Advocacy Alert: March 13, 2009

Washington Wire: Legislative Update

  • Congress Finalizes FY09 Funding Levels
  • Congress Begins Work on FY10 Budget; AAM Concerned About Threat to Charitable Giving
  • House Votes to Protect Historic Battlefields
  • Stimulus Bill Finalized; AAM Provides Guidance on Accessing Federal Support

Congress Finalizes FY09 Funding Levels 

On Wednesday, March 11, President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 1105, finalizing the funding levels for federal agencies for the fiscal year 2009, which began Oct. 1, 2008. The $410 billion measure represents the culmination of more than a year of work on 9 annual spending bills that fund nearly all areas of the government. Several of these spending bills were held up by political wrangling and in the fall, Congress passed a temporary measure to level fund most of the government until this bill could be finalized.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services' (IMLS) Office of Museum Services—which supports our nation's 17,500 museums through a variety of competitive grant programs—will get a $3.7 million increase over FY08 levels. "While we still have a long way to go to achieve the level of funding our community needs, this $35 million for IMLS' Office of Museum Services—an 11% increase—is an important step toward seeing an even larger increase for FY10 after our extremely successful Museums Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill," said AAM President Ford W. Bell. "Members of Congress are definitely hearing from constituents about IMLS funding." Let your representatives in Congress know that you want to see an even larger increase in FY10.

Here are the levels that will go into effect for the remainder of the fiscal year 2009:
  • IMLS' Office of Museum Services: $35 million, a $3.7 million increase over the previous year.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities: $155 million, a $10 million increase over the previous year.
  • National Endowment for the Arts: $155 million, a $10 million increase over the previous year.
  • Arts in Education programs at the Department of Education: $38.16 million, a $660,000 increase over the previous year.
  • Teaching American History grants at the Department of Education: $118.9 million, a $1 million increase over the previous year.
  • National Science Foundation educational programs: $845.26 million. These funds support informal learning experiences designed to increase interest and engagement in the understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
  • National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund: $69.5 million, including $20 million for Save America's Treasures. These funds support the preservation of nationally significant sites, structures, and artifacts.

The bill also contains a number of earmarks, some of which support museums around the nation.  Read the complete text of the bill.

Congress Begins Work on FY10 Budget; AAM Concerned About Threat to Charitable Giving 

Now that the FY09 appropriations cycle is complete, Congress will begin working on the FY10 budget. President Obama has released a very broad outline of his spending priorities, but many of the details are not yet available.

One item of concern in President Obama's budget outline, however, is a measure to limit the deductibility of charitable gifts for those in the upper income levels, which could have a devastating impact on museums and other institutions that rely on donations. "I appreciate the President's attempt to outline an ambitious and fiscally responsible budget, but I am very concerned about how deductibility restrictions will affect our nation's museums, many of which are just hanging on as it is," said AAM President Ford W. Bell. "If anything, we need to do more to encourage and incentivize charitable giving, because the effects of this recession will be felt for years to come."

AAM Government Relations will be monitoring the status of these issues and will report on them as information becomes available in the coming weeks. AAM has also requested an opportunity to testify before Congress on behalf of a variety of programs that support museums.

House Votes to Protect Historic Battlefields 

On March 3, the House passed two bills to protect historic battlefields. The Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act ( H.R. 146), introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), would establish a battlefield acquisition grant program for the acquisition and protection of nationally significant battlefields and associated sites of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act of 2009 ( H.R. 548), introduced by Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.), would assist citizens, public and private institutions, and governments at all levels in planning, interpreting and protecting sites where historic battles were fought on American soil during the armed conflicts that shaped the growth and development of the United States. Both bills passed the House by an overwhelming margin.

Stimulus Bill Finalized

A massive field-wide effort in February urging members of Congress to overturn a ban on museums, zoos, and aquariums from accessing funds in the economic stimulus bill was successful in allowing museums to compete for these funds. However, while the final bill allowed museums to compete for funding, zoos and aquariums are not.

Section 1604 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 reads: "None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act may be used by any State or local government, or any private entity for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool."