September Public Policy Update

Summer is officially over, which means the public policy front is heating up again. Below is a round up of public policy issues and action items for your nonprofit to be aware of:

Index (Scroll Down for the Items)

  • Raising Nonprofits’ Concerns on Overtime Pay
  • Advocacy Success Story: Local In-Progress Advocacy in Vancouver
  • Advocacy Tip: Celebrate National Voter Registration Day with Your Nonprofit
  • WA State Debate Coalition Announces Dates for U.S. Senate and WA-8th Debates
  • Take Action to Protect the Johnson Amendment
  • Trump Administration Considering Expansion of “Public Charge” Criteria for Immigrants
  • Government Issues Interim Rule and Request for Comments on Unrelated Business Income Taxes
  • Blog: Nonprofits That “Don’t Set the Table with Advocacy Will Be Eaten Alive”
  • September 20th Census Webinar
  • Nonprofit Discount for 2018 Re-Wire Public Policy Conference

Raising Nonprofits’ Concerns on Overtime Pay

Throughout the summer, Washington Nonprofits has been working to make sure that state and federal policy makers understand the unique challenges faced by nonprofits regarding expanded overtime pay. Washington Nonprofits is part of the stakeholder group informing Washington State’s rule making on overtime pay, and our response to the Department of Labor and Industries’ draft policy concepts is available here. In addition, Washington Nonprofits’ Director of Public Policy and Advocacy David Streeter testified at a U.S. Department of Labor listening session in Seattle on this issue. Neither the federal or state governments has issued concrete policy proposals, but when they do we will make sure to provide updates and opportunities for your organization to convey feedback on the proposals. Make sure you are subscribed to our Public Policy and Advocacy Updates email list to receive notices.

Top Left and Bottom Right: Washington Nonprofits’ David Streeter testifies as U.S. Department of Labor Listening Session 9/11/18 in Seattle. Photos by Janis Reyes, Small Business Administration

Advocacy Success Story: Local In-Progress Advocacy in Vancouver

Our September Advocacy Success Story highlights the important local advocacy work currently being led by the Nonprofit Network of Southwest Washington. Jeanne Kojis, who leads the Nonprofit Network and serves on our Public Policy Committee, successfully rallied nonprofits from the city of Vancouver to advocate in-person and through other means against a proposed expansion of Vancouver’s business license fee. Several nonprofits delivered powerful testimony during the city council hearing on the proposed expansion, while others wrote letters and leveraged their existing relationships with council members to share their views. In addition, an unprecedented number of nonprofit organizations responded to the city’s online survey regarding the license fee. The debate over the licensing fee is still ongoing, but the scope of the proposed policy has changed thanks to Jeanne’s efforts and the nonprofits that weighed in in-person, online, and through other means. You can read more about this unfolding advocacy campaign in The Columbian’s story here, and watch a recording of the City Council proceedings here, which features great testimony from local nonprofits. We will continue to provide updates as this unfolds. But the key takeaway, is that local advocacy matters just as much as federal and state advocacy. Make sure that your nonprofit is building relationships with local officials, so that when situations like this arise, you have a direct route for weighing in.

Advocacy Tip: Celebrate National Voter Registration Day with Your Nonprofit

As the 2018 election gets closer, it is important for nonprofits to consider their role in engaging clients, staff, and board members in the election. Nonprofit clients are often among the groups least likely to vote, who often feel disconnected from government for many reasons. Engaging them in the election can help bridge that disconnect by helping them understand and feel that they have a voice in our democracy.

One critical activity that nonprofit organizations can conduct is nonpartisan voter registration. There are many ways to do this, so if your organization is interested be sure to check out the Nonprofit Vote resource library. They have everything you need to get started with engaging your clients, staff, and board in the 2018 elections. Additional information on voting in Washington State is available through the Secretary of State’s office. You can also download the audio of our latest member call, which featured staff from Nonprofit Vote and Asian Counseling and Referral Service sharing ideas for voter registration and get out the vote activities.

Coming up this month is National Voter Registration Day, which is a national civic holiday dedicated to registering people to vote. This year’s celebration is on September 25, 2018, and you can learn more about it at nationalvoterregistrationday.org. The website has key resources for celebrating the day, as well as a map of celebrations going on throughout Washington State that your organization can promote and partner with.

WA State Debate Coalition Announces Dates for U.S. Senate and WA-8th Debates

Washington Nonprofits is please to be a part of the Washington State Debate Coalition, which was founded in 2016 to increase the frequency and quality of publicly accessible nonpartisan debates in Washington. The Coalition has finalized the dates for its free, public debates for this fall’s U.S. Senate and WA-8th District elections.

  • Saturday, October 6—Pacific Lutheran University, 7 p.m. (U.S. Senate*)
  • Wednesday, October 17—Central Washington University, 7 p.m. (WA-8th District)
  • Tuesday, October 30—Gonzaga University, 7 p.m. (U.S. Senate*)

*pending U.S. Senate Scheduling

Invitations to participate in the debates were extended to Maria Cantwell, Susan Hutchison, Dino Rossi, and Kim Schrier following the primary results. The Coalition has confirmed the participation of Susan Hutchison, Dino Rossi, and Kim Schrier. Read the full press release to learn more about the debate dates and hosts. For more information the Coalition process, please read the FAQs sheet.

Take Action to Protect the Johnson Amendment

Anti-Johnson Amendment forces are at it again. They’ve placed an extraneous anti-Johnson Amendment policy rider in a federal spending bill that is currently up for negotiation between the House and Senate. We need you to help us demonstrate that there is widespread opposition to injecting partisan politics into charitable organizations. While members of Washington State’s congressional delegation are not part of the team negotiating the bill, it is still important for us to engage on this issue so that our congressional delegation can encourage their colleagues on the conference committee to oppose the anti-Johnson Amendment rider.

Therefore, Senator Maria Cantwell, Senator Patty Murray, and your local representative need to hear from you that partisan politics have no place in charitable organizations.Call their office today and deliver this message:

Partisanship has NO place in charitable organizations – whether churches, charities, or foundations. Please encourage the conference committee members to oppose all efforts to include a controversial anti-Johnson Amendment rider to the Financial Services spending bill, H.R.6147.

Senator Cantwell’s DC Office: (202) 224-3441

Senator Murray’s DC Office: (202) 224-2621

Capitol Switchboard (ask to speak to your Representative): (202) 225-3121

Additionally, below are some draft template items that you can use for Johnson Amendment advocacy:

Lastly, if your organization has not signed the community letter supporting the Johnson Amendment, be sure to sign it here.

Trump Administration Considering Expansion of “Public Charge” Criteria for Immigrants

Under current immigration regulations, immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship who use a specific set of public support programs are deemed a “public charge.” This is a negative classification that typically leads to a denial of their citizenship request as well as possible denial of entry into the U.S. or deportation. The Trump Administration has signaled its intent to expand the list of services to include many programs and services that are administered by nonprofit organizations. According to CLASP, the programs impacted could include:

  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • Non-emergency Medicaid
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Subsidies provided through the Affordable Care Act
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Housing assistance, such as Section 8 housing vouchers
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Comparable state and local programs

The effect of such a change is that many immigrants will cease to use those programs because they are fearful of being deemed a “public charge.” In fact, we’ve heard from several Washington Nonprofits members that this effect is already happening based on the uncertainty surrounding the regulations. The Trump Administration’s rules are likely to be released this fall and Washington Nonprofits will respond accordingly. In the meantime, here are some action items for you and your organization:

  1. The Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign recently hosted a Public Charge 101 webinar. Click here to watch the recording of the webinar and learn about how you can get involved in their advocacy campaign. This is a regular training session that occurs every two weeks, so please feel free to share it and register for future webinars. Additional resources on public charge are available here.
  2. The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), co-chairs of the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign (PIF), have started a petition against expanded public charge criteria for your organization to sign. Click here to learn more and sign.

Government Issues Interim Rule and Request for Comments on Unrelated Business Income Taxes

[Summary Prepared by the National Council of Nonprofits] The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service have issued a Request for Comments on proposed interim and transition rules (Notice 2018-67) for interpreting one of the two major changes to nonprofit unrelated business income tax (UBIT) included in federal tax law enacted last December. The new Section 512(a)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code changes the way nonprofits calculate UBIT; instead of aggregating all of their profits and losses from unrelated business activities, nonprofits must now “silo” their revenues and expenses for each “separate” “trade or business” and pay UBIT on each. Neither of the quoted terms is defined in the law, causing nonprofits, foundations, accountants, and tax lawyers to demand relief and clarity. The proposed rules provide some clear answers and instructions on how to comply with the law immediately, but many questions remain that must be resolved during the formal rulemaking process.

In the Notice released August 21, Treasury and the IRS acknowledge the frustration and confusion that nonprofits are experiencing, stating: “There is no general statutory or regulatory definition defining what constitutes a ‘trade or business’ for purposes of the Internal Revenue Code.” The Notice expressly provides that starting on January 1, 2018 (when the tax-law provision took effect) until issuance of final regulations (probably in 2019) nonprofits may rely on a reasonable, good faith interpretation of the UBIT statutes in determining whether their organizations have more than one “trade or business.” Specifically, the IRS suggested using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) 6-digit codes as a reasonable, good faith interpretation. Practically, this means:

  • Nonprofits can combine the revenue and expenses from all advertising activities (e.g. online advertising and ads in a variety of print publications) into one category (NAICS code 541800), since these would all be within the same NAICS code.
  • But the NAICS code may not provide clarity for some or many other sources of revenue and expenses. For example, the NAICS has multiple codes relating to rentals. Consequently, rental income and expenses may need to be divided or grouped in other ways, meaning it’s possible that expenses for some types of rentals may not be used to offset income from other types.

A separate question arises when a nonprofit has an ownership interest in a partnership that engages in many “trades or businesses.” For now, the IRS will treat revenue from a partnership as a single “trade or business” if one of two tests is satisfied: the de minimis test (ownership interest of no more than 2%) or the control test (no more than 20% ownership interest and no control over the operations of the business). Revenue from other forms of partnership interests that fail to meet these tests can still be treated as a single “trade or business” during the one-year transition period that runs from August 21, 2018 to August 21, 2019.

The Notice provides a way for nonprofits to comply with the new law and the opportunity to recommend changes to the proposed rule that fix any shortcomings. The first step for any nonprofit potentially affected by this tax is to review the NAICS codes and compare your unrelated business revenue streams to determine which categories apply neatly, and which codes don’t make sense. Treasury and the IRS need to know what works and what parts of their proposed rule must be revised. You can make recommendations by submitting public comments via email to Notice.Comments@irscounsel.treas.gov with reference to Notice 2018-67 in the subject line. The public comment period is open through December 3, 2018.

Blog: Nonprofits That “Don’t Set the Table with Advocacy Will Be Eaten Alive”

In a new LinkedIn post, Woodland Park Zoo Vice President of Engagement Lauri Hennessy offers an important warning for nonprofits:

… after a career working in government, public relations and nonprofits, I would tell you this: nonprofits that hide from politics do so at their own peril. … The pervading narrative is that we should stay away from advocacy at all costs. The reality is that those who do not set the table with advocacy will be eaten alive.

Click here to read the full post, which discusses how the Stand for Your Mission toolkit can help your organization get involved with public policy advocacy.

September 20th Census Webinar

Nonprofit Vote is hosting a webinar on September 20, 2018 about the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census. According to Nonprofit Vote, “this webinar will be led by Census experts and provide you with an overview of how your nonprofit can get involved and leverage local funding to support participation, as well as a broader overview of how the census will roll out over the next 20 months.” Click here to learn more and register.

Nonprofit Discount for 2018 Re-Wire Public Policy Conference

As the state association for all nonprofits in Washington State, Washington Nonprofits is pleased to partner with Washington State Wire in support of the 2019 Re-Wire Policy Conference. We are looking forward to the upcoming Re-Wire conference. The conference provides an excellent opportunity to connect with policymakers and to learn about the legislature’s plans for the upcoming legislative session. In 2018, the members of Washington Nonprofits team were new to Washington State’s public policy community. When we attended the conference, we truly felt “at the table” and “in the know” because of the briefings, connections we made, and the opportunities to share information about the key policy issues facing by nonprofit organizations. We found the Re-Wire Conference to be a valuable opportunity for learning, networking, and raising the nonprofit sector’s visibility. We strongly encourage nonprofit organizations to attend this year’s conference so that we can “be at the table” and collectively work to raise our sector’s profile among our state’s policymakers. Download the flyer here for details.

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