Elected legislators rely on their constituents to tell them what issues matter to them and how federally funded programs impact the communities they represent.
Make Your Voice Heard on Issues Affecting Children's Museums
President Trump has proposed and Congress is considering major changes to federal agencies and programs that could affect children’s museums. Some policy changes could affect how children’s museums raise money and operate in their communities.
Issue: Reform of U.S. Tax Code
On Saturday, Dec. 2, the U.S. Senate passed tax reform legislation in a 51-49 party-line vote. The U.S. House of Representatives approved a different version of tax reform legislation in a 227-205 vote along party lines on Nov. 16.
A conference committee will reconcile the two bills into a single piece of legislation (called a conference report), which must be signed by a majority of the House conferees and a majority of the Senate conferees. In past conferences, Republican conferees finalized the conference report in closed-door meetings.
The neogtiated House-Senate tax plan is scheduled to be filed on Friday, Dec. 15. The resulting bill must be approved by both the House and the Senate. The Senate is expected to vote on Monday, Dec. 18 or Tuesday, Dec. 19, and then the House would vote on Tuesday or Wednesday, Dec. 20. If approved, the tax reform package will go to President Trump to sign into law.
|Rep. Rob Bishop (R, UT)||Rep. Kathy Castor (D, FL)|
|Rep. Diane Black (R, TN)||Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D, TX)|
|Rep. Kevin Brady (R, TX)||Rep. Raul Grijalva (D, AZ)|
|Rep. Devin Nunes (R, CA)||Rep. Sander Levin (D, MI)|
|Rep. Peter Roskam (R, IL)||Rep. Richard Neal (D, MA)|
|Rep. John Shimkus (R, IL)||Sen. Maria Cantwell (D, WA)|
|Rep. Greg Walden (R, OR)||Sen. Tom Carper (D, DE)|
|Rep. Don Young (R, AK)||Sen. Robert Menendez (D, NJ)|
|Sen. John Cornyn (R, TX)||Sen. Patty Murray (D, WA)|
|Sen. Mike Enzi (R, WY)||Sen. Bernie Sanders (D, VT)|
|Sen. Orrin Hatch (R, UT)||Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D, MI)|
|Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R, AK)||Sen. Ron Wyden (D, OR)|
|Sen. Rob Portman (R, OH)|
|Sen. Tim Scott (R, SC)|
|Sen. John Thune (R, SD)|
|Sen. Pat Toomey (R, PA)|
Negotiations will focus on areas where the House and Senate bills are not in agreement. This dashboard, created by Independent Sector, gives a quick snapshot of where the issues that affect the charitable community stand in this process. If the House and Senate bill was in agreement on a particular issue, it is considered settled and not "in play" during negotiations.
Why Should I Care About the Johnson Amendment?
The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the U.S. tax code that, since 1954, prohibits all 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. The House's version of the tax reform bill would allow charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations to engage in partisan electioneering for or against candidates.
- Imagine if an important stakeholder to your museum (a board member or local official) could insist that you endorse a particular political candidate for mayor.
- Imagine receiving a restricted donation for your museum to make a campaign contribution to a specific candidate.
- Imagine if your museum could be considered "too Democratic" or "too Republican."
The Johnson Amendment protects nonprofits from being politicized, and its continued existence is in negotiation right now.
There is still time to contact your Senators and Representatives—particularly Republican conferees—to make your opinions known about how tax reform could affect your museum. Remember, both the House and the Senate will vote on the final bill soon, and you can still reach out to your elected officials to let them know how this legislation will affect you.
Keep in Mind
- Call your legislators—they want to hear from their constituents, not from people outside their districts.
- Use the phone; offices don't have time to read emails or letters.
- Do any of your supporters have personal relationships with your elected officials? Board members and donors can be great advocates.
Independent Sector has a tracking chart that highlights areas of difference between the two bills and their possible effects on the nonprofit sector.
Independent Sector's most recent podcast, "We Weren't Kidding. It's Bad," shares the latest on tax reform.
The National Council of Nonprofits' tracking chart details the House and Senate positions in their tax bills and their potential effects on nonprofits.
Issue: 2018 Funding for Agencies that Make Grants to Museums; President Proposed Elimination
The federal fiscal year 2018 began October 1, but because Congress did not pass a FY2018 budget, the government is operating under a continuing resolution (CR). Congress passed one CR that extended government operations through December 8, and a second, short-term CR that funds the government through December 22.
This CR funds federal agencies, including the Institute of Museum and Library Services, at similar levels to FY2017 funding through December 22, giving Congress more time to enact a federal budget.
On September 14, the House of Representatives passed a $1.2 trillion spending package to fund much of the federal government in FY2018. This package includes four appropriations bills previously passed by the House in July, in addition to eight new bills, which cut spending for many federal agencies but generally are less severe than the cuts proposed in the President’s budget. The Senate continues to work on appropriations and has not passed any bills yet. Once the Senate passes its budget, Congress will have to come to an agreement on FY 2018 spending.
Because Congress has not yet reached an agreement, and because Congress has multiple priorities for December (including tax reform), there is now concern that Congress will be unable to agree to a spending bill by December 22. Without a new spending agreement (either a new CR or an omnibus spending bill), the federal government could shut down after December 22.
When President Trump proposed a FY2018 budget in March, he called for the elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), National Endowment for the Arts, and National Endowment for the Humanities. However, the House bill included funding for all three agencies, and the Senate Appropriations Committee endorsed an appropriations bill that included increased funding for IMLS.
At the Association of Children’s Museums, we believe that the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities make important investments in American culture. We deeply oppose President Trump’s proposed closure of these three federal agencies, along with other drastic spending cuts that affect our communities.
Take Action: Contact your Senators about the importance of IMLS, NEA, and NEH to your museum and your community.
|Federally Funded Agency||FY2016 Enacted Appropriations
|FY2017 Enacted Appropriations
|President Trump's FY2018 Budget Proposal (in millions)||House FY2018 Budget (in millions) Passed 9.14.2017||Senate FY2018 Budget (in millions) Approved by Appropriations Committee 9.7.2017|
|Institute of Museum & Library Services||$230||$231||$23 (to fund agency's closure; not for grants)||$231||$235|
|---IMLS Office of Museum Services||$31||$32||$0|
for the Arts
|$148||$150||$29 (to fund agency's closure; not for grants)||$145||TBD|
for the Humanities
|$148||$150||$42 (to fund agency's closure; not for grants)||$145||TBD|
Issue: Net Neutrality
On November 22, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) publicly shared his plan to dismantle network neutrality protections approved by the FCC in 2015 and affirmed by the federal appeals court in 2016. The new draft order is scheduled to be voted on by the five FCC commissioners on December 14.
Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) must enable access to all legal content and applications regardless of the source and without favoring or blocking specific services or websites. Imagine a world where other websites could pay ISPs so their website works faster than yours. A tiered Internet with different levels of service/speed also would allow ISPs to charge a premium for faster speed to access your cloud-based technology (such as email, CRMs, donation management and/or membership systems). Children’s museums cannot afford to be relegated to "slow lanes" on the internet.
Right now, the FCC is not accepting public comments (that may come later), but strong disapproval from members of Congress (especially from Republicans and those that serve on committees with oversight for the FCC) could force a pause in the December 14 vote to derail net neutrality. Make your voice heard now by emailing your member of Congress to support net neutrality protections.
Issue: Tools to Support DACA Advocacy
The Trump administration recently announced its decision to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) effective March 5, 2018, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began DACA's phase out.
President Obama established DACA in 2012 through executive order. The program was meant to help young undocumented immigrants, who arrived in the U.S. by age 16 and lived continuously in the country since June 15, 2007, obtain a temporary work permit as well as a two-year stay of deportation proceedings.
Approximately 800,000 people brought illegally to the United States as children are protected by DACA. They are often called Dreamers.
People who were eligible for DACA protections were at least 15 years old and younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012. This includes people who may be employed or interning at a children's museum. Some adult visitors to children's museums may have received protection under DACA.
ACM has developed background information and talking points about DACA to use to contact Congress to protect Dreamers.
Issue: Proposed Elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service
President Trump’s FY2018 proposed budget calls for the elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which is best known for its AmeriCorps community service program. AmeriCorps members commit to working one or two years in exchange for help with living expenses, health insurance, and $5,800 after the completion of each year to pay for tuition or help pay off student loans. A similar program called Senior Corps, which is aimed at older volunteers, also would be eliminated.
More information is available at Voices for National Service.
Issue: Proposed Elimination of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
President Trump’s FY2018 proposed budget calls for the elimination of Public Service Loan Forgiveness. This program erases student borrowers’ qualified loans if they work for a government or nonprofit employer for ten years. The proposed changes would end public service loan forgiveness for federal loans issued July 1, 2018 or later.
Tools to Support Your Advocacy Work
Your most effective tool in your advocacy work is your passion. You have stories to share about how your museum's exhibits, programs, and outreach affect the people in your community. When making a request of a policymaker, you want to convey how your ask—for funding, a new policy, etc.—will influence your ability to make positive change in your community. Consider calling your Senators and Representative at their Washington DC office to educate them on the issues that matter to your children's museum. Now is the time to make your voice heard on the issues that matter to your work and your community.
ACM works closely with other museum associations so that we speak with one voice in support of museums. The American Alliance of Museums offers a variety of materials to support museum advocacy.
- A customizable email template to request FY2018 funding for IMLS
- Know the issues that affect museums
- Use state-by-state snapshots of cultural funding for museums
- Speak up for museums on social media. Use #SaveIMLS on Twitter.
If you want to learn more about the issues that affect the charitable sector, follow the 100 Days for Good podcast. Produced by Independent Sector, the podcast shares what nonprofits, foundations, and anyone committed to the common good needs to know about what's happening in Washington.
Year-Round Advocacy Actions
To be an effective advocate for your museum and for the children's museum field, develop relationships with your local, state, and federal legislators. Invest your organization's time and effort into these relationships year-round.
- Put your legislators on your organization’s mailing list.
- When your organization receives a grant, write a thank you note. For a federal grant, thank your state's members of Congress and the director of the agency that awarded the grant. For a state grant, thank your state legislators and governor. For a local grant, thank your mayor and local council members.
- If your museum is turned down for a grant due to lack of funds, write to the appropriate decision makers (federal or state legislators, the governor) to ask for increased support for that agency or program.
- Invite your legislators for a tour of your facility and educate them about what you do and how your community benefits. The American Alliance of Museums' guide for hosting a successful visit with an elected official is a good place to start.
- Invite your legislators to openings and community celebrations and ask them to make a short speech about the importance of the children's museum to your community. Take pictures of legislators at these events and share them on the museum's social media channels and with the local newspaper.
- Invite your legislators to speak with your board of directors about early childhood education.