Advocacy News

The Charitable Giving Coalition Advocates on Capitol Hill
Posted February 17, 2017

TCG director of research, policy & collective action Laurie Baskin led the New York delegation on visits to the offices of Members of Congress to support preservation of the full scope and value of the charitable tax deduction. Read more about this important work here.

Senators Support NEA and NEH in Letter to President Trump
Posted February 16, 2017

On Wednesday, February 15, 2017, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) sent President Trump a letter signed by 24 senators in support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. "Federal support for the arts and humanities is essential to our education system, economy, and who we are as a nation," the senators emphasize.

NEA Announces First Round of Grants for FY 2017
Posted February 8, 2017

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will award $30,886,000 in direct grants to fund 1,180 projects in the first major grant announcement of the 2017 fiscal year. In this round, 970 Art Works grants, totaling $25,981,000, are to be awarded to organizations across the country.

122 TCG Member Theatres collectively received 123 awards totaling $3,102,500 in these categories: Theater and Musical Theater, Arts Education, and Presenting and Multidisciplinary Works (all disciplines encompassed by Art Works), as well as Art Works: Creativity Connects and Challenge America.

Please click here for a list of all TCG Member Theatres that received NEA grants in this round.

Complete lists of all awardees—as well as more detailed information about Art Works, Creativity Connects, and Challenge America grants—can be found on the NEA website, along with a timetable of upcoming grant application deadlines.

The Hill Reports on NEA Funding
Posted January 20, 2017

Yesterday, The Hill reported that President-elect Trump’s budget blueprint would eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with the goal of reducing federal spending by trillions over the next decade. The budget blueprint itself has not yet been produced and would be a non-binding document. We are at the very beginning of the federal appropriations process. We do not expect the President’s budget to be released until April. The House and Senate will each soon begin work on the annual appropriations process. Each chamber must pass its own spending bills and then come to agreement on spending for the year before sending bills to the president to be signed into law. Fortunately, there is a solid foundation of bipartisan arts advocacy and support over the years.

So what can you do?

Now is the time for you as an arts leader to be in contact with your elected officials to build on that foundation. You are urged to communicate the value of the work of your theatre in your community and the importance of direct NEA grants, as well as grants through state arts councils. Whether your Members of Congress are new or returning, please take a few minutes to build or strengthen your relationship now. You can find contact information here. We will need to mobilize strong support for the NEA in the months to come. For now, please focus on relationship-building and communicating value! Please click here for additional information.

Federal Judge Halts New Overtime Rules
Posted November 23, 2016

New overtime regulations scheduled to go into effect December 1 were temporarily halted on November 22 as a federal judge in Texas imposed a nationwide injunction.

The delay buys time for further legal consideration of the regulations, and court action could stretch beyond the January 20 inauguration of the Trump Administration and the beginning of a new Congress. President-Elect Trump has been sharply critical of the new rules, and the Republican majority leadership in Congress has supported slowing their implementation. If court consideration extends beyond January 20, it is likely that Congress may act to undo the new rules.

According to Judge Amos Mazzant of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, “A preliminary injunction preserves the status quo while the court determines the department’s authority to make the final rule as well as the final rule’s validity.”

Many theatres and other nonprofit employers have already put employee compensation changes in place, with just eight days left before the new rules were to take effect. The Society for Human Resource Management points out that while employers are now permitted to maintain their current compliance with overtime rules, it may be difficult to back-track on upcoming salary adjustments that were already communicated to employees.

The National Council of Nonprofits has just posted a helpful update.

TCG will keep you posted as further information becomes available.

Advocacy Matters! Updates on Protections for Wireless Microphones
Posted September 14, 2016

On Thursday, June 23, 2016, Theatre Communications Group led state delegations on Capitol Hill visits to advocate on behalf of the U.S. not-for-profit theatre field as part of TCG's National Conference: Theatre Nation. One delegation had the opportunity to meet with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and discuss issues including protection for wireless microphones and devices used in theatres. Leader Pelosi sent this encouraging letter after that meeting.

Also during the National Conference, our Oregon delegation, including representatives from TCG Member Theatre Oregon Shakespeare Festival, spoke with Representative Greg Walden (OR-02), who chairs the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee. In late July, TCG and Oregon Shakespeare Festival received the following message from one of Representative Walden's legislative assistants:

"I wanted to share with you the below clip from the Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing that Rep. Walden chaired last week with the five FCC Commissioners in attendance. Per our meeting a few weeks back, Greg raised the wireless microphone issue directly with them, citing the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and how this would affect you.... He’s continuing to work on this issue with other members of the committee, and we’ll keep you posted on any further actions and progress! Don’t hesitate to let me know any questions and feel free to share this with anyone else at our meeting who might be interested in this!"

 

Representative Walden and Representative Anna Eshoo, Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, also sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, urging the FCC to "provide relief" to users of fewer than 50 wireless microphones, the threshold below which interference protection through registration in a geolocation database would be unavailable under the new rules. On October 14, 2016, Chairman Wheeler responded, noting that "the Commission currently is considering a petition requesting Commission action to enable such smaller performing arts organizations to register in the TV white spaces databases and operate wireless microphones on vacant TV channels protected from interference. Commission staff are actively reviewing this petition."

TCG Hosts Webinar on Updates to FLSA Overtime Regulations
Posted August 23, 2016

On Monday, August 22, 2016, Theatre Communications Group hosted a webinar featuring Burton J. Fishman, Attorney, Fortney & Scott, LLC, who spoke and responded to questions about the upcoming changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime regulations, which will take effect on December 1, 2016. Nearly 160 staff members of TCG Member Theatres participated in the approximately 100-minute webinar, which was recorded and is available for viewing here. You may also download the webinar slides as a PowerPoint file. Additional resources regarding the FLSA and the new overtime regulations are provided below.

NEA Announces Second Round of Grants for FY 2016
Posted June 2016

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will award $82,357,050 in grants to fund 1,148 projects in the second major grant announcement of its 50th anniversary. In this round, 1,002 Art Works grants, totaling $26,019,500, are to be awarded to organizations across the country.

59 TCG Member Theatres collectively received 61 awards totaling $1,468,000 in these categories: Theater and Musical Theater, Arts Education, Presenting and Multidisciplinary Works, Media Arts, and Dance (all disciplines encompassed by Art Works), as well as Our Town.

Please click here for a list of all TCG Member Theatres that received NEA grants in this round.

Complete lists of all awardees and more detailed information about Art Works and Our Town can be found on the NEA website, along with a timetable of upcoming grant application deadlines.

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:

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 Click here to register for the webinars.

Secretary King Acknowledges the Arts in a Well-Rounded Education
Posted May 2016

In a recent address at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, U.S. Department of Education Secretary John King spoke about the importance of the arts in a well-rounded education:

“States must commit to providing the resources to every district that are necessary to provide students with a well-rounded education. Arts instruction, science labs, and school counselors – just to cite a few examples – are not luxuries or extras...they are essential–essential to a quality education.”

Read the full speech here.

New Net Neutrality Challenge in the House
Posted May 2016

While we await the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision on net neutrality after hearing oral arguments last December, House Republicans have taken action to halt the FCC’s authority to impose parts of the rules, and the House passed the “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act” (H.R. 2666).

The bill enforces FCC Chairman Wheeler’s pledge that the agency would not use its 2015 Open Internet Order to regulate Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) rates. Passing a bill into law would codify this pledge for future administrations. That Order did not, however, define “rate regulation,” this lack of definition came into question at a February markup of the bill in the Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology subcommittee. Without definition, there would be no way to tell if the FCC were acting within its authority when addressing ISPs. H.R. 2666 defines “rate regulation” as “the use of rulemaking or authority to establish, declare, or review the reasonableness of the amount charged by an ISP for delivering Internet service.”

Wheeler has expressed concern that the bill would actually hinder the agency from enforcing other net neutrality rules, such as those banning ISPs from blocking or throttling lawful content. Any FCC actions to enforce these bans could be misconstrued as rate regulation. The bill states directly that it does not affect the FCC’s authority to ban paid prioritization (also called internet “fast lanes”). President Obama has threatened to veto the bill should it also pass the Senate. In an official statement issued earlier this month, he states that the bill is “overly broad” and would “restrict the FCC’s ability to take enforcement actions to protect consumers on issues where the FCC has received numerous consumer complaints.”

Apply to Administer State Department Cultural Exchange Programs
Posted May 2016

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) at the State Department is inviting proposals from public and private U.S. organizations to administer three international exchange programs: Hip Hop Collaboration and Community Arts Incubation Creative Arts Exchange programs (CAE), and Arts Envoy. CAE initiatives are arts-based people-to-people international exchanges that support and further U.S. Department of State foreign policy objectives. The Hip Hop Collaboration program will engage hip hop artists for artistic collaboration, entrepreneurial skills-building, and outreach to youth to explore and address conflict resolution strategies. The Community Arts Incubation program will send approximately six to eight American artists abroad to collaborate with local youth and under-served populations on community-based art projects in new media and/or digital arts. Applicants must be U.S. non-profit arts and educational organizations. Apply here by Thursday, May 26, 2016.

The Arts Envoy exchange program annually enables approximately 200 American artists and cultural experts (either individuals or groups) to travel abroad to engage and consult with key foreign audiences through performances, workshops, meetings, seminars, and appearances in foreign media. Full details can be found here. Applicants must be U.S. public or private organizations. Apply here by Friday, May 27, 2016.

The President’s FY17 Budget: What’s In It for the Arts
Posted February 2016

The President is proposing increases for the arts in his FY17 budget! Earlier this month, President Obama released his budget for FY17, which begins October 1, 2016. It contains his proposed funding levels for the federal government including:

  • National Endowment for the Arts: $150 million; a $2 million increase from FY16
  • Arts Education at the U.S. Department of Education: $27 million; level with FY16
  • Office of Citizen Exchanges at the State Department: $105.19 million; a $3.19 million increase from FY16.

 

National Endowment for the Arts
The President’s FY17 proposal for the NEA is an increase of about $2 million over what he proposed for the agency last year. NEA funding reached a five-year high in FY16 at $147 million; the President’s recommended increase is an encouraging show of support for the arts in the United States.

Arts Education
The Assistance for Arts Education (AAE) program at the U.S. Dept. of Education retains the programs supported by the Department’s current Arts in Education program. These include the Professional Development for Arts Educators program and the Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination program. The President’s FY17 proposal is consistent with FY16 appropriations for arts education. The Every Student Succeeds Act identifies the arts as a “well-rounded” subject, making arts education programs eligible for funding via the new Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program. The President’s budget proposes $500 million for this program, which aims to improve academic achievement by increasing the capacity of states and school districts to provide all students with access to a well-rounded education. Additionally, arts education programs are eligible for funding through the 21st Century Learning Centers program. The President’s budget proposes $1 billion for this out-of-school-time program which provides students with a broad array of services, programs, and activities—including the arts—that complement their regular academic programs.

Office of Citizen Exchanges
The Office of Citizen Exchanges within the State Department operates international cultural exchange programs, including arts-focused programs such as American Music Abroad, Arts Envoy, and DanceMotion USA. The FY17 request of $105.19 million is the total amount requested for all of the programs within the Office of Citizen Exchanges; federal budgets do not indicate totals for the individual programs.

Unlocking Creativity: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Posted February 2016

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was signed into law in 1998 under President Clinton as an attempt to update copyright law in accordance with the changing technology of the times. Part of the law, Section 1201, makes it illegal to break digital locks placed on copyrighted material—whether the intended use is legal or not. It’s the act of breaking the lock itself which is illegal. “Breaking” refers to altering an item’s code. For example, documentary filmmakers often need to break digital locks to access copyrighted works to legally incorporate them into their films. Also, an artist who may want to use a 3D printer with a material other than the materials the printer was designed to use would have to break a digital lock to do so.

Performing Arts Alliance (PAA) member Fractured Atlas is working to tell Congress how Section 1201 of the DMCA hinders artists’ ability to do their work. Although the DMCA was created with the intention of protecting copyrighted work from piracy, section 1201 doesn’t distinguish between pirates and those whose plans for the copyrighted work would not be infringing. Every three years, the Library of Congress reviews petitions for exemptions to this law for people who are prevented by it from making legal uses of copyrighted works. The process is incredibly burdensome, and petitioners have to devote valuable time and resources to filing for this exemption every three years—and they have to make their case from scratch each time. Possible legislative solutions to this problem range from fixing the exemption process to eliminating it altogether. Learn more about the DMCA:

What Last Month’s DMCA Exemptions Mean for Artists: Part Two (Fractured Atlas, 11.11.15)
The DMCA is Broken for Filmmakers Like Me (Motherboard, 2.14.16)

Source: Courtney Duffy (@cduffy90), Robert W. Deutsch Arts & Technology Policy Fellow at Fractured Atlas and Public Knowledge.

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 70-½ 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 November 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 six to eight 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 and discussing approaches to work schedules and pay rates.

We will continue to share information with you as we learn more about the final rules.

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 70-½ 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's 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, or 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 70-½ 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-6-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.

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