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: FY 2019 Funding for Agencies that Make Museum Grants
Congress has begun work on the annual funding process for FY2019, which begins October 1, 2018, and there is good news for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). On June 26, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a FY2019 funding bill that includes $242 million for IMLS. While we are waiting on more details, this is a $2 million increase for IMLS from its FY2018 funding. Earlier in June, the House Appropriations Committee released a FY2019 Labor-HHS funding bill that includes $240 million for IMLS, level funding with FY2018. The House Appropriations Committee still needs to consider this bill.
When President Trump released his FY2019 budget proposal in February, he called for the elimination of the agencies that fund museums: the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The President's proposal is the first step in the annual appropriations process and can help inform Congress' work to develop and approve a budget. Congress rejected a similar proposal from the President to eliminate these cultural agencies in FY2018 and has done so again in FY2019.
At the Association of Children's Museums, we believe that IMLS, NEA, and NEH 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.
Congress has final say over the federal budget. Contact your Senators and Representatives and ask them to oppose cuts to federal museum funding and to fight for museum funding throughout the appropriations cycle.
|Federally Funded Agency||FY2017 Enacted Appropriations
||FY2018 President's Budget Proposal
||FY2018 Enacted Omnibus||FY2019 President's Budget Proposal||FY2019 House (Pending)||FY2019 Senate (Pending)|
|Institute of Museum & Library Services||$231m||Elimination*||$240m||Elimination*||$240m||$242m|
|---IMLS Office of Museum Services||$32m||Elimination*||$34.7m||Elimination*|
for the Arts
for the Humanities
|National Science Foundation---Advanced Informal STEM Learning||$62.5m||$62.5m||$62.5m||$62.5m||$62.5m|
*includes minor funds to close the agency
Issue: Proposed Reauthorization of IMLS
On December 21, Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Museum and Library Services Act of 2017 (S. 2271). This legislation will reauthorize the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for six years and contains a number of provisions specifically requested by the museum field.
A federally funded agency or program typically requires an "authorization," which is legislation passed by Congress providing its justification. Agencies and programs must be reauthorized periodically. IMLS was last authorized in 2010, and the authorization expired in 2016. Although an authorization is not a requirement for a program to receive federal funding, reauthorization sends a strong signal of Congressional support to the Appropriations Committees. An agency lacking an authorization risks becoming a target for elimination.
Take Action: Contact your Senators and urge them to show support for museums and cosponsor S. 2271. Tell them how your museum supports their constituents and how IMLS funds help your museum offer valuable services to your community.
Issue: Reform of U.S. Tax Code
President Trump signed the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act into law Dec. 22, 2017. The legislation includes a 21 percent corporate tax rate and a 37 percent top tax rate for individuals, beginning in 2018.
- The increase in the standard deduction means that fewer taxpayers will itemize their taxes. Itemizing of taxes is seen as an incentive for charitable giving.
- The American Enterprise Institute (a nonpartisan think tank) estimated a drop of $17.2 billion in charitable giving, or $16.3 billion assuming modest economic growth in the short term, in charitable giving. Household charitable giving could drop 4 percent this year, primarily because of more high-income taxpayers claiming the standard deduction.
- The bill does not repeal the Johnson Amendment, a provision in the U.S. tax code that, since 1954, prohibits all 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. This means that charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations are still prohibited from engaging in partisan electioneering for or against candidates.
The National Council of Nonprofits has extensive resources about the anticipated effects of the law on nonprofit operations and fundraising. One option that many charities support is to create a "universal deduction" that would extend the charitable deduction to individuals and couples who do not itemize their tax returns.
Issue: New Tariffs Affect Museums
On March 23, new tariffs on imports into the U.S. of steel and aluminum went into effect: 25 percent on steel products and 10 percent on aluminum products. (The average import tariff rate for all goods entering the United States has been two percent.) If your museum is planning a construction project, these tariffs could have a significant effect on your budget--we've already heard from museums whose construction costs have increased dramatically. Companies can apply for an exemption to these tariffs if there is no way to get the necessary materials domestically. As of June 20, the Commerce department has received more than 20,000 requests and has processed 98 of them (approving 42 and denying 56).
Issue: Net Neutrality
On Dec. 14, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved an end to net neutrality regulations through a 3–2 party line vote. 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. The repeal of the net neutrality regulations went into effect on June 11, 2018.
The FCC Chairman said that repealing net neutrality restores a favorable climate for investment, which will spur competition and innovation that benefits users. Those in favor of net neutrality argue that a tiered Internet with different levels of service/speed will create models that penalize consumers and content providers who do not pay higher prices. For example, ISPs could charge a premium for faster speed to access cloud-based technology (such as email, CRMs, donation management and/or membership systems).
Net neutrality proponents have filed lawsuits to restore the original rules. Congressional legislation could settle the issue, but given the partisan view of net neutrality, and Congress' many priorities, it seems unlikely to move forward. More than half of U.S. states are moving forward with state legislation to preserve net neutrality, but the FCC has said that states cannot pass laws of this nature. Additionally, 21 states have sued the FCC to restore the original rules.
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.
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.
- Customizable email templates on issues that matter to museums
- Know the issues that affect museums
- Speak up for museums on social media.
If you want to learn more about the issues that affect the charitable sector, follow the Voices 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.