Temperatures and Stakes Rising: Summer Policy Edition

August 5, 2019

Assessment Board Announces Plan to Eliminate Nation's Arts Report Card

In late July, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) announced its intention to narrow the breadth of subjects assessed by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), eliminating the next Nation's Arts Report Card, the only nationally-reported measurement of what students know and are able to do in the arts. Data about the status of arts education is critical for closing gaps in access to arts learning, the assessment framework supports state and local assessment efforts, and the results also fuel broad support for arts learning from parents, educators, and policymakers across the country. The League has helped to lead efforts by national arts organizations to quickly collaborate on a unified response, calling on NAGB members to immediately reinstate the scheduled arts assessment and begin next steps to implement the 2024 Arts NAEP. Arts advocates can join in this call by urging their elected officials to support FY20 funding for arts education, which includes funding the NAGB and directing it to fully administer the Arts NAEP.

Protected Species Talks Include Musical Instrument Policies

This month, 183 parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will meet in Geneva to discuss a record-breaking array of proposals to change protection levels for over 500 plant and animal species globally. The treaty negotiations will include decisions on permit requirements for musical instruments that contain rosewoodcedrela, and mammoth ivory, and consideration of improvements to the Musical Instrument Certificate in use by touring orchestras. The League of American Orchestras will represent orchestras in the conversations August 17 through 28, supported by our ongoing partnership with NAMM, and in collaboration with the American Federation of Musicians, International Association of Violin and Bow Makers, and additional partners representing musical activity across the globe. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is the voting representative to CITES, will implement any changes to permit rules and will partner with the League to provide technical assistance to orchestras. Stay tuned! We will keep you posted on how the outcomes of the CITES negotiations change the rules for orchestras and individual musicians seeking to buy and sell instruments across borders and traveling internationally for performances.

Charitable Giving Advocacy in August and Beyond

Members of Congress traditionally take most, if not all, of the month August  as a summer recess. This stretch of time is an ideal opportunity to catch up face-to-face with Representatives and Senators on a variety of issues, including a top priority across the nonprofit sector -- strengthening incentives for charitable giving. The most effective advocacy takes place year-round, as several member orchestras in key Congressional districts can attest. Remember that any constituent can request a meeting with an elected official, and meeting with staff can be just as effective as meeting with the actual Member. Please keep the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  informed about any meetings you have, and feel welcome to be in touch any time for a refresher on the latest talking points and policy news.


Above: Jeff Alexander, President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (fourth from the right), joins fellow Chicago nonprofit
leaders in thanking Rep. Danny Davis (fifth from the right) for introducing a bill that would support charitable giving.

Congress Continues Attempts at Pension Relief

Congress continues efforts to craft a bipartisan approach to improve the status of the many underfunded multi-employer pension plans nationwide. The American Federation of Musicians and Employers' Pension Fund (AFM-EPF) Plan, in which many orchestras participate, has been directly calling on employer and musician participants to contact Congress in support of immediate Congressional action to provide relief. On Wednesday, July 24, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass HR 397, The Butch Lewis Act, which would provide low-interest government loans to struggling multiemployer pension funds, including the AFM-EPF. Action now moves to the Senate, where leadership is arguing for a different path to a pension solution. If your orchestra has a stake in the outcome of pension reform, please see the online campaign created by the AFM-EPF, which is governed by both musicians and employers.

IRS Releases Draft Form for International Artist Taxation

Early last month, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced a draft approach to a streamlined Central Withholding Agreement (CWA) process for foreign guest artists seeking to confirm taxes due for work performed with U.S. arts organizations. The "simplified application process" would be for nonresident alien athletes and entertainers earning less than $10,000 within the calendar year. This proposal to reinstate CWA eligibility for smaller earners was created in direct response to the concern expressed by the League, Tamizdat, the Performing Arts Alliance, and other U.S. performing arts organizations when the IRS implemented a policy effective October 1, 2018 allowing a CWA only if individuals earn $10,000 or more in gross income within the calendar year.

The $10,000 threshold still currently applies while the IRS reviews feedback on its draft form. The League and other U.S. nonprofit arts stakeholders collaborated on joint comments, which have been submitted for public record. As soon as the IRS announces the final details of the new policy and an implementation date, news will be shared directly with League policy subscribers and posted on the League website, Artists from Abroad.