Advocacy Alert: April 21, 2009

Washington Wire: Legislative Update

  • Ford Bell Testifies Before House Appropriations Subcommittee
  • New Public Lands Law Protects Historic Battlefields and Paleontological Resources
  • National Service Act Enacted; Nonprofit Capacity Building Provisions Included
  • TAKE ACTION: Artist-Museum Partnership Act Introduced
  • House Committee Holds Hearing on Culture in the Economy

Ford Bell Testifies Before House Appropriations Subcommittee 

On Thursday, April 2, 2009 AAM President Ford Bell testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science. Bell 's testimony focused on support for the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which support informal science education. He also promoted National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration programs that support planetariums and aquariums.

Bell cited several museums that have benefited from these programs, including the Cincinnati Museum Center's fully functional molecular genetics laboratory; the Discovery Center Museum in Rockford; Illinois' "Outreach to Space" program which teaches kids about astronomy; the Children's Museum of Houston's bilingual traveling exhibit, "Magic School Bus Kicks Up a Storm;" and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry's distance learning program, Expedition Northwest, which teaches earth systems and reaches under-served rural communities in four western states through programs delivered by videoconferencing and Internet technologies. Read Ford Bell's testimony.

New Public Lands Law Protects Historic Battlefields and Paleontological Resources 

On March 30, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 was enacted (Public Law 111–11). The new law includes funding for historic battlefield protection and interpretation (Sec. 7301) and the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act (Sec. 6302) designed to protect paleontological resources on federal land and to promote the scientific and educational use of such resources. The bill prohibits the collecting of rare and scientifically significant vertebrate fossils from federal land without a proper permit, and allows criminal penalties for violations of this section. However, the bill also protects amateur paleontologists, ensuring that they can continue to collect common plant and invertebrate fossils on land held by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Services.

National Service Act Enacted; Nonprofit Capacity Building Provisions Included 

The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which the President is expected to sign into law today, expands national service opportunities for all ages, focusing on veterans' services, the environment, disaster relief and arts education. The new law will also build the capacity of nonprofits and strengthen the volunteer infrastructure in nonprofits. AAM worked in collaboration with Voices for National Service and other national organizations in supporting this legislation.

In a letter to Congress, AAM President Ford Bell wrote, " This important legislation will not only encourage a generation toward public service, but will also play a critical role in strengthening the nonprofit organizations that are working overtime to fill important gaps in our nation's social safety net." He added," At a time when many families cannot afford to travel and school resources are strained, museums are working overtime to fill the gaps—bringing art and cultural heritage, dynamic exhibitions and living specimens into local communities, offering free or reduced admission, and providing more than 18 million instructional hours to schoolchildren."

Take Action: Artist Museum Partnership Act Introduced 

The Artist-Museum Partnership Act of 2009 —S. 405, sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Robert Bennett (R-Utah) and H.R. 1126, sponsored by Representatives John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Todd Platts (R-Pa.)—would allow a fair market value tax deduction for charitable contributions of literary, musical, artistic or scholarly compositions to collecting institutions such as museums, libraries, and archives. In the 110th Congress, the House version of the bill had 111 cosponsors; a similar Senate bill has passed the Senate five times in previous Congresses. Now that a new Congress is under way, cosponsors are needed to help advance this legislation.

House Committee Holds Hearing on Culture in the Economy 

On March 26, 2009, the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on the impact of the economic downturn on the arts and music industries. At the hearing, Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) noted "When we talk about arts and music, we're not just talking about artists and musicians. We're also talking about museums and galleries, symphonies and orchestras, community theatres and other non profits that shape our neighborhoods, towns and cities." Witnesses and members of Congress discussed the harsh impact that the recession is having on all of these institutions, including layoffs, a decrease in community services and some are even being forced to close altogether.

Arts and cultural institutions are responsible for pumping $166 billion into our economy each year and supporting 5.7 million jobs." Their contributions to our economy are frequently—and unfairly—overlooked," said Miller.