Short-Term Cliff Deal Reinstates IRA Rollover, "Pease" Provision and Estate Tax
Posted January 2013
The tax deal passed by Congress on Tuesday has encouraging but mixed results for charitable giving, and leaves much work to be done throughout the coming year. The "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" includes some good news – there was no percent or dollar cap placed on the charitable deduction that had been under consideration – and it reinstates the IRA Charitable Rollover provision (more good news!). But, it also includes reinstatement of a more modest limit to all deductions for higher-income earners (the bad news). Because the deal is a short-term fix to the fiscal cliff, we can expect further advocacy needed in the months ahead as Congress deals with the unfinished business of mandatory spending cuts and comprehensive tax reform. More information can be found here.
Wireless Microphone and White Space Update
Posted December 2012
The FCC is moving forward on its nationwide launch of the wireless microphone geo-location database, and in allowing the operation of White Space devices in certain states, to be followed by nationwide operations in January. Public Notices can be found here and here.
This means new TV Band Devices - White Space devices - are now allowed in the East Coast region, and the database is national. TV Band Devices will be allowed nationwide sometime in January. The potential for interference is now becoming a reality.
TCG has asked the FCC - OET staff to hold a nationwide conference call for sound engineers and TCG will keep the field posted if/when it gets scheduled. More information on the white space issue can be found on TCG's White Space legislative issue page and via this update.
Proctecting the Charitable Deducation
Posted December 2012
On December 5, TCG and members of the Performing Arts Alliance joined over 200 nonprofit leaders in urging Congress to preserve the charitable deduction during "Protect Giving - DC Days." As Congress works toward averting the looming fiscal cliff - a combination of expiring tax provisions and mandatory spending cuts - the fate of the charitable deduction is up in the air. Lawmakers are exploring options that include implementing monetary caps on deductions or reducing the rate of deductibility in an effort to increase federal revenue. Please send a message to your members of Congress and tell them how important the charitable deduction is in sustaining the work of nonprofits that support healthy and vibrant communities through the presentation of art, increased accessibility to the arts, and job creation.
Continuing Resolution and Fiscal Year 2013 Funding
Posted October 2012
In September the House of Representatives and the Senate passed a $500 billion, six month continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government from October 2012 through March 2013. This stop-gap funding bill, agreed upon in an effort to postpone budget negotiations until after the November elections, reflects the 2013 spending level of $1.047 set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.
What does this mean for arts funding? The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will receive funding level to fiscal year 2012 ($146 million). Post-election Congress will still have to arrive at a budget. (Currently there is a $22 million gap in budget proposals for the NEA, with the House proposing a funding the agency at $132 million while the Senate proposed a funding level of $154 million.)
Even with the CR in place, the looming sequestration – an across the board cut for all domestic and some defense spending that was also voted into law as part of the Budget Control Act –will take effect on January 2, 2013. Sequestration was intended as a potential threat to force Congress to reach an agreement on spending and revenue, though if implemented, it would reduce funding to the NEA by 8.2 per cent, or $12 million. It is still unclear how agencies are preparing for sequestration, how it will impact grants, or when it will be felt. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that if Congress does not act on sequestration and expiring tax provisions, the United States could face yet another recession.
White Space Update – Registration Launched on East Coast for Geo-location Database
Posted October 2012
To provide interference protection for wireless microphones, the FCC has spent the last two years developing a national geo-location database in which, under certain circumstances, venues may register frequencies. The database will then instruct any White Space device within 400 meters to refrain from operating on those frequencies. Registration has been launched on the East Coast, and is currently limited to the following states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia and North Carolina, however it will eventually expand to the rest of the country.
We do not anticipate White Space devices, AKA TV Band Devices, will reach the market for at least six months, but since the FCC has launched the geo-location database, it is important to be up-to-speed with the new procedures and register intended spectrum use, if necessary. Please view the entire FCC release which thoroughly explains the geo-location database, the registration process, answers questions and provides FCC contact information. Performing arts organizations using large numbers of wireless microphones are urged to inform your sound engineers and production staff and to advise them to take this opportunity to access the web-portal and register in the database. If you encounter any difficulties, please report back to Laurie Baskin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is the link to the FCC Public Notice: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-12-1514A1.pdf
For background and more information on the geo-loaction database launch, see this TCG report.
Arts Advocacy Day 2012 Report Out
Posted April 2012
Arts Advocacy Day 2012 was a great day for the arts on Capitol Hill. TCG participated as a National Co-Sponsor and joining TCG staff for Hill visits was a seasoned and robust group of advocates including Mark Cuddy, Artistic Director, Geva Theatre Center, Rochester, NY (TCG Board Member); Heather Randall, Trustee, New York Theatre Workshop (TCG National Council); Yvonne Seggerman, Executive Director, Gamm Theatre, Rhode Island (Field Representative); Mark Shugoll, Trustee, Arena Stage, Washington, DC (TCG Board Member); and Gerard Stropnicky, Bloomsburg Theater Ensemble, Pennsylvania (Field Representative).
Alec Baldwin delivered the 25th Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy, which kicked off Arts Advocacy Day on April 16th. Arts advocacy training workshops were the focus of the day on April 16th. There were legislative issue briefings on NEA appropriations, arts education funding, charitable tax incentives, improving the visa process for international artists, funding for cultural exchange and protecting performing arts technology that utilizes White Spaces.
On April 17th, the TCG delegation met with Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-1-RI) and his staff; Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-8-NY) and his staff; the staff of Congressman Lou Barletta (R-11-PA) and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-28-NY); Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and his staff; and staffers in the offices of Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA) and Senator Gillibrand (D-NY). Members of Congress were urged to support restoration of funding for the NEA and arts education funding within the U.S. Department of Education; improve visa processing for artists from abroad; increase funding for cultural exchange through the State Department; and preserve tax incentives for charitable giving. Last, Congress was informed about the ongoing concerns regarding protection of wireless microphones used in the performing arts and the need for the FCC to make certain that interference protections for wireless microphones work as intended. Concerns were also shared about the threat that performing arts organizations may have to move their wireless microphone operations to a different part of the broadcast spectrum yet again, and that the costs of such a move would be a burden too large for nonprofit theatres to bear alone.
We heard a similar story in all of our Hill visits – because it’s a presidential election year, no one expects that appropriations bills will be completed before the election and that the federal budget will be decided in a lame duck session at the end of the year. We heard a great deal of support for the NEA and are hopeful that, even in this difficult economic climate, we’ll see at least level funding for the agency. Further, the tax extenders package contains a number of vital charitable giving incentives and this, too, is expected to be taken up in the lame duck session after the election. Members of Congress are interested in comprehensive tax reform and we’ve been told that, “everything is on the table” – including the charitable deduction and tax exemption. It is truly critical for theatre leaders to let your Members of Congress know what services your theatres provide to your communities and how essential donations are to your theatres.
Arts Advocacy Day is April 16 - 17, 2012
Posted March 1, 2012
The 25th annual Arts Advocacy Day is the only national event that brings together a broad cross section of America’s cultural and civic organizations, along with hundreds of grassroots advocates from across the country, to underscore the importance of developing strong public policies and appropriating increased public funding for the arts. Each year TCG serves as a National Co-Sponsor of Arts Advocacy Day and brings a team of advocates to the Hill.
On April 16, the focus will be on arts advocacy training workshops. There will be legislative issue briefings on NEA appropriations, arts education funding, charitable tax incentives, improving the visa process for international artists, funding for cultural exchange and protecting performing arts technology that utilizes White Spaces. On April 17, the day begins with a Congressional kick-off event and then advocates embark on Hill visits with Members of Congress and their staff.
All artists, staff of arts organizations, trustees and arts supporters are encouraged to participate in Arts Advocacy Day. If you can attend in person, please visit Americans for the Arts to register. If you cannot be in Washington on April 17, you can participate from home that day by sending messages to your elected officials:
These issues and others will have direct impact on the theatre field. We need your active participation in arts advocacy efforts at the federal level, so when you receive an Action Alert, please respond and pass it along to 5 friends. To sign up for Action Alerts please visit The Performing Arts Alliance. We can make a difference in Washington – but we have to participate in the process!
The Internet and Intellectual Property House Bill: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)/ Senate Bill: Protect IP Act (PIPA)
Posted December 8, 2011
A pair of bills intended to prevent online piracy – theft of intellectual property – have been introduced in Congress. The Senate bill, introduced in June, is called the Protect IP Act. The companion House bill, introduced in late October, is called the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. The House bill was originally introduced to deal with U.S. access to foreign websites that traffic in the unauthorized distribution of intellectual property. But it goes farther.
Both houses of Congress would have to pass the same bill, and the President would have to sign the bill, before it becomes law. This law could have a serious impact on artists and the internet.
These bills create more opportunities for the government and interested individuals to police websites – both domestic and non-domestic – engaged in activities that infringe intellectual property rights. Websites found to be dedicated to infringing activities would quickly and efficiently become inaccessible to users.
TCG supports legislation that protects artists against theft of their work. Intellectual property and artists’ proper compensation is important. At the same time, TCG unequivocally supports freedom of expression and innovation. It is a balancing act to craft legislation that includes meaningful copyright protection and yet does not threaten expression, innovation or commerce for artists online.
TCG is concerned that SOPA contains overly broad provisions and that websites and Internet Service Providers would be forced to monitor activity and that websites could be unilaterally shut down.
Yahoo, Google, Facebook and Public Knowledge, to name a few, oppose the legislation. The Motion Picture Association of America, the Songwriters Guild of America, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the American Federation of Musicians support the legislation. The Future of Music Coalition is concerned with protecting copyright but believes the bill as currently drafted has too much potential for unintended consequences.
Legislation that simultaneously protects artists against the theft of their work, and yet has the potential to curb freedom of expression and innovation, is complex and not clear-cut. TCG hopes that legislation reflecting an appropriate balance between these two important concerns will be crafted.
For more information, please visit the Future of Music Coalition’s website.
TCG Presents Advocacy Update at Annual League of Resident Theatres' Conference (LORT)
Posted October 20, 2011
On October 20, 2011 Theatre Communications Group's director of government and education programs, Laurie Baskin, gave an advocacy report to the members of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT). A hardcopy version of the report can be found here: www.tcg.org/pdfs/advocacy/LORT_Advocacy_Report_October_2011_logo.pdf
Related Federal Communications Commission (FCC) documents can be found here: http://www.tcg.org/advocacy/FCCwhitespace.cfm
House Defeats Two Amendments Intended to Eliminate or Cut the NEA
Posted July 27, 2011
This week the House has been debating the House Interior Appropriations Bill which includes funding for the NEA. On Monday, July 25, the House defeated, by a vote of 284-126, an Amendment introduced by Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS-1) which would have eliminated all funding for the NEA. This Amendment was put forth on behalf of the Republican Study Committee and it included many cuts in the Interior Bill.
On July 27, the House debated an Amendment introduced by Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI-7) which would decrease the NEA's FY12 appropriation by $10 million over the $20 million cut already included in the Appropriations Bill. There were passionate and inspiring Floor speeches by Representative James Moran (D-VA-8) - Ranking Member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee; Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Mike Simpson (R-ID-2);Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY-28); Representative David Cicilline (D-RI-1); Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-6); Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY-3); Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ-12); Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA-3) and Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN-3). You are urged to thank these elected officials.
The Amendment to further cut the NEA failed in a recorded vote 240-181 with 55 Republicans and 185 Democrats voting against the cut. The Interior Bill itself has not yet been voted on, and further amendments could still be introduced. Your voices have most certainly been heard!
All of the Floor Speeches are available on video, by visiting the House website and click on July 27, 2011. The Walberg Amendment is introduced at 10:29:00 and Chairman Simpson speaks at 10:43:00 and his remarks reference Idaho Shakespeare Festival. A Transcript of these Floor Speeches is available here.
NEA Funding Threatened Disproportionately
Posted July 7, 2011
On Thursday July 7, 2011 the U.S. House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee voted to cut National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funding by $20 million for FY12 from the current funding level of $155 million. The NEA already suffered a $12.5 million decrease last year and this proposal more than doubles the $9 million reduction recommended by President Obama for FY12. The Subcommittee's nearly 13% cut is also disproportionate to the 7% cut to the overall spending levels in the entire Interior bill.
The full House Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on the FY12 Interior Appropriations bill on July 12 and the spending bill will go to the House Floor in the near future. The theatre field has been alerted to contact their Members of Congress to protect NEA funding.
Testifying in Support of the NEA
Posted April 14, 2011
As part of our ongoing advocacy efforts, TCG recently submitted a request, which was granted, to bring a witness from the theatre field to Washington, D.C., to testify in support of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. On Thursday, April 14th, Mark Hofflund, managing director of Idaho Shakespeare Festival, presented testimony at a public Hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies in support of NEA appropriations. You can read Mark's testimony here.
(from left to right) Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID-2) , Congressman James Moran (D-VA-8) and Mark Hofflund, Managing Director, Idaho Shakespeare Festival
Final FY 11 Funding Levels for NEA, Arts Education, CPB
Posted April 8, 2011
Congress finally reached an agreement on FY 11 spending late in the day Friday April 8th, averting at the last moment, a federal government shutdown. The following week we were able to learn the breakdown of funding included in that bill:
- Both the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities are funded at $155 million (a cut of $12.5 million from the current level of $167.5 million.)
- Arts education at the U.S. Department of Education will receive $25.5 million. This amount provides enough to cover continuation funds for current grantees.
- Corporation for Public Broadcasting levels are: $430 million in FY 11, $445 million in FY 12 and FY 13 (CPB is forward-funded.)
All of these lines are subject to an across-the-board cut of 0.2%. Given the climate in Washington, these allocations are higher than had been anticipated. Arts advocates across the country truly made a difference—arts funding was protected from deeper cuts because of your emails and phone calls!
We have some champions in Congress and we owe them our thanks:
NEA funding: Representative Mike Simpson (R-2-ID); Representative Louise Slaughter (D-28-NY); Representative Todd Platts (R-19-PA); Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)
Arts Education funding: Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS); Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Once this week’s votes are complete, Congress will turn to FY 12 funding and it is important to remain engaged and involved as Congress considers funding for next year. Stay tuned for Action Alerts from the Performing Arts Alliance and please continue your advocacy efforts!
TCG at Arts Advocacy Day 2011 in Washington DC
Posted April 4, 2011
Every year TCG’s government programs staff and a group of member theatre leaders attend Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. This year marked the 24th annual gathering presented by Americans for the Arts, co-sponsored by TCG and other arts organizations. Arts Advocacy Day gathers and empowers a broad cross section of America’s cultural leaders. Hundreds of grassroots advocates participate and underscore the importance of developing strong public policies and appropriating increased funding for the arts.
On April 4, Kevin Spacey kicked off Arts Advocacy Day by delivering the 24th Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy. Arts advocacy training workshops were the focus of the events on that day. There were legislative issue briefings on NEA appropriations, arts education funding, charitable tax incentives, improving the visa process for international artists, funding for cultural exchange and protecting performing arts technology that utilizes White Spaces.
This year more than 500 arts advocates from across the nation met with their representatives on Capitol Hill on April 5, calling on them to support arts-friendly legislation and policies. Joining TCG staff for Hill visits were Curt Columbus, artistic director of Trinity Repertory Company in Rhode Island; Elisabeth Morten, trustee at Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut and TCG National Council member; Laura Penn, executive director of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society; Gerard Stropnicky, Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble in Pennsylvania; as well as TCG board members: Debbie Chinn; Mark Shugoll, immediate past chair of Arena Stage in Washington, DC; Mark Valdez, national coordinator of the Network of Ensemble Theaters in California; and Clyde Valentin, executive director of the Hip-Hop Theater Festival in Brooklyn, New York.
The TCG delegation met with Congressman Lou Barletta (R-PA-11) and his staff; Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-31-CA); Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-12-NY); Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and his staff; Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and his staff; and arts staffers in the offices of Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
Members of Congress were urged to support level funding for the NEA and arts education within the U.S. Department of Education; support legislation that will reduce the total processing times for O and P visa petitions filed by not-for-profit arts organizations to a maximum of 45 days; increase funding for cultural exchange through the State Department; and support tax incentives for charitable giving. Congress was also informed about the ongoing concerns regarding protection of wireless microphones used in the performing arts and the need for the FCC to make performing arts organizations eligible to apply for Part 74 licenses and therefore eligible for interference protections.
TCG Responds to NEA Chairman's Comments on Supply and Demand
Posted Februray 4, 2011
In response to NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman’s comments suggesting that the number of theatres in our country outpaces demand, TCG’s Executive Director, Teresa Eyring, sent his office this letter. Even in the midst of challenges affecting the national theatre community, TCG believes in the enormous impact and value that theatres have in our country—through artistry and education, through jobs and through the ability to cultivate citizenship—and urges framing the conversation in that context.
NEA Announces Changes to FY 12 Grant Guidelines
Posted January 28, 2011
The National Endowmen for the Arts has made changes to its FY 12 guidelines. Read more about these changes here.
November 2010 Mid-term Election Results
Posted November 26, 2010
The November 2nd mid-term elections resulted in sweeping changes at all levels of government. The House of Representatives changed from Democratic to Republican control, with the Republican caucus picking up 60 seats. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH-8) will become Speaker of the House and Eric Cantor (R-VA-7) will be House Majority Leader. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-8) has been elected House Minority Leader, and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD05) will become House Minority Whip, with Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC-6) assuming the newly-established role of Assistant Leader.
The Senate has a smaller Democratic majority as a result of Republican wins in six states including Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) will remain Senate Majority Leader, and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will remain Senate Minority Leader.
The chair of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, the committee that has jurisdiction over NEA funding, will change, and it is uncertain at this time who the new chair will be. On the Senate side, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) will remain chair of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. Co-chair of the Senate Cultural Caucus, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) won re-election. Senator Enzi (R-WY) did not face an election this year, and remains co-chair of the Senate Cultural Caucus. Both co-chairs of the Congressional Arts Caucus, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY-28) and Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA-19), won re-election and remain in these posts.
If you don’t already know your policymakers, click here to view a list, to date, of the newly-elected members of Congress. Between now and January 2011, these new members will begin settling in to their offices in Washington, D.C. as well as their home states and districts. Over these next few months, please introduce yourself and your organization, add them to your mailing list, invite them to a performance, request a meeting, and establish yourself as a powerful resource for them. If you decide to invite your members of Congress to a performance, be sure to check the Performing Arts Alliance Guide to Congressional Gift Rules in advance. It is important to begin the work of building relationships with these policymakers and to begin to brief them on the issues important to the performing arts field.
Increase in Visa Filing Fees for Artists from Abroad
Posted November 23, 2010
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) increased the fees for visa petitions filed on November 23, 2010. When the fee increase was proposed earlier this summer, individual arts-related petitioners and the national performing arts community filed comments urging the USCIS to make much needed improvements to the regular petition process and objecting to the significant increase in the already unaffordable Premium Processing fee. In their September 24 notice regarding the final fees, USCIS reiterated its recent commitment to speed up and improve the quality of regular O and P artist visa processing, with the intent that fewer petitioners would need to resort to Premium Processing. To avoid delays in visa processing, please note the fee change and plan accordingly.
- The fee for the regular I-129 petition for a nonimmigrant worker will increase from $320 to $325.
- The fee for the I-907 premium processing form will increase from $1000 to $1225.
- The fee for the I-539 petition to extend/change status (used for spouses and dependents) will decrease from $300 to $290.
- The fee for the I-824 petition for action on an approved application or petition (usually used to request a duplicate I-797 notice of approval) will increase from $340 to $405.
Please continue to file arts-related petitions as far in advance of a performance as possible, and closely monitor the level of service you receive. If a petition filed through the regular filing process exceeds 14 days in processing times, immediately call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 800-375-5283 to initiate an inquiry into the status of your case. There is also now updated guidance on the Artists from Abroad website regarding the new I-129 Form. Sample forms will be posted shortly as well.
Please also report your experience with the petition process to Laurie Baskin, Director of Government and Education Programs so we can continue to advocate effectively on this topic.
The FCC Rules on White Space
Posted Septemebr 23, 2010
On September 23, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously adopted a “Second Memorandum Opinion and Order” in its TV White Spaces proceeding. The Commission will permit the operation of new White Space devices, but has also imposed protections for licensed and unlicensed wireless microphones such as those used in the performing arts. Specifically, there will be two TV channels reserved nationwide for wireless microphones, which the Commission expects will permit 12 to 16 wireless microphones in any location. The Commission believes that these channels, when combined with channels that are unavailable to TV Band White Spaces Devices (those channels occupied by or adjacent to broadcast television stations), will provide ample protected spectrum for the vast majority of wireless microphones.
The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) will be working on rules for the implementation of a geo-location database. Once there is a functional database, the new White Space devices will be able to operate. These devices will need to consult the TV Band Databases to determine which frequencies are available for their use. It is expected that the FCC will aim to have the database up and running in the coming months. White Space devices would be introduced into the marketplace in 2011. Read more about the impact of this ruling on our member theatres on our White Space Advocacy page, and please contact Laurie Baskin, TCG's director of government and education programs, with any questions.
Visa Processing Improvements Promised by USCIS
Posted July 20, 2010
In a meeting on July 20th U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) promised public stakeholders that processing times for regularly-filed artist visa petitions will no longer exceed 14 days and that significant improvements to the quality of artist visa processing will soon be underway. The agency is making a major effort to revise its policy and training programs for its two US service centers in response to requests from the nonprofit performing arts community and following significant intervention by leaders in the House, Senate, and the White House Domestic Policy Council. Following years of advocacy on this issue, the Performing Arts Alliance is extremely pleased with this week's breakthrough. TCG in partnership with the Performing Arts Alliance and the Performing Arts Visa Working Group will continue to seek the promised improvements, in addition to weighing in with USCIS regarding the recently proposed fee increase, evidence requirements for O and P visas, and needed improvements to accessing emergency visa processing. Your examples of visa challenges are essential as we continue to communicate with USCIS headquarters. Please report theatre related visa problems to Laurie Baskin, Director of Government and Education Programs at TCG. For more information about visa processing for artists from abroad, please see the PAA’s action alert and TCG’s legislative issue page.