to oppose any efforts to decrease NEA funding. Tell them about the importance of the NEA for encouraging public knowledge, education, understanding, and appreciation for the arts in America.
6/23/15: Outage at State Department Delays Visas
On June 19, the State Department reported a technical issue with the part of its visa processing system that performs security checks and identity verification. While this system is down, U.S. Consulates around the world are not able to issue visas. The State Department reports that it is working on a variety of solutions to this problem. However, it does not yet have an estimated date for resolution and does not expect a solution before next week. Once the system is back up, though, priority will be given to issuing visas for medical emergencies and humanitarian cases.
ACTION:Those affected by this situation are advised to monitor the U.S. Consulate and U.S. State Department websites daily. The State Department has created a FAQs page that also includes frequent status updates. You can also visit Artists from Abroad for more information.
6/11/15: Senate Interior Appropriators to Consider FY16 Bill (Targeted to Senate Committee)
Your Senator is debating the NEA budget next week! We’re contacting you because your Senator serves on the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. Next Tuesday, June 16th at 2:30pm, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies will debate its FY16 appropriations bill which recommends the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Take Action with PAA and ask the Senate to increase appropriations to $155 million. The federal government is still operating under sequestration which placed a cap on federal spending for 10 years. Currently, the NEA is funded at $146 million and just recently on June 10, Interior appropriators in the House recommended the same amount for the agency. This amount is the same that the NEA has received for the past four years and is also $2 million less than the President's recommendation of $148 million.
ACTION: It’s important that your Senator hear from you before next Tuesday! Click this link and write a letter asking your Senator to support $155 million for the NEA in FY16. In the space provided, please include a personal message about the value of the NEA in supporting the performing arts in your community.
6/10/15: House Interior Appropriators to Consider FY16 Bill (Targeted to House Committee)
Last Call to Tell House Appropriators to Support the NEA! The FY16 appropriations process for the National Endowment for the Arts starts today! This morning at 10:15am, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider the FY16 Interior Appropriations bill which contains funding for the NEA. Today’s activity is critical to the appropriations process as the subcommittee will set a dollar amount for the agency which begins the discussion of its budget for the next fiscal year. Currently, the NEA is funded at $146 million—the same amount it’s received for the past four years-and the President requested a $2 million increase for the NEA in FY16. Join PAA and arts advocates in asking Congress to increase appropriations to $155 million. Last year, Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Ken Calvert (CA-42) maintained level funding for the Agency, demonstrating his support for the arts in a difficult economic climate. The federal government is still operating under sequestration, which requires reductions in federal spending each year and limits Congress’ ability to fund increases for agencies.
ACTION: We’re contacting you because your Representative serves on the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. It’s important that your representative hear from you this morning! Click this link to send a letter to your legislator asking him or her to support $155M for the NEA in FY16. A space is provided for you to include a personal message about the value of the NEA in supporting the performing arts in your community.
6/9/15: NEA Appropriations Start Tomorrow! (Targeted to House Committee)
Tell House Appropriators to Support the NEA! The FY16 appropriations process for the National Endowment for the Arts starts tomorrow! The House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the NEA’s budget, begins consideration of the FY16 Interior Appropriations bill on Wednesday, June 10 at 10:15am. Tomorrow’s activity is critical to the appropriations process as the subcommittee will set a dollar amount for the agency which begins the discussion of its budget for the next fiscal year. Currently, the NEA is funded at $146 million—the same amount it’s received for the past four years-and the President requested a $2 million increase for the NEA in FY16. Join PAA and arts advocates in asking Congress to increase appropriations to $155 million. Last year, Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Ken Calvert (CA-42) maintained level funding for the Agency, demonstrating his support for the arts in a difficult economic climate. The federal government is still operating under sequestration, which requires reductions in federal spending each year and limits Congress’ ability to fund increases for agencies.
ACTION: We’re contacting you because your Representative serves on the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. It’s important that your representative hear from you today! Click the link below to send a letter to your legislator asking him or her to support $155M for the NEA in FY16. A space is provided for you to include a personal message about the value of the NEA in supporting the performing arts in your community
5/14/15: Protect Wireless Technology for the Performing Arts
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may soon rule on several proceedings that will impact the use of wireless microphones. The FCC is proposing that entities using fewer than 50 microphones would not be able to register in a geo-location database which provides interference protection. This will affect many performing arts organizations, venues, and productions. The FCC is also considering a longer-term home for wireless microphones in a different area of the broadcast spectrum. Moving within the spectrum would mean arts organizations would have to purchase expensive new equipment. Many already did this in 2010--spending $25K-$100K--when the FCC mandated wireless microphones vacate the 700 MHz band of the broadcast spectrum. Nonprofit performing arts organizations, commercial theaters, schools, and performers have all relied on wireless microphone technology which operates within the radio frequencies between broadcast channels of the television band. These frequencies are called “white space.” Wireless backstage communications systems also operate in white space and are integral to stagehands and technical crew. Interference to backstage communications could compromise the safety of performers, technicians and audiences.
ACTION: Ask your Representative to protect wireless technology used in the performing arts! Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ), co-chairs of the Congressional Arts Caucus, are circulating a sign-on letter in the House of Representatives urging the FCC to protect wireless microphones. The letter will be sent to the FCC later this month. Ask your Representative to sign on to this letter by close of business on Thursday, May 21.
4/13/15: Senate HELP Committee to Discuss ESEA this Week (Targeted to Senate Committee)
This is an important week for arts education in the Senate! The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee will consider a new bipartisan draft bill to re-authorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), our nation’s education law. Entitled the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, the draft bill would update ESEA, and the arts community wants the arts to be included and ensured a place in every child’s education. Your senator serves on the HELP committee and needs to hear from you this week as the committee discusses numerous amendments being introduced to the bill. Urge your senator to protect arts education in ESEA. In January, we alerted you about the chance to weigh in on an early draft of this bill authored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Many of you responded and spoke up on four key points:
- Retaining the definition of "core academic subjects" which includes the arts.
- Restoring the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program which funds afterschool and summertime learning programs which include the arts.
- Restoring the Arts in Education program at the Department of Education which supports grants for educator professional development in the arts and model arts education programs.
- Requiring states to give an annual report on student access to arts education.
The new draft being considered this week does retain the definition of core academic subjects including the arts! This is a win for the arts: this designation makes arts education programs eligible for federal funding such as Title I. The bill does not, though, include direct support for afterschool or summertime learning programs or the Arts in Education program at the U.S. Department of Education.
ACTION: Click this link to contact your senator THIS WEEK and tell him or her to support the arts in ESEA. Speak up and share your story of the importance of arts education!
3/23/15: Participate in Arts Advocacy Day
Tomorrow, March 24, 2015, is Arts Advocacy Day 2015! Arts advocates from around the country will visit lawmakers on Capitol Hill to urge Congress to support federal policies impacting the arts. Your voice is important in this process and you can participate from home! Contact your members of Congress and urge them to:
- Support the National Endowment for the Arts
- Support Arts Education at the U.S. Department of Education
- Protect Performing Arts Wireless Technology
- Support International Cultural Exchange
- Support Charitable Giving Incentives
- Improve the Artist Visa Process
The Performing Arts Alliance is a national co-sponsor of Arts Advocacy Day, and we proudly join other arts advocates carrying the message to support the arts to their Representatives and their Senators.
ACTION: Take Action! Every member of Congress in every state should hear from performing arts advocates in their communities. Help make this a national day of arts activism by contacting your members of Congress.
2/26/15: Speak up for Arts Ed in the House of Representatives!
Tomorrow, February 27, the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), our nation’s education law. Last month, PAA alerted you to weigh in on draft ESEA legislation in the Senate, and many of you voiced your support for arts education in that bill. It’s now time to speak up for arts education in the House. The House majority’s proposal recommends broad changes to the federal leadership role in education reform. House Democrats are likely to offer alternative proposals for consideration, and the votes on each measure are expected to fall along party lines. You know how important the arts are in providing a complete education for every American student. Share these key messages about arts education with your Representative:
- Currently, federal law defines the arts as a “core academic subject.” Any future versions of ESEA should retain this definition; it makes arts education eligible for critical federal resources that address inequalities and strengthen education.
- It’s critical that state-level data about student access to arts education be collected and publicly reported. Knowing how much or how little arts education is being offered in our schools helps ensure all students have equitable access to it. Federal law should require this transparency.
- Arts education must be supported in ESEA provisions for early childhood education, afterschool and out-of-school learning, teaching effectiveness, school turnaround efforts, charter schools, and student assessment.
- The U.S. Department of Education should continue to administer the Arts in Education competitive grant program which advances educator professional development in the arts and model arts education programs.
ACTION: Take action by tomorrow and tell your Representative about the importance of arts education!
2/11/15: Make Permanent the IRA Charitable Rollover
This week the U.S. House of Representatives will consider making permanent a package of charitable giving incentives that includes the IRA Charitable Rollover. After expiring at the end of 2013, the IRA Rollover was reinstated by Congress and the White House in the final weeks of 2014. However, as of January 1, 2015, it has expired again. This cycle of expiration and renewal creates uncertainty for organizations that cultivate planned gifts to support their arts organizations. Before the vote, tell your Representative how important the IRA Charitable Rollover is to supporting your arts organization’s work.
ACTION: Please write a letter to your Representative about the importance of making the IRA Charitable Rollover permanent.
1/29/15: Protect Arts Education
Earlier this month, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the new Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released a discussion draft of the "Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015." This Act would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act which governs our nation’s public education system. Several provisions in this law would threaten arts education, both during school time and after school. Through public comment, this is the first opportunity to deliver four key messages, in unison with the broader arts and arts education community:
- The arts are currently listed as a core academic subject in federal law. Any rewrite of ESEA must retain the arts in the definition of "core academic subjects," enabling access to federal resources that address inequalities and strengthen education.
- Federal law should require transparency in how much or how little arts education is being offered to our nation’s students. Collecting and publicly reporting the status and condition of arts education and other core academic subjects on an annual basis at the state level is critical to ensuring equitable access to a comprehensive education for all students.
- Arts education must be supported in provisions relating to early childhood education, afterschool/out-of-school learning, teaching effectiveness, school turnaround, charter schools, and student assessment.
- The U.S. Department of Education should continue to administer a direct, nationally funded, competitive Arts in Education grant program that advances the capacity of the arts to strengthen learning and improve teaching.
ACTION: The HELP committee is accepting public comments on this draft until Monday, February 2. Personalize a letter to send to the committee asking them to continue federal support of arts education.