NASAA Notes: September 2015


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Isaac Brown

September issue
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September 11, 2015

Congress Faces Tight Deadlines

Members of the U.S. House and Senate returned to Washington, D.C., this week for legislative work following the August recess. Greeting legislators upon their return is a gamut of tricky issues that require immediate attention.

First and foremost among members of Congress is the fiscal year 2016 budget. After a promising start this year, which made it appear likely that a budget would be approved under regular order, negotiations between the House and Senate have stalled. There are a few issues causing the delay, including disputes about funding levels for certain agencies, but primary is a controversy related to Planned Parenthood and whether the federal government should provide funding to the nonprofit organization. The issue has become so omnipresent that the negotiations have moved from passing traditional appropriations bills to a frantic effort to pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that can keep the government operating when current funding expires on October 1. While continuing resolutions are never ideal for any agency, it is important to note that the National Endowment for the Arts funding under a CR, $146 million, is the same the level advanced by each chamber in their appropriations bills.

Still in the forefront is legislation amending the nation’s preeminent federal education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). As you may recall, the legislation reforming the law, albeit with somewhat different approaches, passed earlier this year. As a result, members from both chambers are meeting in a conference to try to negotiate differences that both can agree to—and hopefully, that the president will not veto. As we reported earlier, both bills could have an impact on the role of the arts in public education. NASAA is monitoring these deliberations closely, and will keep our members up to date about any developments.

Also constraining time for members to work on both matters is that the House and Senate could vote as early as this week on whether to approve the president’s landmark treaty with Iran over its nuclear program. It is widely expected that while both chambers will pass motions of disapproval for the deal, President Obama would ultimately veto those motions and the deal will go into effect.

Because the events going on in Washington are time sensitive, members and staff will be in the office and available for meetings and phone calls and to receive e-mails. It is a great time to send a quick note to update your legislators and their staff about interesting events and topics currently taking place at your agency. If you haven’t done so recently, reach out to your congressional delegation to let them know what you’ve been working on. This outreach is critical, not only because it helps to build rapport, but members of Congress and staff are already beginning to think about the next budget cycle as well as 2016 policy initiatives, and connecting with them now helps insert the arts into their thinking.

If you have any questions about the issues discussed above, or have specific ideas about how you’d like to approach your members of Congress and staff, please don’t hesitate to call or e-mail me: 202-540-9162,