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Friday, August 7, 2009

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NationalAssembly of State Arts Agencies

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Legislative Update

NASAA Legislative Counsel Thomas L. Birch

NEA Budget Looks to Increase in 2010

As the House and Senate move forward on schedule with appropriations legislation for the coming 2010 fiscal year, we should expect to see an increase in the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) above the current level of $155 million. Although Congress has not yet finished work on the Interior Appropriations Bill, which includes the NEA funding, the House passed its version of the legislation on June 26 with funding for the arts at $170 million in 2010. The House committee's report explains that the increase is "in recognition of the high quality of programs initiated by the Endowment over the last several years and the broad and bipartisan support it garners," expressing special pleasure with the American Masterpieces, Big Read and Operation Homecoming initiatives.

In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee on June 25 approved for floor action its draft of the Interior money bill with the NEA funding set at $161.3 million, the same level proposed by President Obama in his budget sent to Congress in May. In addressing the endowment's funding priorities, including "arts education, arts outreach, artistic excellence and partnership agreements," the Senate Appropriations Committee reiterates the 40% share of NEA funds designated for awards to state and jurisdictional arts agencies.

Both the House and Senate Interior funding measures approve the Obama administration's budget request to expand the National Council on the Arts from 14 to 18 members. The action would reinstate four seats on the council that were eliminated in the 1990s during the period of controversy over the content and nature of grants awarded by the federal arts agency.

Once the full Senate votes on the Interior appropriations legislation, possibly before leaving for recess in August, a House-Senate conference committee will negotiate the differences in the funding levels approved by the two chambers. Final passage of the appropriations could happen on time in September before the new fiscal year begins October 1. NASAA is working with our advocacy colleagues to ensure the highest funding levels in the final outcome.

Health Care Reform: Issues of Arts Therapy, Nonprofit Interests

As the health care reform legislation develops in Congress, NASAA has joined with our arts advocacy colleagues in proposing provisions aimed at including attention to art-based therapies to enhance responses to health care and services to improve wellness. Principal among our proposals is the inclusion of creative art therapists in the list of health professionals, the health care work force and mental health service professionals addressed in the reform measures. The proposals are made with the understanding that these trained or credentialed creative art therapists or artists-in-residence can be integral to therapeutic, wellness and prevention services in health care.

In addition, NASAA is monitoring provisions addressing the health care coverage needs of small nonprofit organizations. The Independent Sector, with which we often partner in advocacy for issues affecting the nonprofit community beyond the arts, has gone on record to urge that any support or incentives for smaller employers to extend coverage to their work force must provide the equivalent benefits to nonprofit, tax-exempt employers.

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