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Congratulations Museum Advocates – House Passes Reauthorization of IMLS!

Category: Advocacy Alert
Photo of the U.S. Capitol building DC, Photo by E.Neely

Advocacy Alert – December 20, 2018

Victory for Museum Advocates!
House Passes Reauthorization of IMLS

Museum advocates scored a major victory last night when the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a vote of 331 to 28 (170 Republicans and 161 Democrats voting for passage) bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Museum and Library Services Act of 2018 (S. 3530). IMLS is the primary federal agency responsible for helping museums connect people to information and ideas. Its Office of Museum Services (OMS) supports all types of museums in their work to educate students, preserve and digitize collections, and connect with their communities.

What is Reauthorization and What’s Happening Now?

IMLS has been regularly reauthorized by Congress with broad support, most recently in 2010 with a funding authorization of $38.6 million for the Office of Museum Services. On December 4, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed S. 3530 sending it over to the House for action. The House passed the bill last night 331 to 28. Next the bill will be sent to the president to be signed into law.

“This bipartisan legislation, critical to the future federal support of museums, would not be on its way to becoming law without the persistent efforts of museum advocates like you,” said Alliance President and CEO Laura Lott. “You did it! Congratulations!”

Reauthorization shows renewed bipartisan support for the agency’s programs and a renewed commitment to its funding. The Museum and Library Services Act of 2018 contains a number of provisions specifically supported by the museum field. It would reauthorize the agency for six years and:

  • Formally authorize a 21st Century Museum Professional Program, to improve the recruitment, preparation, and professional development of museum professionals, especially those from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.
  • Maintain the agency’s existing authority to support museum activities at both the state and regional level, while adding regional museum collaboration to its “Purpose” section, akin to how state museum collaboration is currently referenced.
  • Add a new emphasis on ensuring that every American has access to high-quality museum experiences.
  • Maintain and augment the agency’s research, data collection, and analysis about museums and libraries.
  • Establish new reporting to ensure that the agency sufficiently collaborates with museum and library organizations at the national, regional, and state level on its research and data collection activities.
  • Include additional federal entities on the list of potential interagency partnerships, allowing IMLS to expand its collaborative efforts with other agencies and magnify support for museums and libraries.
  • Update the agency’s governance, so that it operates more closely in alignment with other federal cultural agencies.

A special thanks for their leadership goes to Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Will Hurd (R-TX), David McKinley (R-WV) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) who introduced the House version of the bill and cosponsors Tom Cole (R-OK), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), David Price (D-NC), Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Paul Tonko (D-NY).

Please take a moment to thank your Representative for passing S. 3530.

You can also tweet your thanks. Here’s a sample message to start with:

“Thrilled to see Congress renew their support for #museums by passing S. 3530. THANK YOU @SenJackReed for your leadership, and to all the Senators and Reps. who helped make passage of the Museum and Library Services Act a reality in 2018!”

Partial Federal Government Shutdown Remains Possible: In other news, as of this writing, it was unclear whether or not Congress and the president could agree on a deal to avoid a partial government shutdown. Since the October 1 beginning of fiscal year (FY) 2019, seven out of the 12 appropriations bills, or roughly 25 percent of the federal government, are being funded at  FY 2018 funding levels through a continuing resolution (or “CR”) set to expire at midnight Friday, Dec. 21. The shutdown would affect agencies and programs such as the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Science Foundation (NSF), historic preservation programs, Save America’s Treasures, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Smithsonian Institution, that are currently funded under the expiring CR. The CR does not affect IMLS. FY 2019 funding for IMLS, including a $2 million increase for the agency, was signed into law in September.

Thank you for your advocacy for museums!

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