March Public Policy Update: Johnson Amendment Under Threat; Legislative Session Recap

Governor Inslee waves after giving a short address at the 2018 Washington Nonprofits legislative reception

It’s only March, but there have been many state and federal public policy developments relevant to the nonprofit sector. Below are key issues for your nonprofit organization to be aware of:

Johnson Amendment Under Threat as Congress Races Toward March 23rd Deadline

The Capitol Hill newspaper POLITICO is reporting that an anti-Johnson Amendment rider is one of the last contentious policy issues still on the table in the congressional negotiations over an omnibus spending bill that must be enacted in the coming days to avoid a federal government shutdown. It is imperative that all people who cherish nonprofit nonpartisanship tell our Senators and Representatives to prevent any extraneous or poison pill rider from being attached to the fiscal year 2018 spending bill. We’re asking nonprofit employees, board members, other volunteers, donors, and other supporters to take immediate action to protect the longstanding Johnson Amendment. The effectiveness and impact of our whole nonprofit community is at stake. Click here to learn what you can do to protect the nonprofit sector.

SB 5991- Increasing transparency of contributions by creating the Washington state DISCLOSE act of 2018

The legislature passed the 2018 DISCLOSE Act, which contains new donor disclosure laws for nonprofits engaged in electoral campaigns. Click here to download Washington Nonprofits’ one pager on the DISCLOSE Act. The new law classifies nonprofits spending over $25,000 in election campaigns as “Incidental Committees” and requires them to disclose their top ten donors above $10,000 to the Public Disclosure Commission. The disclosure applies to any donor to the organization that meets the giving threshold, regardless of whether the money was earmarked for a specific nonpolitical purpose. Contributions to a nonprofit from private foundations are exempt from the reporting requirements unless they were given specifically for political spending. The disclosure requirements also apply to all types of nonprofit organizations that provide $25,000 or more to a 501(c)(4) or PAC for ballot measure advocacy and to 501(c)(4) organizations that provide $10,000 to PACs for political spending in a given year.

Washington Nonprofits helped shape the development of the DISCLOSE Act by advocating for an increased reporting threshold from the proposed $10,000 threshold; ensuring clear definitions in the bill language; raising awareness about the lack of new funds for implementing the bill; and educating about campaign activities nonprofits are allowed to undertake. Click here to read more.

HB 2781/HB 2986- Concerning Fees Collected by the Secretary of State

There was an attempt made through two different bills in the legislature to close a budget gap in the Department of Revenue by assessing an additional $11 processing fee on to the annual legal entity renewal that nonprofits submit to the Secretary of State. This would have resulted in approximately $660,000 being diverted from human services, arts, environmental conservation, education, and other critical community services across the state. Washington Nonprofits opposed the bills and lobbied against them. Ultimately, the bills failed to advance in Committee and died in large part because of our advocacy work. Click here to read more.

Legislative Session Recap

The 60-day legislative session resulted in the passage of a number of other bills that may be of interest to nonprofit organizations. The bills include:

  • The delayed capital budget, which funds construction projects throughout the state, was passed in January. Many nonprofit projects are funded by the capital budget.
  • The supplemental budget contained additional funds for public education intended to address the Washington Supreme Court’s latest ruling on compliance with the McCleary public education funding decision.
  • A series of voting rights bills intended to increase participation in our state’s elections. The bills include the Washington Voter Rights Act, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and pre-registration for 16 and 17-year olds.
  • An equal pay bill, intended to close the wage gap between men and women.
  • A document-recording fee that will be used to support homelessness prevention programs.
  • A bill requiring Internet neutrality in Washington State. This bill is the first of its kind in the nation.
  • Breakfast After the Bell, which provides breakfast to students in high-need school districts.
  • The Fair Chance Act, which prevents employment discrimination based on an applicant’s criminal record.
  • A compromise bill on de-escalation/use of force by law enforcement.

You can view additional bills passed by the legislature at www.leg.wa.gov and contact the Legislative Information Center with any questions.

Possible Corrections to the New Federal Tax Law

We have heard from our national partners that there may be legislation proposed in Congress to make adjustments to the new tax laws. One provision that could be included is a universal non-itemizer charitable deduction. Nothing is concrete yet, but we will continue to provide updates as Congress and the Internal Revenue Service work to implement the law. Until then, click here to view our one pager on the new tax law.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The current version of the proposed Higher Education Reauthorization Act ends the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for new borrowers after 2019. Many current nonprofit employees use this program to manage their student debt. Additionally, the program encourages individuals to choose careers in the nonprofit sector. We will keep watching this issue and provide updates on action steps. Until then, you can review the resources from the Coalition to Preserve PSLF. Also, please encourage your employees and colleagues to look into the program and enroll if eligible so that they may be grandfathered into the program, should it change. Or, if employees and colleagues think they are enrolled, make sure they verify their enrollment with their loan servicer. Additional information about the program is available at http://www.studentloans.gov.

More Equitable Democracy Census Working Group

(Announcement provided by More Equitable Democracy) More Equitable Democracy is focused on strengthening democracy at the state and local levels. A key area of focus in Washington is around the 2020 Census and ensuring that underrepresented communities are counted. A full Census count is critical to the communities we serve in terms of ensuring those communities have an equitable share of federal funding and access to a truly representative government . However Census 2020 is woefully underfunded, at risk for mismanagement, and could result in a massive undercount of immigrants, communities of color, LGBTQ individuals, and people in rural areas. More Equitable Democracy will begin to host local convenings of nonprofits and organizations that serve communities of color and immigrants, to ensure organizations have the resources and information needed to support our communities in a full census count. Please join our first gatherings:

Seattle: April 17, 11:30 – 2pm at SEIU Local 6, 3720 Airport Way S, Seattle, WA 98134. RSVP https://goo.gl/forms/1cDsuJ17mnLzf2Wz2

Yakima: April 17, 12 – 2pm at Yakima Valley Community Foundation, 111 University Parkway, Suite 102, Yakima, WA 98901. RSVP at https://goo.gl/forms/PYzW2LrKNzvY6CrD2

Win|Win Network “Get Out the Count” Organizing

(Announcement provided by Win|Win) Win|Win supports a network of progressive organizations coming together to advance racial, social, and economic equity across Washington through civic engagement. We provide strategic coordination, data and research, and individual technical assistance to increase our network’s collective ability to create change. The upcoming 2020 Census impacts every organization all of our partners as well as our peers in the non-profit and government sectors.  The importance of an accurate Census count cannot be overstated given likely cuts to Census funding, the move to a mostly online format, and the inclusion of a divisive question about citizenship. The threat of a severe undercount is real and we want to be prepared. We are organizing with other other community leaders to create a coordinated plan among community groups, advocates, and agencies to “Get out the Count” in 2020. We are just getting started this spring and if you are interested in getting involved, please email Alissa Haslam at ahaslam@winwinaction.org.

5th Annual Nonprofit Legislative Reception

Washington Nonprofits, the United Ways of the Pacific Northwest, the Community Action Partnership, and Philanthropy Northwest hosted the 5th Annual Nonprofit Legislative Reception on February 27th at the Governor’s Mansion. We had a full house for the event and the highlight of the event was the appearance by Governor Jay Inslee and First Lady Trudy Inslee, who stopped by to mingle with attendees. We also enjoyed hearing remarks from the Washington Secretary of State’s Office’s Corporations and Charities Division Director Tsering Cornell, Yakima Valley Community Foundation Program Officer for Health and Wellness Jessica Houseman-Whitehawk, Community Action Partnership Executive Director Merritt Mount, and Washington Nonprofits Executive Director Laura Pierce. Click below to view a slideshow of photos and videos from the event.

March Advocacy Tip: Get to Know Your Legislators Between Sessions

Just because the state legislature is adjourned, it doesn’t mean that your advocacy ends. The interim period between legislative sessions is the ideal time to build relationships with your state legislators. Your organization can and should be meeting with officials at their district office, inviting them to site visits and/or events, and attending their post-session town hall events. Quite simply, building and maintaining your relationships now, during the interim, will help you next legislative session when you are promoting your advocacy agenda. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and meet with your state legislators.

Next Public Policy Call

Our next Public Policy Call will be on May 30, 2018, at noon. Click here to register.

Upcoming Town Hall Events

March 27 and March 29: U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) Town Halls

March 28: U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) Town Hall

March 31: U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene Town Halls

Upcoming Policy and Advocacy Events

March 16: Bolder Advocacy Facebook Live Event on Election Year Advocacy

March 16: Washington Budget and Policy Center Budget Beat – 2018 Legislative Session Wrap Up

March 27: Bolder Advocacy Webinar- Rules of the Game for 501(c)(3)s: Elections

March 29: Nonprofit Vote Webinar- Engaging New Voters: How Nonprofits Can Close the Voter Participation Gap

About David Streeter 42 Articles
David Streeter is Washington Nonprofits’ Director of Public Policy and Advocacy.