Spring policy update: new taxes, protected species, arts ed grants, and more

May 3, 2018

New leadership for Congressional Arts Caucus

The arts world lost one of its longest-serving Congressional champions with the passing of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) on March 16. For her leadership as the long-time co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus, the League presented Rep. Slaughter and her then-co-chair Chris Shays (R-CT) with the Gold Baton Award in 2005.

At a special Capitol Hill reception to honor Rep. Slaughter, U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) as the next co-chair of the Arts Caucus, serving alongside Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ). Rep. Pingree, who serves on the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee, which initiates the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), has been a consistent champion voicing support for the NEA as well as for arts education support at the U.S. Department of Education. She currently serves as an ex-officio member of the National Council on the Arts, which advises the NEA.

Urgent concerns about new UBIT rules

The comprehensive tax reform provisions signed into law last December included changes that will require nonprofits to pay a new Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) on the value of commuting and parking benefits provided to employees at the corporate rate of 21 percent, beginning on January 1, 2018. Since many orchestras offer parking and transportation benefits, the costs of these new UBIT requirements could be considerable. 

The League of American Orchestras joined a meeting with officials at the U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday, April 25 to express concerns about this topic, request a delay in implementation, and seek to narrow the application of the new rules. The League was featured in a national podcast by Independent Sector, providing an overview on this complicated area of tax policy. 

The League will be filing comments to the Treasury Department on behalf of orchestras, as has the National Council of Nonprofits. With the 2018 tax year already well underway, we'll be keeping orchestras informed as soon as any new guidance on this topic is issued by the Internal Revenue Service.

Treaty negotiations ahead for musical instruments and protected species

The League assists orchestras as they navigate the permit requirements for international tours, and is also deeply engaged in efforts to improve the policies that restrict musicians from using their instruments across the globe. Recent rules adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and policymakers in other countries have now exempted most musical instruments from permit requirements for travel if they contain non-Brazilian rosewood. Further policy improvements will be sought as the terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) are negotiated in May of 2019. Read more about how the League is working in partnership with global music organizations and conservation leaders in the current issue ofSymphony magazine, "Conserving Endangered Woods: Advocating for Orchestras and Musicians."

Arts education grant opportunity NOW open at U.S. Department of Education

Following a $2 million increase in funding approved by Congress for FY18, the U.S. Department of Education has announced a new grant opportunity under the Assistance for Arts Education Development & Dissemination (AAEDD) program. The four-year grants invest in arts-based educational programming in schools that increases access to standards-based arts education, integrates arts education into other subjects as part of a well-rounded education, and improves students' academic performance, including their knowledge and skills in creating, performing, and responding to the arts. These grants are awarded for school-based partnerships in which 20% or more of the students served are from families with an income below the Federal poverty line. The deadline for the notice of intent to apply is May 16, 2018, with a deadline of July 2, 2018 for transmitting the application. For more information, please visit the AAEDD applicant information webpage.

Connect with Congress this Spring

Elected officials are currently on recess through Sunday, May 6, on the first major break of the session. Recesses are ideal times to meet with your Senators and brassRepresentative, whether you invite officials or their staff to attend a community engagement event, or you visit them in their district office to sit down and discuss the local impact of D.C. policies. The next recess will be the week of Memorial Day -- do remember to A brass quintet from the Albany Symphony perform on Capitol Hill during the SHIFT festival in Washington, D.C.make plans ahead of time and brush up on the League's advice about how to be an effective orchestra advocate. Many people will be competing for their officials' time, especially during an election year, so an invitation to a local Memorial Day celebration with live orchestral music may be a very welcome change of pace.