New Overtime Rules Go into Effect on December 1!
Posted May 2016
The Obama administration has finalized new rules increasing the number of workers eligible to receive overtime compensation. The new requirements will take effect on December 1, 2016, and will raise the threshold for overtime compensation from $455 a week ($23,660 per year) to $913 a week ($47,476 per year). In response to questions and concerns raised by the nonprofit community regarding the original draft proposal, the Department of Labor has provided nonprofit-specific information in addition to general resources:
• Overtime Final Rule and the Nonprofit Sector
• Guidance for Non-Profit Organizations on Paying Overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act
• Department of Labor Overtime Resources
The National Council of Nonprofits provides a very helpful overview: National Council of Nonprofits Analysis
Overtime Explained in Two-Part Free Online Learning Event
Is your theatre currently in compliance with overtime rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act? How will you adapt when the proposed new federal overtime rules are finalized? Independent Sector is presenting a two-part webinar series free of charge to help nonprofit organizations come up to speed on the current rules and prepare for future changes. Officials from the U.S. Department of Labor will explain the current rules for compliance with overtime requirements in the first webinar, and nonprofit experts will discuss potential plans for how to adapt when the thresholds for those subject to overtime double on December 1, 2016.
Part 1, Current Compliance - Tuesday, May 24, 1:00-2:00pm ET
Part 2, Adapting to New Rules - Tuesday, May 31, 1:00-2:30pm ET
PAA Submits Comments to the Department of Education
Posted January 2016
A fundamental change to our nation’s education law is likely to have significant effects on the education programs of arts and cultural organizations nationwide. The U.S. Department of Education recently held two public stakeholder meetings seeking recommendations on the implementation and operation of Title I programs under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new federal education law replacing No Child Left Behind. This new law aims to provide all elementary and secondary students with fair and equal opportunities to achieve a high-quality education.
Title I of ESSA provides federal financial assistance to schools and school districts with high percentages of children from low-income families to support students’ academic success. The recommendations of the Performing Arts Alliance (PAA) to the Department of Education include advice on arts education data collection, transparency regarding student access to the arts in Title I schools, and arts assessment models. You can read PAA’s comments here.
Advocacy Victory with the IRS!
Posted January 2016
On January 7, the IRS announced that it will withdraw its proposal for a new procedure that would establish a voluntary process for nonprofits to substantiate gifts of $250 or more from individual donors!
The agency received over 38,000 comments from the nonprofit sector opposing the regulations, which would have required nonprofits to collect the social security or taxpayer identification numbers of donors.
PAA alerted you to this issue last month, and many of you submitted comments to the IRS about potential administrative burdens to your organizations, concerns for the security of donors’ private information, and effects on your relationships with donors. Your voices were heard. Thank you for your advocacy!
This victory is a great way to start 2016!
The IRA Charitable Rollover is Permanent!
Posted December 2015
The IRA Charitable Rollover became a permanent tax incentive when President Obama signed the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act into law on December 18, 2015. The House and Senate each approved the law that same week. The PATH Act also includes permanent reinstatement and extension of several other charitable giving incentives that support nonprofits.
The IRA Charitable Rollover allows donors age 70 1/2 and older to make contributions of up to $100,000 directly from their IRA accounts to a nonprofit organization. This has been an important source of support for many nonprofit arts organizations.
This giving incentive has endured a cycle of reinstatement and expiration in recent years; it most recently expired on January 1, 2015. Almost a year later, it is a victory to see the IRA Charitable Rollover made permanent in the PATH Act. PAA has advocated with Independent Sector on this policy issue, and we thank the many arts advocates who participated in our calls to action to speak up to their lawmakers. Your voice has made a difference!
Delays and Increased Security Measures in Visa Processing
Posted December 2015
Arts organizations that engage foreign guest artists should be aware of substantial processing delays at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) service centers. Both service centers are reportedly taking a minimum of 8-10 weeks to process petitions, with Vermont taking even longer. Many organizations are opting to file via Premium Processing Service (PPS), so be advised that if you have engagements for foreign guest artists taking place before the spring, your safest bet may be to upgrade your petitions to PPS. Please see ArtistsfromAbroad.org for more information and additional resources.
Net Neutrality’s Day in Court
Posted December 2015
On December 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments about the FCC’s new Open Internet Order (Net Neutrality Rules) that took effect in June.
Petitioners from the telecom industry seeking to block the rules argued against the FCC’s rulemaking process, its authority to reclassify broadband as common carrier telecommunications service, and stated concerns about First Amendment rights. Supporters of the FCC’s rules also made arguments at the brief hearing. Judges are expected to make a decision this spring.
The FCC has faced several court challenges over net neutrality over the past decade, and it is predicted that this current challenge could reach the Supreme Court. PAA will keep you updated as the DC Circuit Court heads towards a decision.
The Every Student Succeeds Act Becomes Law!
Posted December 2015
On December 10, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which includes key provisions that support access to arts education. ESSA will replace the current national education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as “No Child Left Behind.”
This is a historic time for education in our nation! The new law includes several provisions for arts education:
- The arts are included in the definition of a “well-rounded education.” Well-rounded subjects are specified as eligible uses of Title I funds, the largest pool of federal resources dedicated to ensuring equitable access to a complete education for all students.
- ESSA retains the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports afterschool, out of school, and summer learning programs. These are key areas in which arts organizations partner with schools to support student learning.
- Arts education programs and projects are eligible for funding through the new Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant Program.
- Programs supported by the current Arts in Education program at the U.S. Dept. of Education are retained as the Assistance for Arts Education Program.
Click here for more information on arts education provisions in ESSA.
ESSA aims to provide all elementary and secondary students with fair and equal opportunities to achieve a high quality education, and these provisions for arts education will ensure that all students, including those in high-poverty schools, have the opportunity to access arts education.
New Education Bill Supports Arts Education
Posted December 2015
Members of a joint conference committee released on Nov. 30 the final text of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bill 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. The current version of this law is known as “No Child Left Behind.” Committee members worked together last month to combine the House and Senate versions of the bill passed earlier this summer.
The bill contains several provisions for arts education related to the arts education priorities for which PAA has been advocating.
Among its benefits, the bill makes accountability requirements more flexible. While tests in reading and math are still required under the new bill, states are given flexibility in incorporating other measures of student success – such as student engagement – into their accountability plans and are encouraged to use portfolio and project based assessment when measuring student learning, which may open the door to increased support of arts education strategies.
The overall approach of the bill shrinks the federal role in education reform and hands more decision-making to the states; this means that arts education advocacy at the state and local level will be more important than ever. The House may vote to pass this bill as early as December 2 and a Senate vote may follow soon. After final votes in both chambers and a signature by the President, the Every Student Succeeds Act will become law.
Net Neutrality Hearings Begin Next Month
Posted November 2015
On December 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit begins hearing arguments against the FCC’s new Open Internet Order (Net Neutrality Rules) that took effect in June of this year. The new rules classify broadband internet service as a common carrier service under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. This classification puts broadband service in the same public utility common carrier category as telephone service. As such, the FCC has stronger legal authority to enforce rules preventing Internet Service Providers (ISP) from blocking or throttling legal content or from prioritizing some content providers over others.
The upcoming court challenge includes petitioners from the telecom industry seeking to block the rules; they are questioning the FCC’s rulemaking process, its authority to reclassify broadband, and have concerns about First Amendment rights. There are also concerns that the new rules would stifle investment and growth in the broadband industry. Members of Congress from both the House and Senate joined and filed amicus briefs of differing opinions on the matter, one asking the court to throw out the rules and another asking the court to support and uphold them.
PAA advocates with the broader performing arts community for the preservation of an open Internet where artists and creative entrepreneurs can reach potential audiences, build businesses, and contribute to culture. Learn more about net neutrality advocacy in the PAA Issue Center.
Congress Begins ESEA Re-write
Posted November 2015
Progress is being made in Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Leaders of both the House and Senate education committees recently released a joint statement that they had “found a path forward” to begin a “successful conference” to replace the current version of ESEA known as “No Child Left Behind.” 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.
In July, both chambers passed their own versions of the next ESEA: the Student Success Act in the House (H.R.5) and the Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177) in the Senate. This week, a conference committee–a bi-partisan, ad hoc group of lawmakers from both the House and Senate–has started working together to combine the two versions of the bill.
PAA and arts education advocates have identified several priorities for arts education in this legislation, including maintaining the arts in the definition of “core academic subjects,” allocating $30M for the Arts in Education grant program at the Department of Education, and requiring states to report on student access to and participation in the arts. Several of these asks were included in the Senate’s Every Child Achieves Act. Education Week reports a few known provisions in the preliminary conference bill, but full details, including the stakes for arts education, are not yet known. The conference committee aims to pass a new, revised ESEA by the end of 2015.
Visa Processing Delays and Updates
Posted September 2015
U.S. arts organizations that engage foreign guest artists should be aware of processing delays for regularly-filed petitions. Many petitioners are experiencing a turnaround time of 6-8 weeks or more at the Vermont Service Center. Petitioners should plan accordingly and attempt to file as early as possible or to consider Premium Processing for their petitions. In other news, petitioners should be aware that a new edition of the I-129 form to file for the O and P classifications was updated last month, and earlier in the year the I-907 form for Premium Processing Service was updated as well. Always download the latest forms from uscis.gov when filing a petition to engage a foreign guest artist and keep up with the latest news, tips, and templates at Artists from Abroad.
FCC Issues New Rules for Wireless Microphones
Posted September 2015
At its Open Meeting on August 6, 2015, the FCC ruled on several proceedings that affect the current and future operations of wireless microphones used in the performing arts. Currently, there is no change to wireless microphone operations. Users can still register their needs in the database, subject to the 30-day comment period. However, once the Office of Management and Budget approves the FCC’s new rules, likely in late 2015, there will be a more distinct difference between the treatment of licensed and unlicensed wireless microphones.
The FCC’s new rules state that entities regularly using 50 or more wireless devices are eligible to apply for a license. Entities using fewer than 50 wireless devices are not eligible to apply for a license. As of July 2016, unlicensed wireless microphones in the 600 MHz band will have to register their frequencies in the database and may have to pay a registration fee. This registration does not provide interference protection, and it does not reserve channels. Effective between July 2016 and April 2017, unlicensed wireless microphones operating on any frequency will no longer be able to reserve channels protected from White Space Devices.
At the August meeting, the Commission also began the process of moving wireless microphones to new spectrum following the 2016 spectrum auction. The official order to move will likely take place in 2019. This news presents some challenges. In the short term, it will be advantageous for unlicensed wireless microphone operators to find a way to become licensed. For example, they could find or create a “professional sound company” which would routinely use 50 or more devices. Rather than renting equipment from a professional sound company, an unlicensed performing arts entity could hire the professional sound company to conduct frequency coordination on its behalf. That company could use its license to register the frequency needs of unlicensed entities. Any performing arts entity that produces television programs would also qualify for a license. Both of these options would provide database interference protection along with the use of a much wider range of frequencies.
Over the next few years, it will also be important for performing arts venues to raise or set aside funds to purchase new sound equipment. Advocacy efforts to protect wireless microphones used in the performing arts from interference, as well as efforts to offset the costs incurred by transition to new spectrum are ongoing. Please stay tuned for updates and see this timetable for more detailed information on the new FCC rules.
Department of Labor Proposes New Overtime Rules
Posted September 2015
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed new rules that would increase the number of employees qualifying for overtime compensation. The proposed rules would require employers to pay time-and-a-half wages to salaried employees earning up to $50,440 (or $970/week) when they work more than 40 hours per week. This salary threshold is more than double the threshold in current law, which is $23,660 (or $455/week). Currently, salaried employees earning more than that amount are considered exempt, and are not entitled to overtime pay. While there are no specific proposed changes to the “duties test” which describes the white collar exemption for overtime pay, the IRS invited comments on the topic.
Independent Sector–a national coalition of over 500 public charities, foundations, and corporate giving programs–submitted comments on behalf of the nonprofit sector regarding concerns over the costs of implementing the new rules, while also supporting the general impulse to offer a “living wage.” Independent Sector’s comments urged DOL to consider a phased-in implementation of the new threshold increase, to account for regional economic and marketplace differences, and to host a period for comments should any changes be made to the duties test. PAA is a member of Independent Sector. The new rules may take effect by mid-2016. In the event that they do become final, arts organizations can prepare now by:
- updating job descriptions to accurately reflect job duties;
- discussing approaches to work schedules and pay rates
We will continue to share information with you as we learn more about the final rules.
FCC to Discuss Wireless Microphones
Posted July 2015
The next Open Meeting of the FCC will take place on August 6, 2015. The agenda includes discussion of the proceedings for the agency’s spectrum incentive auction in 2016. In these auctions, the FCC is offering broadcasters the opportunity to put up for sale the rights/licenses to certain bands of broadcast spectrum where wireless microphones currently operate. After auctions, the FCC will reorganize and repack the spectrum and may require wireless microphones to relocate to a different part of the spectrum.
The procedures adopted during this meeting will dictate the rules governing the upcoming auction and will affect the future distribution of services in the broadcast spectrum. The FCC will also adopt rules for the technical operations of both licensed and unlicensed wireless microphones and a plan for a long-term home in the spectrum for wireless microphones. TCG and PAA advocates for performing arts wireless technology as a part of the Performing Arts Wireless Microphone Working Group. The group recently filed an Ex Parte letter outlining the needs of wireless microphones in the performing arts. Stay tuned for an update following the August 6 Open Meeting.
Senate Committee Passes IRA Rollover Extension
Posted July 2015
The Senate Finance Committee advanced a bill for temporary reinstatement of tax extenders–including the IRA Charitable Rollover–during a markup on July 21. The IRA rollover allows donors ages 70 1/2 and older to make tax-free contributions to charitable organizations of up to $100,000 directly from their IRA. This provision expired at the end of 2014 and has been in a cycle of expiration and reinstatement for the past several years. PAA will join other national nonprofits in visits to Senate offices this week, urging lawmakers to support this important provision.
The Finance Committee’s markup followed the recently released reports from the Senate Finance Committee Tax Reform Working Groups. The Working Group on Individual Taxes considered two options for reinstating the IRA Rollover: 1) permanently reinstating the provision as it currently exists; or 2) permanently reinstating it, expanding the types of charities eligible to receive contributions, and increasing or removing the $100,000 cap.
The working group acknowledged that if the IRA rollover is only extended temporarily, donors may face uncertainty when planning their gifts, and this could diminish charitable giving. This uncertainty also extends to nonprofit arts organizations whose community programs and services often utilize this kind of support. PAA continues to advocate for permanent reinstatement of the IRA rollover. You can learn more about the impact of the Rollover in the PAA Charitable Giving Issue Center.
Wireless Microphones on Agenda for August 6 FCC Meeting
Posted July 2015
The next Open Meeting of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will take place on August 6, 2015. The agenda includes discussion of the proceedings for the agency’s spectrum incentive auction in 2016. In an effort to raise federal revenues, the Administration and Congress have authorized the FCC to put up for sale the rights/licenses to use certain bands of radio waves –spectrum–on which wireless devices can operate. After auctions, the FCC will reorganize and repack the spectrum and may require wireless microphones to relocate to a different part of the spectrum.
The procedures adopted during this meeting will dictate the rules governing the upcoming auction and will affect the future distribution of services in the broadcast spectrum. The FCC will also adopt rules for the technical operations of both licensed and unlicensed wireless microphones and a plan for a long-term home in the spectrum for wireless microphones. TCG and the PAA advocates for performing arts wireless technology as a part of the Performing Arts Wireless Microphone Working Group. The group recently filed an Ex Parte letter outlining the needs of wireless microphones in the performing arts. Stay tuned for an update following the August 6 Open Meeting.
Senate Passes Education Law Rewrite
Posted July 2015
On July 16, the Senate passed the “Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177), its version of legislation to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA is the federal education law that funds primary and secondary education. The law 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.” The Senate’s bill contains several “wins” for arts education. It encourages partnerships between schools and nonprofits for educational programming, it authorizes federal funds for spending on programs that may include the arts, and it acknowledges the importance of the arts by defining it as a core academic subject. Read more about those wins here.
House & Senate Debate Education Policy Next Week!
Posted July 2015
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.”
NEA Appropriations Update
Posted July 2015
The House resumed floor consideration of the FY16 Interior Bill on July 7 after the Independence Day recess. This bill contains the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Representatives began debating the bill at the end of June but had not discussed the cultural agencies before the break. Both the House Interior Subcommittee and the full Appropriations Committee approved $146 million for the NEA–level funding with last year. Many of you took action for the arts and asked your Representative to preserve this amount and vote against any amendments to the Interior bill that could reduce it. Floor consideration was stalled and the bill was pulled from the House floor after controversy surrounding a vote about the confederate flag being displayed on cemeteries on federal land. In the Senate, an Interior Bill has not yet been sent to the floor for debate, however both the Interior Subcommittee and full Appropriations Committee approved $146 million for the NEA in FY16.
House Approves Increase for Citizen Exchanges
Posted June 2015
On June 11, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY16 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies bill at $582.531 million. This bill contains funding for the Office of Citizen Exchanges which operates international artistic cultural exchange programs–such as DanceMotion USA and Arts Envoy–at the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Though the overall amount of this bill is both less than the President’s FY16 request and less than FY15 enacted levels, the amount appropriated to the Office of Citizen Exchanges, $102 million, is an increase over both the President’s request ($90 million) and FY15 enacted levels ($100 million). PAA advocates with the greater arts community for Congress to approve $110 million for cultural exchanges in FY16. Stay tuned for updates as the Senate considers its State and Foreign Operations bill, likely to occur after the July 4th recess.
Outage at State Department Delays Visas
Posted June 2015
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, it is highly unlikely that visas will be issued. The State Department reports that it is working on a variety of solutions to this problem, yet it does not have an estimated date for when this problem will be resolved. The Department has created an FAQs page to answer common questions. You can also visit Artists from Abroad for more information.
New Net Neutrality Rules in Effect
Posted June 2015
On June 12, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) new Open Internet Order (Net Neutrality rules) officially took effect. This took place after several petitions to stay were filed against the rules but were denied–including a petition denied by the same D.C. Circuit Court whose 2014 ruling ordered the FCC to re-write the rules. The new Net Neutrality rules uphold three “bright line rules” for Internet Service Providers (ISPs): no blocking or throttling of legal content and no paid prioritization for content providers. For the first time, these rules apply to both mobile and fixed ISPs. Though these rules are in effect, petitioners may move forward in the D.C. Circuit Court with their appeals.
In addition to petitions to stay, the new Net Neutrality rules have seen challenges from Congress. The House Appropriations Subcommittee for Financial Services and General Government included legislation in its FY16 Appropriations Bill that would prohibit the FCC from using its FY16 funds for implementing Net Neutrality rules until certain court cases are resolved. The bill recommends the FCC be funded at $315 million, which is $25 million less than FY15. The full House Appropriations Committee approved the Subcommittee’s bill on June 17.
NEA Appropriations Underway
Posted June 2015
Both the House and Senate are considering their FY16 Interior Appropriations bills which contain recommendations for the NEA’s budget for the next fiscal year. On June 10, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee approved $146 million for the NEA. The full House will vote on the bill on Tuesday June 14 at 10:15am. Click here to write your representative and ask for $155M for the NEA! The Senate Interior Appropriations Committee is set to consider its FY16 appropriations bill on Tuesday, June 14 at 2:30pm. If you live in California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, you have a senator that serves on this committee. Write your Senator today and ask for $155M for the NEA in FY16!
Senate HELP Committee to Consider New ESEA Draft
Posted April 2015
This is an important week for arts education in the Senate! The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee is considering a draft bill (the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015) and amendments to update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), our nation’s education law. The arts community wants the arts to be ensured a place in every child’s education in the new ESEA. Arts education is at stake in this draft bill: it does not include funding for the Arts in Education program at the U.S. Department of Education, nor does it include funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program which funds afterschool and summertime learning programs which include the arts. Fortunately, it does retain the definition of core academic subjects including the arts! This is a win: this designation makes arts education programs eligible for federal funding such as Title I. If your senator serves on the HELP committee, he or she needs to hear from you this week.
Advocating for International Artistic Cultural Exchanges
Posted March 2015
To strengthen its efforts in advocacy for international artistic cultural exchanges, PAA joined The Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange. The Alliance is an association of 90 nongovernmental organizations comprising the international educational and cultural exchange community in the United States. As the only collective public policy voice of the international exchange community, the Alliance promotes the growth and impact of exchange programs by engaging in advocacy, providing member development opportunities, and building public awareness of the power of exchange. PAA participated in The Alliance’s Advocacy Day in early March and spoke with congressional staff members about the importance of artistic cultural exchanges for international diplomacy.
President Obama Releases His FY16 Budget
Posted March 2015
The Obama Administration released its budget request for FY 2016. It requested $148 million for the NEA, an increase of almost $2 million.
New Net Neutrality Rules Approved
Posted Feb 2015
On February 26, the FCC voted to approve new net neutrality rules that will reclassify broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act. Many of the 4 million public comments the agency received last summer urged the agency to go in this direction. The President supported this direction as well in a video address on November 10. PAA signed on to comments filed on behalf of the arts and culture community that stated: “It may be ultimately necessary for Congress to resolve persistent issues around FCC broadband competition, though we feel strongly that the FCC has the authority to preserve the open Internet; the clearest path seems to be through reclassification. The Commission must not wait for Congress to act; it must craft rules that will withstand legal challenges and the political tides.” This is an exciting outcome for net neutrality advocates, yet there may be several legal challenges to today’s decision in the coming months. PAA will keep you posted on this issue as it unfolds.
IRA Charitable Rollover Considered by the House
Posted Feb 2015
On Thursday, February 12, the House passed H.R. 644, the America Gives More Act of 2015, which would permanently reinstate a set of charitable giving incentives that includes the IRA Rollover. The IRA Rollover allows donors age 70½ to make tax-free distributions of up to $100,000 per year from an IRA to a qualifying charitable organization. The final vote was 279-137. Many of you wrote to your Representatives sharing stories of how this giving incentive has supported the important work of your arts organization. Your voices were heard in this step for the legislation, and we thank you for your advocacy. Next, the bill will be considered in the Senate. The timing isn’t certain, but the Senate Finance Committee has recently created tax reform working groups to start addressing comprehensive reform. While there is strong bipartisan support for these charitable giving incentives, the President has issued a veto threat over concerns of how to pay for the provisions. TCG and the PAA continue to meet with Congressional offices urging them to support this important measure.
Net Neutrality Update
Posted Feb 2015
On February 4, Chairman Wheeler announced in Wired that his new proposal for open internet rules will classify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. This differs from the proposal Wheeler discussed at the FCC’s May 15, 2014 open meeting. “Originally, I believed that the FCC could assure internet openness through a determination of ‘commercial reasonableness’ under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. While a recent court decision seemed to draw a roadmap for using this approach, I became concerned that this relatively new concept might, down the road, be interpreted to mean what is reasonable for commercial interests, not consumers.” Title II reclassification would give the FCC strong legal authority against content blocking and throttling as well as paid prioritization or “fast lanes.” Wheeler stated wanting to take a “light touch” approach to Title II; the FCC would not get involved in ISP’s pricing decisions to the same degree that it gets involved with utility companies’ pricing decisions. The proposal details will be discussed and voted on at the FCC’s Feb. 26 open meeting.
Continued Advocacy for the Charitable Deduction
Posted Jan 2015
To welcome new members and begin advocacy on tax policy, the Charitable Giving Coalition (CGC) recently sent a letter to new members of Congress introducing the coalition and its work and also explaining the importance of maintaining the full scope and value of the charitable deduction. TCG and PAA have signed this letter, and likewise, we encourage you to introduce your organization and its work to your legislators. Start building relationships by writing a letter, making a phone call, or scheduling a meeting–especially if your Representative or Senator is new to office. Use this advocacy toolkit for tips on connecting with your leaders.
House and Senate Hearings on Net Neutrality Legislation
Posted Jan 2015
On January 21, the House Energy & Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held hearings discussing draft legislation by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-6th-MI) that would:
- Prohibit ISPs from blocking and throttling legal content
- Ban paid prioritization
- Ban ISPs from prohibiting the use of non-harmful devices
- Require broadband to be classified as an information service
- Prohibit the FCC from using authority under section 706
ISPs would, though, be allowed to offer specialized services, but none that would evade these obligations. The bill limits the FCC to enforcing these obligations only by adjudicating consumer complaints against ISPs. The agency would not be able to make any rules that would require ISPs to hold to these obligations. If the bill is enacted, the FCC would have 60 days to adopt formal procedures for dealing with consumer complaints. The bill defines broadband internet as a “mass market retail service” that “provides advanced telecommunications capability” but shall be considered an information service. Broadband “transmits and receives data from all Internet endpoints, including transmissions that enable the operations of communications services.” This definition applies to any other equivalent service. The bill also states that the FCC or state commissions with regulatory jurisdiction over telecommunications cannot use section 706 as authority over broadband.
New Net Neutrality Proposal Expected Shortly
Posted Jan 2015
At the Consumer Electronics Showcase on January 7, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the agency will vote on a new net neutrality proposal at its open meeting on February 26. Net neutrality—the principle that all users and content providers should have equal access to the internet and that the internet should be a level playing field—has been in debate for years, most recently since January 2014 after a DC district court struck down parts of the agency’s 2010 net neutrality rules. The FCC received almost four million public comments last summer and fall from advocates weighing in on the direction of the new rules. The debate centers around the agency reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act. With this reclassification, the FCC could regulate broadband just as it does telephone services. Several sources report that the proposal may reclassify broadband under Title II, but the FCC has not confirmed this. The public can attend the February 26 open meeting, and it will also be webcast on FCC.gov.
Discussion Draft Impacting Arts Education is Released
Posted Jan 2015
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) new chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee released this month a discussion draft entitled “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015″ regarding the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The No Child Left Behind Act is the current authorization of this law. The public can comment on Sen. Alexander’s discussion draft. Comments can be submitted to FixingNCLB@help.senate.gov. The submission deadline is Monday, February 2.
IRA Charitable Rollover Update
Posted Dec 2014
TCG along with the PAA and other charitable giving advocates have been urging Congress this year to reinstate the IRA Charitable Rollover; recently, there has been much activity in Congress on this issue. On December 11, the House voted on H.R. 5806-the Supporting America’s Charities Act-which would make the IRA Charitable Rollover permanent along with two other charitable giving incentives. This bill did not succeed. On December 3, the House passed H.R. 5771, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, which retroactively renews and extends the rollover and other charitable giving incentives through the end of 2014. The Senate passed the same legislation on Dec. 16 and the bill now awaits the President’s signature.
NEA Receives Level Funding for FY15
Posted Dec 2014
Congress passed two additional short-term continuing resolutions to provide a few extra days for final passage of the “CRomnibus” appropriations bill for FY15. On December 16, The President signed the CRomnibus–the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015–into law. It continues level funding at $146 million for the NEA and NEH through September 30, 2015.
House Votes to Reinstate IRA Rollever
Posted Dec 2014
The House voted to pass H.R. 5771-the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014-which would reinstate and extend the IRA Charitable Rollover along with other expired incentives through the end of 2014. As you recall, this provision expired at the end of 2013; PAA and other charitable giving advocates have been urging Congress this year to reinstate this important incentive. Unlike H.R. 4719 which the House passed in July, this bill does not extend the deadline through April 15 for making charitable contributions that can be included on the previous year’s tax return.
Mid-Term Election Results - Action is Needed
Posted November 2014
The results of the 2014 mid-term election are in—Republicans gained control of the Senate, there are fewer Democratic seats in the House—and there are new elected officials in Washington representing some of your districts and states. It is truly important to remember that arts advocacy is bipartisan and there is support for the arts in both houses of Congress and on both sides of the aisle. Please take some time to contact your elected officials to congratulate them on their victories and to build or establish your relationship with them. They all need to hear and be reminded about the value of theatres in their communities – educate them about the impact your theatre has in the district/state. TCG works closely in coalition with the Performing Arts Alliance and you can find information about the federal issues that affect the arts on the PAA website. We will need your active participation in arts advocacy as we develop relationships with new leadership in Congress.
FCC Order Summary - Changes for Wireless Microphones
Posted October 2014
This summer, the FCC released an Order which includes a limited expansion of eligibility for Part 74 licenses to users of wireless microphones, including performing arts venues. While the order offers some good news for the performing arts, it is important to know that more change is coming after the spectrum incentive auctions. TCG and the Performing Arts Wireless Microphone Working Group have provided this analysis and summary of the FCC’s Order explaining the changes ahead and detailing how you will be able to apply for a license. Find additional resources and materials on protecting Wireless Microphones here.
NEA Appropriations Update
Posted October 2014
The President’s budget request for NEA appropriations is $146 million – level funding. The House, after an $8 million dip was proposed in Appropriations Subcommittee, actually voted for level funding in full Appropriations Committee. The Senate proposed $150 million. Currently, Congress is in recess and they are home campaigning for the mid-term election. So congress passed a Continuing Resolution, keeping the government open and operating at FY14 levels through December 11. We expect an Omnibus Bill will be passed which will fund the rest of FY15 at level funding for the NEA.
Two Wins in the House - NEA Restored and IRA Rollover Reinstated and Made Permanent
Posted July 2014
On July 9th, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over NEA funding, approved $138 million in FY15 funding for the NEA – representing an $8 million reduction from current funding. Thanks to your advocacy efforts, on July 15th, the full House Appropriations Committee restored the NEA’s FY15 budget to $146 million. This is an important development, and demonstrates notably strong bi-partisan support for the NEA among policymakers, and represents a major departure from last summer’s attempt to slash the NEA’s budget nearly in half. Now that the bill has been approved by the Appropriations Committee, the next step will be floor consideration by the full House of Representatives. Timing of a floor vote is uncertain.
And on July 17th the full House of Representatives voted in favor of legislation that would permanently reinstate the IRA charitable rollover. Many performing arts organizations benefit from increased contributions because of this important provision that allows individual donors ages 70½+ to make tax-free contributions of up to $100,000 directly from their IRAs. This legislation will also make April 15 the new deadline for making charitable contributions that can be included on the previous year’s tax return. Next up, the Senate will consider this legislation.
TCG has been active on this issue and side-by-side with more than 850 organizations, signed on to an open nonprofit coalition letter to the House of Representatives in support of reinstating important tax provisions that sustain the work of charitable organizations nation-wide. This letter was cited during the bill's debate and entered into public record. Advocates are now pressing Congress to finish final approval of the provision so that nonprofits will be able to put the resulting charitable donations to use as soon as possible. You can stay up to date on these issues and more by signing up to receive alerts and updates at the Performing Arts Alliance’s website.
Protect Wireless Microphones Used in the Performing Arts
Posted July 2014
The FCC recently held an Open Meeting where rules were adopted for expanding Part 74 license eligibility and a discussion was held about the upcoming spectrum incentive auction. Additional details have emerged about how these rules will affect performing arts wireless technology:
- Part 74 licensing expands to performing arts venues and sound companies routinely using 50+ devices per event.
- In the short-term, the FCC will allow wireless microphones to operate co-channel and on channels adjacent to TV stations.
- There will be no channels reserved exclusively for wireless microphones.
- In the next five years, wireless microphones will likely have to move to a new band of spectrum after the auction is complete and the broadcast spectrum is repacked.
Senate Confirms Dr. Jane Chu as New NEA Chair
Posted June 2014
On June 12, 2014 the Senate voted to confirm Dr. Jane Chu as the next chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. Since 2006, Dr. Chu has served as President and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. Many members of the Performing Arts Alliance have worked with her and are pleased that such a smart and engaging colleague with a deep knowledge and understanding of the performing arts field will lead the NEA. We await the President’s approval of the Senate’s vote which will make official Dr. Chu’s appointment to the chairmanship. The Performing Arts Alliance is confident that the NEA—and the arts in our nation—will be strengthened by her leadership.
Limited Expansion of Part 74 Licensing for Wireless Microphones
Posted May 2014
At an Open Meeting on May 15, the FCC adopted rules expanding Part 74 license eligibility to include sound companies and venues regularly using at least 50 wireless microphones. The rules are intended to ensure interference protection and high quality sound for large events. After the auction, the Commission anticipates there will be one channel in each area which would be available for shared use by wireless microphones and TV white space devices. PAA continues to advocate for two safe-haven channels of spectrum for wireless microphones to protect against interference, as well as eligibility for performing arts venues using at least 25 microphones to obtain a license from the FCC. To learn more you can read PAA’s Ex Parte Letter that was sent on May 7th to the FCC.
TCG Sends Theatre Delegation to Arts Advocacy Day 2014
Posted March 2014
This year Arts Advocacy Day 2014 took place on March 25 and TCG once again participated as a National Co-Sponsor. Joining TCG staff for Hill visits were Chris Jennings, Managing Director, Shakespeare Theatre Company (TCG Board Member), Gavin Witt, Associate Artistic Director, Center Stage and Sharon Martwick, Director of Institutional Giving, Goodman Theatre.
Meetings with legislators were proceeded by an advocacy training day and the 27th annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy delivered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and best-selling author Maureen Dowd and introduced by actor Alec Baldwin.
The group advocated on a range of issues including NEA appropriations, arts education funding, tax incentives for charitable giving, improving the visa process for international artists from abroad, funding for cultural exchange and protecting performing arts technology that utilizes White Spaces. They met with Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7-IL), and staff members in the offices of Rep. John Sarbanes (D-3-MD), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-10-IL) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).
Learn how to participate in Arts Advocacy Day all year round by visiting the Performing Arts Alliance website and sending a message to your representative on behalf of the arts.
FY15 Budget Request Released
Posted March 2014
On March 5, 2014 President Obama released his FY15 budget request which included $146 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). His proposal represents level funding for the agency from FY14. Last year the President proposed $154.5 million but the House proposed allotting only $75 million for the agency. With your advocacy efforts, the NEA's final FY14 budget was announced at $146 million. PAA and the arts community continue to advocate for $155 million in funding for the NEA.
FY14 Budget Victory for the NEA
Posted January 2014
On Friday, January 17, 2014 President Obama signed into law the $1.1 trillion spending package passed a few days prior by the House and Senate. Lawmakers reached a deal on this spending package in December 2013 which allocates $146 million to the NEA for FY14. Due to your advocacy efforts, the NEA’s budget has recovered from the 5% cut it received in the FY13 sequester.
NEA Releases Arts Economic Impact Research Report
Posted December 2013
In December, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released a preliminary report on the impact of arts and culture on the U.S. economy. Working with the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), this report was the first federal effort to provide in-depth analysis of the arts and cultural sector's contributions to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). In early February 2014, the NEA released more detailed data on their blog showing the dollar amount of value that each arts discipline adds to the GDP, an enhancement that the December report didn’t include. Learn more about this report by reading this press release on the NEA website and this post on the NEA blog.
Rep. Ken Calvert Names Chairman of House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior
Posted November 2013
On November 13, 2013, Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-42) was named as the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies which oversees NEA appropriations. TCG and the PAA advocate for federal appropriations for the NEA so that it can continue to support arts organizations, helping them make meaningful connections between their art, artists, and their communities.
NEA FY14 Funding Status Update
Posted September 2013
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.
Wireless Microphone and White Space Update
Posted August 2013
On September 23, 2010, The FCC ruled that portions of the broadcast spectrum called white space would be shared by wireless microphones used in the performing arts and by new white space devices (aka TV Band Devices) yet to be developed. Because interference between wireless microphones and white space devices could be a concern, the FCC ordered several protection measures. These messures are now being reconsidered. Learn what's now at stake for wireless microphone users:
Threats to safe-haven channels designated for wireless microphones:
In the current spectrum auction and repacking rulemaking, the FCC indicated it was considering eliminating the two safe haven channels the FCC had previously designated for wireless microphones. Some wireless microphone users have advocated that they would have to compete for bandwidth with a growing number of mobile broadband devices and other heavy spectrum users. If these two reserved channels are eliminated, interference for wireless microphone users would increase and they would no longer be able to depend on this vital technology to do their work and serve the public.
A Reliable geo-location database:
Given the thousands of performances held by arts organizations each year that rely on wireless devices, it is essential that the FCC’s interference protection works successfully. A reliable geo-location database will avoid interference between wireless microphones and TV Band Devices.
High cost of replacing equipment to operate in new spectrum:
Our nation’s nonprofit performing arts organizations make substantial financial investments in their technical equipment, including wireless microphones and backstage communications devices. In 2010, these organizations were subject to an FCC rule that required wireless microphone users to cease using equipment that operated in the 700 MHz band of spectrum. Many performing arts organizations were required to relocate to another band of spectrum which brought unanticipated expenses of $25,000-$100,000 to purchase new equipment that could operate in another band of spectrum.
In an effort to raise federal revenues, the Administration and Congress have authorized spectrum auctions, putting up for sale the rights/licenses to use certain bands of spectrum. After auctions, the FCC will reorganize and repack the spectrum that has been made available and may require wireless microphones to relocate to a different part of the spectrum. If that happens, performing arts organizations may yet again have to purchase new, expensive equipment. The valuable public benefits produced by our nation’s performing arts sector should be considered in any future plan to reallocate or ”repack” the broadcast spectrum as a result of these auctions. More information on the white space issue can be found on TCG's White Space legislative issue page.
Preserving the Charitable Deduction
Posted July 2013
The Senate Finance Committee’s plan for comprehensive tax reform is a “zero plan” that strips the tax code of all deductions, including the charitable deduction, and Senators had to specifically request for items to be added back into the bill. TCG joined the Charitable Giving Coalition two years ago and has been an active part of the Coalition's efforts to preserve the charitable deduction. Please visit the Charitable Giving Coalition's website for more information.
Huge NEA Budget Cut Proposed
Posted July 2013
In July the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee proposed a 49% cut to the National Endowment for the Arts. While the federal government is operating under the confines of the sequester, this cut is disproportionate and harsh. While we don’t expect the Senate or the President to allow this deep a cut to the NEA, please take action by strengthening your relationship with your member of Congress. Visit your respresentatives while they are back in their home districts during their August recess and shore up their support for performing arts legislative issues. Visit the Take Action page on the PAA website for tips on contacting and meeting with your policy members as well as inviting them to performances.
Arts in Education Funding Zeroed Out Again
Posted July 2013
The President’s FY14 proposal once again zeros out the Arts in Education program to fund a new pool of resources titled “Effective Teaching and Learning for a Well-Rounded Education.” The program is proposed to develop and expand innovative practices for improving teaching and learning in the arts, health education, foreign languages, civics and government, history, geography, environmental education, economics and financial literacy, and other subjects.” It is important to note that the total amount for the consolidated pot of money has diminished with each successive year, and in FY14 is further whittled from last year’s $90 million proposal to $75 million for all of the covered subjects, combined. Learn more about Arts Education legislation on the PAA website and voice your support through this campaign.
Arts in Education Reauthorization Debated
Posted July 2013
In July, the U.S. House of Representatives began debating legislation to re-write the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the current version of which is known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). NCLB expired in 2007, but has yet to be re-written and/or re-authorized. Both parties in the House and the Senate have developed their own versions of a new ESEA—the most significant activity to date on updating this law—yet with such highly partisan views on how education should move forward, it seems that final passage of a new ESEA is still quite far down the road. Learn more about Arts Education legislation on the federal level at the PAA website.
TCG Leads Capitol Hill Briefing and Bill to Protect Wireless Microphones
Posted July 2013
In late July, TCG partnered with the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York) and The Broadway League to represent theatres in the coalition of performing arts organizations, religious institutions and professional sports leagues supporting PARDON THE INTERRUPTION: a Capitol Hill Forum to protect wireless microphones from the threat of harmful interference posed by the reorganization of the broadcast spectrum and a new generation of electronic devices. TCG worked closely with the staff in the office of Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-1-IL) to prepare HR 2911, the Wireless Microphone Users Interference Protection Act of 2013, which he introduced in the House on August 1st. This bill will require the FCC to offer various interference protections to wireless microphone users. Find additional resources and information about what TCG has been doing to protect wireless microphones on our White Space issue page.
Success for the ARTS Act and Visas for Artists from Abroad!
Posted June 2013
We had an advocacy success this week! The ARTS Act – Arts Require Timely Service – a visa provision – was included in the Senate Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill that just passed the Senate. It would speed up processing of visas for artists from abroad and is something we have been advocating for since 2001. In order to become law, it would also have to pass in the House as well. Not-for-profit arts organizations and artists provide a public service and boost international diplomacy by presenting international artistry in performances, educational programs, and cultural events in American communities both large and small. With the improvements included in the ARTS provision, confidence in the U.S. visa process will continue to grow among U.S. arts organizations and foreign artists alike, greatly enhancing international cultural exchange. Learn more on the PAA website and sign up for Action Alerts!
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.
Protecting the Charitable Deduction
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
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.