Washington in a Deep Freeze, While Policy Matters Heat Up

February 12, 2014

NEA Chair Nominated

President Obama has nominated Dr. Jane Chu, president and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, to serve as the next chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. The nomination now moves to the Senate for confirmation. In a statement, the President said of Chu, "She knows firsthand how art can open minds, transform lives and revitalize communities, and believes deeply in the importance of the arts to our national culture." In addition to experience in arts management and philanthropy, Dr. Chu holds degrees in visual arts, piano performance, and music education.

Congress Speaks Up for Travel with Instruments

As of this Friday, two years will have passed since a groundbreaking provision was signed into law that would protect musical instruments transported in-cabin; however, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has failed to implement the new policies. The music community – including a close advocacy partnership among the League of American Orchestras, the American Federation of Musicians, and The Recording Academy – has consistently called on the FAA to complete the rule-making process that it has yet to even begin. Now, Congress is stepping in to tell the FAA to take action. Responding to ongoing evidence that musicians’ tools of their trade are often in extreme jeopardy when traveling by air, 35 members of Congress signed onto a letter this week to the Secretary of Transportation, urging immediate action. We are grateful to Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chairs Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), as well as Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN), Howard Coble (R-NC), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), for their extraordinary leadership on this effort. Thanks to the many orchestra advocates who responded to the League’s request to weigh in with the Hill. We will keep you posted as future action takes place.

 Unified Call for the Return of the IRA Rollover

The IRA Charitable Rollover has proven to generate substantial new and increased gifts to orchestras and other nonprofits during its short and spotty lifespan. This opportunity for donors aged 70 ½ and older to give tax-free contributions of up to $100,000 expired at the end of 2013. Since its original enactment in 2006, the provision has expired and been reinstated multiple times, leaving donors incapable of making the most of this valuable charitable giving incentive. The IRA Rollover may be retroactively reinstated, along with other expired tax provisions, at some point later this year. In addition to advocating for this short-term fix, the League has joined an effort, coordinated by Independent Sector, inviting nonprofit organizations to ask Congress to put an end to the on-again-off-again nature of the IRA Rollover by making the provision permanent. If you would like to add your orchestra's name to this effort, act before February 24!

Clear Support for Charitable Giving Incentives

Thousands of nonprofit leaders and program participants continue to make the compelling case that charitable giving incentives are a lifeline to communities and worthy of protection, amidst ongoing talks of tax reform and budget challenges. Incoming Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and a bipartisan group of 32 Senators signed a letter to the Finance Committee last month, urging policy leaders to preserve the “full scope and value” of the charitable deduction. More than a dozen potential changes to the charitable tax deduction have been “on the table” throughout the last few years of fierce negotiations over the debt limit, fiscal cliff, and comprehensive tax reform. While talks on the thorny topic of comprehensive tax reform are slow-moving in advance of the upcoming election cycle, vigilance is the order of the day as policy leaders continue to discuss shorter-term options for raising federal revenue. The League and entire nonprofit community will be watching as the President’s budget is released in early March to see if the Administration once again proposes a 28% cap on the rate of deductibility of charitable contributions. 

Federal Funding Intact for NEA, Arts Ed

Funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and for the Arts in Education program at the U.S.Department of Education survived the roller coaster ride that was the Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations process, navigating drastic proposals to slash and eliminate funding, the government shutdown, and final budget negotiations to ultimately be restored to their pre-sequester funding levels. Last year, 100 orchestras across the country served their communities with support from direct NEA grants, in addition to NEA funding awarded through state arts agencies. The Arts in Education program – the only dedicated form of support for arts learning at the U.S. Department of Education – will continue the important work of funding model learning programs and professional development for arts educators, with new application opportunities to be announced soon. Your ongoing advocacy will be key in the coming year as Congress considers FY15 funding levels.