NASAA Notes: July 2018

July 10, 2018

NEA Well-Positioned As Congress Progresses on Appropriations

With the July 4th recess in the rear-view mirror and the midterm elections only four months away, members of the House and Senate expect to be working furiously over the next few months. So much work is left on the agenda that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already announced his intention to cancel the August recess to allow for more floor time to advance the Republicans’ legislative priorities.

At the top of the list is the confirmation of President Trump’s second selection to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, the President announced that he was nominating Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who currently serves as a U.S. circuit judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The process of reviewing and ultimately voting on Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment is expected to begin shortly, with the judge visiting individually with Republican and Democratic senators to speak off-the-record about his views and approach. When those meetings have concluded, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a series of hearings to examine the judge’s record, and if it votes to approve his nomination, the full Senate will vote to approve his confirmation as the next justice to the Supreme Court. It is difficult to predict the timing of the process, but Senator McConnell has stated his intention to move quickly.

The impact (and the timing) of this process on other legislative priorities isn’t clear, but even before a Supreme Court vacancy emerged, Congress had a full docket before it, including passage of several critical bills, like the Federal Aviation Reauthorization bill, and more than a dozen pending appropriations bills for fiscal year 2019. Reaching agreement on appropriations bills will have the biggest impact on funding for the arts. As we’ve previously highlighted, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) fared quite well in both the House and Senate bills, with each proposing to increase the agency’s budget by $2 million, to $155 million. While nothing is certain, the fact that both chambers have written that number into their bills makes it quite likely that that figure is locked for the NEA, as long as Congress is able to pass appropriations bills before September 30. As always, what is complicating matters for the NEA’s budget is that included in those same bills is funding for politically sensitive agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior. So House and Senate members will have to sign off on those budgets as well. Hopefully, Congress can reach such an agreement before the deadline. If it does not, it will be forced to sign a continuing resolution, which would mean that the NEA would continue to be funded at its current level of $153 million for the duration of that bill’s term.

In addition to increasing funding for the NEA, there is good news for other arts funding programs, as the Labor, Health and Education appropriation maintains $29 million in funding for the Arts in Education program at the Department of Education. Like the NEA, this program was targeted for elimination in President Trump’s budget proposal, and its inclusion shows once again that members from both parties continue to recognize the value of arts funding throughout the federal budget.

So while things continue to look positive, the uncertain nature of everything in Washington at the moment will require all of us to remain vigilant to ensure that funding for the arts does not get caught up in some of the other contentious debates that are making headlines. NASAA will continue to monitor events closely and keep you apprised of any developments.

In this Issue

Guest Column

Announcements and Resources

Legislative Update

State to State

Research on Demand

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