NASAA Notes: December 2016

December 9, 2016

Congress Approves Funding Bill

Election predictions were proved wrong last month as Republicans outperformed expectations in the House, the Senate and the presidential race. One of the impacts of this result is that December, which was expected to be a busy period in Washington, was turned upside down. Rather than negotiate with President Obama, Republican leadership in Congress has understandably chosen to delay votes on significant measures like taxes until next year, when they will have control of both chambers of Congress and the White House.

What this election will mean for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and arts policy generally is unclear. While President-elect Trump has begun to make announcements with regard to his cabinet, no announcement regarding who will helm the arts endowment is expected anytime soon.

In terms of funding for the agency, Congress this week elected to pass a short-term funding bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR), rather than pass a formal appropriations bill. This outcome, while understandable given the way the election has shifted the balance of power in Washington, is disappointing for supporters of the NEA, as the agency was likely going to get an increase between $500,000 (the Senate proposal) and $2 million (the recommendation of the president and House of Representatives). CRs simply extend an agency’s current funding level ($148 million for the NEA), which means we will have to work with the next Congress (sworn in in January) and the Trump administration to try to achieve an increase next year.

While the Trump administration presents uncertainty for policymakers in Washington (his status as an outsider who has never held elected office has members of Congress from both parties unsure of the president-elect’s position on certain issues), arts advocates can feel confident about our relationship with and support from Congress. This year marked the second consecutive year that Congress had voted to increase funding for the NEA. This bipartisan, bicameral support will be vital moving forward. Further, the Interior Appropriations subcommittees, which have jurisdiction over the NEA’s budget, are led by Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) who have both been very receptive to supporting increases in funding for the NEA, even while Congress is motivated to reduce overall domestic discretionary spending.

While we are grateful for this support, it is still very important that we as advocates make every effort to build and continue to support relationships with our elected officials. Therefore, while Congress is in a relatively quiet period before the president-elect is sworn in, I urge each of you to reach out to your members of Congress. NASAA has prepared a great primer in its The Practical Advocate series, Three Simple Ways to Advocate for the Arts, that goes into more detail, but in short, please reach out to your elected officials and:

  1. Congratulate them on their election (or re-election).
  2. Update them on what your state arts agency has been up to recently.
  3. Invite the member and their staff to attend a performance or exhibition, a community arts event, a school activity or a family-focused program.

These easy steps go a long way in fostering a positive relationship that yields significant dividends when NASAA needs to quickly reach out to a member of Congress to urge support or opposition of a particular bill.

Remember that NASAA is here with you during this time of transition. We are meeting regularly with members of Congress and have been in touch with the Trump transition team to ensure that we are able to best represent the arts and state arts agencies in 2017 and beyond.

In this Issue

From the CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

Research on Demand

More Notes from NASAA

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