Fall 2018 Advocacy Report

Advocacy Update

Any U.S. petitioners that utilize the Premium Processing Service to expedite I-129 petitions should take note that the fee will increase from $1,225 to $1,410 beginning October 1, 2018. Be sure to postmark any petitions before October 1 in order to avoid having a petition returned on account of an insufficient filing fee.

When it comes to paying guest artists, some artists can apply for an agreement that determines their tax liability in advance. U.S. organizations should be aware that the Internal Revenue Service has announced that starting October 1, 2018, nonresident performers will only be able to qualify for a Central Withholding Agreement if they individually earn $10,000 or more in gross income within the calendar year. Learn more here: IRS Narrows CWA Eligibility.

Finally, some policy memos released over the summer by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have raised concern about the possibility of petition denials without first issuing a Request for Evidence, but a recent stakeholder conversation held by the USCIS Ombudsman indicates this change of practice is not targeting classifications such as the O & P, but rather seeks to curb longstanding filing abuses that abound in other visa categories. USCIS has also recently announced it has created a dedicated email inbox for directly accepting copies of negative consultation letters from labor unions relating to current or future O non-immigrant visa petitions. This is in response to the concern expressed by unions about letters falsified by petitioners. After six months, USCIS will analyze data to identify areas for improvement in the consultation process. Petitioners for guest artists from abroad are urged to take care with their petitions, always include accurate and as complete information available, and refer to Artists from Abroad for updated tips and templates. In the event of unusual delays, RFEs, or denials that are not the result of petitioner error, please notify the service organization affiliated with your field.

House and Senate Support NEA Increase! What is the likelihood that the NEA will see this increase for FY19?

Thanks to advocates speaking up across the country and continued strong bipartisan support in Congress, both the House (having soundly defeated an amendment introduced by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) in July, which would have reduced the NEA’s budget by $23 million) and the Senate have approved a $2 million increase for the NEA, which would bring its budget for FY19 to $155 million. But the process isn’t finished yet!

The agency’s budget falls within the same bill as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior, and the two houses in Congress are not agreed on funding for those agencies. A Conference Committee met the week of September 10 to resolve their differences, but there is still no agreement so the final bill can’t be passed. The federal fiscal year ends on September 30, so appropriations work and negotiations must be completed by then, or Congress will either shut down the government or pass a continuing resolution to keep the government operating. A continuing resolution would keep the NEA at its current funding level until an FY19 budget is passed and signed by the President.

Leadership update: There are new ex-officio members from Congress who have been appointed to the National Council on the Arts: from the Senate, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and from the House, Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pennsylvania). Appointment by Majority and Minority leadership of the remaining 3 Members of Congress to the Council is pending. Mary Anne Carter became the Acting Chair of the agency in June.

New Support for Arts in Education Funding

Progress on FY19 appropriations has yielded positive results of interest to arts education advocates. Most notably, for the first time in many years, the House appropriators joined their Senate counterparts in recommending full funding for the Arts in Education programs at the U.S. Department of Education, totaling $29 million. The Department is expected to announce the results of a new grant competition in the Model Development and Dissemination grant category by the end of this month, and support from Congress will ensure that these multi-year grants will received continued support. While we await the final outcome on federal funding, please remember that the most important arts education advocacy happens right in your home community, where the majority of education policies are made. Check out the Arts Education Partnership’s guide, Mapping Opportunities for the Arts, for more information on how state and local decisions connect to federal education policies.

Charities Seek Changes Post Tax Reform

Last December’s tax reform legislation could have a big impact on nonprofits, as some research estimates that charitable giving could decline by as much as $17.2 billion in 2018. Nonprofits continue to work on several provisions to support increased giving to nonprofits that will enable those organizations to effectively serve their communities.

·       There are several proposals to make the charitable deduction available to all taxpayers whether they itemize or not. The Performing Arts Alliance joins other national nonprofits in garnering support for these proposals and urging members of congress to co-sponsor the various bills.

·       Charities are also seeking an expansion of the IRA rollover provision, which currently allows individuals, age 70.5 and older, to make tax-free contributions from their IRA accounts directly to charities. The expansion, The Legacy IRA Act, would allow individuals age 65 and older to make tax-free IRA rollovers to charities through life-income plans (charitable gift annuities or charitable remainder trusts).

·       Nonprofits are also educating congress, the Treasury Department, and the IRS about the potential damage a new UBIT (unrelated business income tax) provision will have. A new UBIT provision will tax nonprofits on their expenses on fringe benefits, including parking, transportation, and gym benefits. Nonprofits are seeking delayed implementation, detailed guidance on the new provision, and exemption for nonprofits in states that are mandated by law to provide transportation benefits to employees,.

Wireless Microphone/FCC Update-PAA is Seeking Your Stories!

In July 2017, the FCC opened a new proceeding called a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM), in which it stated that the Commission will consider allowing performing arts entities that use fewer than 50 wireless devices on a regular basis to apply for a license and receive the corresponding benefits, including access to better spectrum and interference protection. The FCC had previously ruled that only entities regularly using 50 or more wireless devices would be entitled to such a license.

The Performing Arts Wireless Microphone Working Group has since met with a number of FCC staffers, and generated scores of letters into the official FCC record, urging the Commission to rule in our favor. The FCC asked a number of questions in the FNPRM that must be satisfied for the Commission to ultimately rule in our favor. They want the need for a license demonstrated and ability to responsibly manage spectrum coordination confirmed, along with a description of metrics by which the FCC would determine eligibility. The FCC has still not ruled on this proceeding.

Concurrently, wireless carriers, including T-Mobile and smaller operators, have begun rolling out testing and services across the country on spectrum that has traditionally been used for wireless microphones.  If these rollouts have caused your performing arts organization to move your wireless microphone operations to new spectrum, which required the purchase of new sound equipment, the Performing Arts Alliance wants to know! Similarly, if your performing arts organization has suffered interference to your wireless microphones since the rollout, the Performing Arts Alliance needs to know! These stories will be helpful in our continuing advocacy with the FCC. Please do not remain silent now or in the future if your performing arts organization has experienced interference or a forced spectrum move. Please send your stories to: lbaskin@tcg.org.