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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

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NationalAssembly of State Arts Agencies

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Legislative Update

NASAA Legislative Counsel Thomas L. Birch

House Appropriations Panel Votes $15 Million Increase For NEA

On June 11, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee agreed to increase funding to $160 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the coming 2009 fiscal year. This is the same funding level proposed by the House a year ago for 2008; the current appropriation for the arts endowment in 2008 is $144.7 million. The President's budget had proposed funding the NEA at $128.4 million in 2009, the same level requested by the administration for 2008.

In increasing the budget for the NEA, the House panel supported the commitment made by subcommittee chair Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) to move toward restoring the arts agency's funding to its high budget mark of sixteen years ago at $176 million by proposing to increase the NEA budget by $15.3 million over the 2008 funding level.

The House subcommittee's allocations for the proposed increase to the NEA would raise the funding for direct grants from $49.2 million in FY08 to $56 million in FY09, and for Challenge America grants from $9.3 million to $10.4 million. Funds for the American Masterpieces program would remain at the current level of $13.3 million. Support for state and regional partnerships would increase from $47.8 million to $53 million, and administration funds from $25.1 million to $27.3 million.

The Interior Appropriations Bill next goes to the full House Appropriations Committee for approval. Though no date has yet been set for the committee action, a House floor vote on the Interior appropriations measure is possible before the August break. It remains uncertain whether the Senate will choose to act this year on its version of the Interior spending bill. Although Congress has begun taking up consideration of appropriations legislation in both the House and Senate appropriations committees, there has been no word on what the end product might be or when it might take shape.

House Subcommittee Votes Arts Ed Funding Raise

In preliminary action on the appropriations legislation for the Department of Education, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education met on June 19 and voted approval of legislation to increase the funds for the Department of Education's Arts in Education programs to $38.6 million in FY09. The current funding level for the program is $37.533 million. Action has been scheduled in both the House and Senate to continue moving forward with the money bill. There is no word yet, however, on the Senate's decision on the appropriations level for the Arts in Education programs.

Fema Disaster Assistance Policy Includes Performing Arts/Community Arts Facilities

In view of the recent flooding in the Midwest, it is useful to review the final Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) policy issued last July regarding the eligibility for disaster relief extended, almost a year ago, to private performing arts centers and community arts centers. Museums had previously been included as eligible recipients of disaster relief.

NASAA and our arts service organization colleagues spent considerable time following the Gulf Coast disasters working with Congress and FEMA officials to develop the policy articulated in the revised FEMA guidelines, attached here. In the FEMA rule, "performing arts facilities" include not only performance spaces, but rehearsal and classroom space, as well as "other areas dedicated to performing arts production and presentation." The definition of "community arts centers" is similarly inclusive: "facilities whose primary purposes are to offer multi-purpose arts programming and/or to provide arts services that have been designated, recognized or authorized by a State or local government. Arts services may include, but are not limited to: art classes, performing arts classes, arts administration, and management of public arts festivals. The facility may include, but is not limited to: performance spaces, rehearsal spaces, shared workspace for community artists, exhibition/gallery spaces, classrooms, and studios."

Keep abreast of current congressional news and federal legislative updates, and be sure to take advantage of NASAA's arts advocacy tools and services.