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Fwd: Contact Congress: State of the Union Sets Stage for 2007

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  • mturner4626@aol.com
    FYI Mary Turner Illinois Association of Museums Illinois Historic Preservation Agency 1 Old State Capitol Plaza Springfield, IL 62701 217/524-7080
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2007
      Mary Turner
      Illinois Association of Museums
      Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
      1 Old State Capitol Plaza
      Springfield, IL 62701

      From: AAM Museum Advocacy Team [mailto:mat@...]
      Sent: Friday, February 02, 2007 1:22 PM
      To: Turner, Mary
      Subject: Contact Congress: State of the Union Sets Stage for 2007
      AAM Museum Advocacy Team®
      Action Alert – February 2, 2007
      Contact Congress: State of the Union Sets Stage for 2007
      In this alert:
      Breaking News: President Presents Annual State of the Union to Democrat Congress & FY 2007 Budget Status
      Industry News: Updates from IMLS, IS, IRS, and Copyright Office
      Advocacy Tip: The Golden Rules of Effective Advocacy
      President Presents Annual State of the Union to Democrat Congress
      On Tuesday, January 23, President Bush delivered the annual State of the Union address, speaking for the first time during his presidency to a majority Democrat congressional audience. This speech was also the first in history presented to a female Speaker of the House, the honorable Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
      While the President made sweeping efforts to address domestic and social issues, in the aftermath of the speech it quickly became clear that for veteran and new lawmakers alike, dealing with the situation in Iraq, including a strategy for the U.S. role moving forward there, remains the pre-eminent issue of the day. Major headlines and analysis of the speech focused mostly on the change in the President's energy and tone between the first (domestic-centered) and second (Iraq-centered) halves of the speech and the extent to which the State of the Union address itself may have been eclipsed by the strength of the Democrat response given by newly-elected Virginia Senator Jim Webb (D-VA). Last fall Webb made headlines during his Virginia race by beating longtime Senator George Allan (R-VA) in an extremely close race that helped secure the Democrat majority in the Senate.
      Many in Washington and beyond were anxious to see how the tension between the President and Congress over the strategy in Iraq would manifest itself during the speech. The overwhelming sense from reporters, observers and members of Congress has been that it was a polite evening as the President made attempts to open doors of discussion on a variety of issues with Congress and members of Congress avoided overt displays of unhappiness with the President and the speech. While the rift between Congress and the President regarding troop surges in Iraq remains strong, many are tentatively hopeful that following the speech the President and Congress will be able to engage in some new debate and progress regarding issues such as immigration reform, energy, economic reforms and healthcare related issues.
      What does the speech mean for museums?
      While the focus on domestic issues is refreshing to many it remains to be seen what kind of priority billing any issues – from healthcare and energy reform to education and cultural funding – can garner from an administration and Congress consumed with the war in Iraq and the policy divides surrounding next steps. In recent months this President has endured the greatest decline of support his administration has yet seen, with the turnover of both chambers of Congress from Republican to Democrat majorities, sinking public opinion ratings and immense pressure to change course in Iraq. Perhaps the most important message overall, however, is that the speech generally did signal some new momentum on the part of the administration to at least engage in a fuller dialogue on social and domestic issues, even while some of the President's positions on particular issues (for example the No Child Left Behind education legislation) appear to remain fully inline with his previously-held stands.
      For additional on-going coverage of the President and the activities of the new Congress, visit the Advocate section of the AAM website at www.aam-us.org/getinvolved/advocate/index.cfm.
      Additional State of the Union Transcripts & Coverage
      The transcript and related policy documents of the 2007 speech as well information on the history of the speech and addresses over time.
      Video and written coverage of current and past speeches as well as rebuttals and other Congressional responses, categorized by President.
      Complete coverage and analysis of the speech presented on the website of longtime public television broadcast, the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
      FY 2007 Funding Pending and FY 2008 Budgets Released this Month
      During January, the House of Representatives moved quickly through the Democrats' first 100 hours legislative agenda.  Many federal agencies, such as the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, and the National Science Foundation (NSF), are operating under the funding constraints of a continuing resolution that expires on February 15, 2007.  On February 5 President George W. Bush delivers his budget proposal to Congress and the federal agencies will also be releasing their FY 2008 funding requests on that day.
      Leaders of the Appropriations Committees, House Chairman David Obey (D-WI) and Senate Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV), had indicated that they would bring forward a year-long continuing resolution that would hold spending at FY 2006 funding levels to deal with the remaining FY 2007 appropriations measures.  Agencies have been slow to release information on how this will affect their operations and grant making activities.  Without new funding, AAM anticipates that many agencies will have to scale back any new initiatives and reprogram funds for grant awards to cover mandatory pay raises and other overhead increases such as rent.
      See the complete December 2006 release announcing the Obey-Byrd budget plans at: http://appropriations.house.gov/News/pr_061211.shtml
      Washington Budget Report, the complimentary budget tracking service of a Washington, DC consulting firm (Federal Budget Group), reports that on Wednesday, January 31, the House of Representatives passed H.J.Res. 20, a nearly half trillion dollar FY '07 omnibus appropriations measure setting funding levels for all discretionary programs except for defense and homeland security – the only two federal programs for which appropriations measures were completed last fall. "Discretionary" programs are subject annually to the approval of Congress - unlike entitlement programs which automatically disburse Federal funds according to eligibility criteria set forth in previously passed law. The joint resolution passed 286-140, with 57 Republicans joining 229 Democrats in supporting the appropriations measure. Visit http://thomas.loc.gov and enter H.J. Res. 20 into the bill number search option to see the complete resolution text.
      View the House Appropriations Committee summary of the resolution at:
      The Senate must act on the bill before the current continuing resolution expires on February 15 and is expected to take the measure up for debate next week. On January 26, 2007 Democrat leaders of the House and Senate and the two chambers' Budget Committees sent a letter articulating their fiscal concerns for the nation and their interest in working with the President to the White House.
      The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a "Statement of Administration Policy" that disagreed with some provisions of the bill but did not threaten a veto. See the OMB Statement here.
      Looking just ahead to Monday's release of the FY 2008 budget, battles over federal spending are likely to be more heated with Democrats controlling both houses of Congress and a Republican in the White House.  President Bush has already called for a significant reduction in the number of congressional earmarks, which is funding designated for a specific project or institution by Congress.  Meanwhile Democrats have approved provisions to shed more light on earmarks and reinstated congressional pay-go rules, which require lawmakers to pay for any increases in federal spending or tax cuts by increasing taxes or approving cuts in spending elsewhere, to curb deficit spending. AAM expects tough fights ahead to secure even modest increases in spending for IMLS and the other federal agencies that support museums. As the FY 2008 budget process unfolds, we will communicate with your regularly through Museum Advocacy Team® updates.
      News from IMLS
      The Institute of Museum and Library Services has an extremely busy year ahead and has already begun calls for applications for the 2007 grant cycle in several categories. Visit http://www.imls.gov/news/releases.shtm for these announcements as they are made and visit www.imls.gov for additional detailed information about agency grants and upcoming activities across the country.
      News from Independent Sector & the Internal Revenue Service
      IRS Issues Guidance on IRA Charitable Rollover
      The Internal Revenue Service released new guidance on the IRA Charitable Rollover, enacted late last year as part of the Pension Protection Act, including frequently asked questions and answers.  The IRS guidance clarifies that checks may be delivered to a charity by the IRA holder, as long as they are made payable to an eligible charity. In addition, the guidance specifies that the $100,000 distribution limit applies separately to spouses, as long as each holds an IRA and is at least age 70½ (to permit contributions of up to $200,000 by married couples). The guidance also answers questions about IRAs that are maintained under an employment arrangement or on behalf of a beneficiary, the timing of distributions, and minimum distribution requirements.  

      View the January 10 press release from the Treasury Department at: http://www.treasury.gov/press/releases/hp222.htm

      View the new guidance (pdf), Notice 2007-7at: http://www.treasury.gov/press/releases/reports/notice20077.end.pdf

      See the IS website for additional resources on the IRA charitable rollover. http://www.independentsector.org/programs/gr/IRArollover.html
      Stay Exempt  
      The Internal Revenue Service has launched a free Web-based training program covering tax compliance issues confronted by small and mid-sized tax exempt organizations that do not have in house tax experts or have limited resources to access external tax advisors.  The workshop, entitled Stay Exempt – Tax Basics for 501(c)(3)s, focus on five topics: tax-exempt status, unrelated business income, employment issues, Form 990, and disclosure requirements.
      Senate Passes Ethics/Lobbying Reform Package without Grassroots Disclosure Provisions
      In January the Senate overwhelmingly passed its ethics/lobbying reform bill (S. 1) by a vote of 92-2.  Among other provisions, S.1 would ban lawmakers from accepting gifts, meals, and travel from lobbyists, with certain exceptions.  Before passing the bill, senators approved an amendment proposed by Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) to remove provisions that would have required disclosure of grassroots lobbying activities from the final bill. Senators struck down an amendment that would have created an independent Office of Public Integrity.  This bill is not yet law, so its provisions are not yet in effect.
      Other News from the Internal Revenue Service
      The tax-gap, the difference between taxes owed to the IRS and taxes paid to the IRS each year, has also risen as a primary issue of concern for the agency and its congressional oversight. The independent IRS Oversight Board has registered the tax-gap as a key concern. The IRS has been asked by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) to produce a report for the Senate Finance Committee to address the issue. In the meantime, IRS continues with regular rule-making on several fronts.
      See the full Oversight Board report at http://www.treas.gov/irsob/index.html.  
      IRS Seeks Public Comment on EO Related Forms and Guidance
      In a continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, the Internal Revenue Service is requesting public comment on the following exempt organization-related forms and guidance:
      • Form 990, "Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax" and its related Schedules A and B;
      • Form 8868, "Application for Extension of Time to File an Exempt Organization Return;" and
      • Information collections under Rev. Proc. 98-19, which provides guidance on exemptions to reporting and notice requirements under section 6033(e)(1) and the tax imposed by section 6033(e)(2).   
      Comments are due by March 26. Visit www.irs.gov for additional detail.
      The instructions to the 2006 Forms 990 and 990-EZ and Schedule A incorporate significant changes to address legislation enacted in 2006.
      Certain provisions of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 result in new reporting requirements for exempt organizations required to file 2005 Forms 990, 990-EZ, 990-PF, 990-T and 4720.The 2005 forms and instructions will not be changed to reflect these reporting requirements. Instructions for providing the required information are now available. Also see Notice 2007-7 issued January 10, 2007.
      The 2006 Form 990 is now available. As other 2006 forms become available, they will be available through the Forms and Publications website.
      Additional help is available for exempt organizations to claim a refund of telephone excise taxes paid. In addition to the "Question and Answers" article, please see the "Frequently Asked Questions" article at the bottom of the webpage and Fact Sheet 2007-1.
      The IRS has published updated Revenue Procedures that apply to matters under the jurisdiction of the Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division: requests for guidance on exempt organizations matters, technical advice requests and user fees. 
      Exempt organizations are reminded that for tax years ending on or after December 31, 2006, the electronic filing requirement is expanded. Visit the Modernized e-file for Charities and Nonprofits homepage for up-to-date electronic filing information.
      News from the Copyright Office
      Copyright Office Announces Public Information Office Permanent Location 
      Effective January 16, 2007, the Copyright Office Public Information Office will be open to serve the public from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, (except federal holidays), in newly renovated space in LM-401 of the James Madison Memorial Building. In addition to answering telephone requests for information, the Public Information Office provides walk-in services, including registrations, forms, and publications. This office will also accept walk-in requests for certifications, additional certificates, and other services provided through the Certifications and Documents Section. The renovation of the Public Information Office space is part of the Office's reengineering initiative to improve the efficiency and timeliness of public services.

      www.copyright.gov for further information.
      Online Pre-registration Records Search Now Available
      Claims to copyright that have been pre-registered in the Copyright Office from October 2005 to the present are available for searching on the Copyright Office website at http://www.copyright.gov. Click on "Search Records," then on "Search Pre-registration Records," to begin a search. A tutorial provides basic information on pre-registration and search methods.
      Pre-registration is a service intended for certain types of unpublished works that have had a history of prerelease infringement. Its purpose is to preserve the remedies of statutory damages and attorney's fees for copyright owners of these works when they have been infringed before publication and registration. A pre-registered work must be registered within 3 months after publication. Pre-registration takes place only online, is not a substitute for registration, and is not a guarantee that the Copyright Office will ultimately register the work.
      Reminders - February 1, 2007 was the first day written comments to the Section 108 Study Group on copyright exceptions for libraries and archives were accepted and March 9, 2007 is the final due date for written comments to the Section 108 Study Group on copyright exceptions for libraries and archives.
      Advocacy Tip: Golden Rules of Advocacy
      Last year at this time we talked about advocacy resolutions for 2006 - it is always a good idea to work advocacy into your regular planning for the year ahead. This year, however, a new year also means a new Congress with many newly-elected members taking a seat at the nation's capital and returning members taking on new roles in the committee and party structures. We all want to make a powerful impression on the new power brokers, and we thought museum advocates could benefit from a discussion of some of the golden rules of advocacy to ensure a strong start to the year, adapted from Advocacy Guru Stephanie Vance's thoughts on tried-and-true techniques for effective advocacy.
      ·    If you want people to hear you, you must speak:  It's a general complaint that politicians don't listen to the people in their state or district and are easily consumed in the "Washington scene." Often those who complain the loudest have never tried reaching out directly to their own lawmakers. Politicians can't listen to the people who never communicate with them – consider contacting your own elected officials today. Visit Congress.org to get started!
      ·    A caveat:  If you want people to listen, talk about something they want to hear about:  Politicians are humans and it's human nature that the more interesting topics or voices in life naturally better draw their attention. The truth is you automatically listen more carefully to the things you want to hear more about. Consider applying this principle to your communications with elected officials by knowing something about the issues and policies - or even the sports and celebrities! - that interest them, and then frame your issues in those terms or at least use those topics as conversation starters.
      ·    Being an effective advocate is hard work:  Just like the annual resolution to lose 10 pounds, being an effective advocate takes time, effort, honesty and thoughtfulness. It's good to have lofty goals such as, "I want to help increase federal funding for all museums," but it can be extremely helpful to break large goals into smaller goals such as, "Today I'll ask my elected officials or their staff to have a meeting about this issue or to visit my museum." The smaller goals are easier to achieve and can help you build up to the larger accomplishment. And remember, AAM is your constant source of support in Washington, working towards those larger goals on your behalf every day!
      ·    Getting to "yes" is easy, depending upon the question:  We're big on the "baby steps" when it comes to advocacy. Persistence is a key tool for any advocate, but occasionally we all encounter a lawmaker who is ostensibly not with us on one of those larger goals. It's important to make an "ask" of some type in every encounter with lawmakers, but it might be time to change the "ask" in order to achieve better results. Often lawmakers have legitimate reasons for taking stands that we don't agree with. Work with your lawmakers and their staff to better understand why their position on an issue differs from yours, and possibly agree to disagree for the time being by making a different ask. If a lawmaker is not ready to support increased cultural funding, for example, consider asking for a statement in the Congressional Record about something exciting your museum is doing in the community.  He or she may be more willing to take "baby steps" in support of your museum and may eventually come around on the larger issue at hand along the way.
      ·    Be nice:  This is a good rule for both effective advocacy as well as life in general.  While you can sometimes get what you want by being a bully or a bulldozer in the immediate, over the long-term being nice to everyone you meet will always serve you well.  This is especially true in Washington, DC where high staff turnover often means that today's receptionist will be tomorrow's Chief of Staff – and somehow they always remember who treated them well when they were on the bottom of the totem pole!
      For additional tips on dealing with legislators contact mat@... and visit www.aam-us.org for information about other AAM activities.
      Contact Your Representatives in Congress
      Legislators rely on the opinions and positions of their constituents to inform their votes throughout the annual appropriations process.
      Visit http://www.house.gov/writerep/ to write or e-mail your Representative or http://www.senate.gov/  to get your Senators' contact information. If you send an e-mail, be sure to include the topic, bill or agency in your subject line so that it can be directed to the appropriate staff member responsible for the issue.
      Or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for the office of your Representative or Senators and request to speak to the staffer responsible for the issue.
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