Washington Snapshot

Washington Snapshot: House Votes on Bill to Block National Emergency, Charitable Giving Report Released

Thursday, February 28, 2019 - 3:01 pm EST
Stephanie Powers

In This Week's Edition of Snapshot…

News from the Hill

House Votes on Bill to Block National Emergency Declaration

On Tuesday, a resolution to block the Trump administration from redirecting federal funds to build a border wall passed the House by 245-182, with some Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the resolution. The House measure is the first of its kind to pass since lawmakers in 1976 wrote the National Emergencies Act, which allows Congress to terminate an emergency declaration—The Wall Street Journal reported.

The measure is expected to be brought for a vote in the Senate in the upcoming weeks. Among Republican senators who indicated they would support the resolution include Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Susan Collins (R-ME). The resolution could pass the Senate by a simple majority, if one more Republican joins all 47 Senate Democrats.

If enacted, the measure would terminate President Trump’s national emergency declaration, and limit a national emergency to 180 days unless the president renews it. President Trump said he would exercise his veto power if Congress approves the resolution.

On Feb. 15, President Trump declared a national emergency over border security after signing a funding bill that appropriates $1.38 billion for 55 miles of barriers, instead of the $5.7 billion the president had requested.

Charitable Giving Report Released

A study published on Monday by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project reported that charitable giving contributions only increased 1.6% last year despite a strong economy. The report also highlights the 4.5% decrease in total donors from 2017, indicating a shrinking pool of individuals involved in philanthropy. Donations under $1,000 from smaller and middle class donors fell by more than 4%, while gifts from major donors increased 2.6%, the Washington Post reported. The report, produced by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, studies midsize and small nonprofits.

The Council and other groups within the charitable sector have warned lawmakers about the impact that the 2017 tax overhaul could have on charitable giving. Under the new tax law, millions of Americans no longer qualify to take the charitable tax deduction, which is a giving incentive.

More reports on the impact on charitable giving are expected to come throughout the year as foundations and charities prepare to file taxes for 2018.

Treasury Department Could Run Out of Funds

On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report announcing the Treasury Department could run out of money to pay the nation’s obligations by the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30,  if Congress doesn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling.

Last year Congress voted to suspend the debt limit through March 1, 2019, as part of the bipartisan budget deal. After this deadline, if Congress doesn’t act, Treasury will not have the authority to continue to borrow additional funds to pay for the government’s bills. Congress has thus far always voted to raise the debt ceiling.

Executive and Regulatory Affairs

Council Submits Comments on Notice 2018-99, UBIT Fringe Benefits Provision

Last week, the Council submitted comments to the Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on the UBIT provision related to the tax that exempt organizations would have to pay for offering fringe benefits to their employees.

The Council’s recommendations include a delay in the implementation retroactive to January 1, 2018, with any filing penalties not being levied until a year after the rulemaking is completed. The Council also highlighted several areas of concerns, including the process to determine if parking is truly public.

If you have questions about the Council’s comments, please feel free to reach out to us at govt@cof.org or legal@cof.org.


Happening in the States

Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.


States Learn, Act on Lessons from the Federal Government Shutdown

The impact of the 35-day federal government shutdown varied as many states and cities struggled to identify and take appropriate action. The threat of a future shutdown has led some state legislatures and local governments to consider possible state- or local-level safeguards. For this last partial federal government shutdown, Minnesota already had the power to put together a statewide contingency and response team to plan for the federal government shutdown, as it has done for past federal shutdowns, because the state treats "shutdowns like we would any natural disaster.” Arizona officials have found ways to keep the Grand Canyon open regardless of federal operational status. California officials are now planning ways to keep Joshua Tree National Park open to prevent vandals from committing any more damage if federal employees are absent because they are furloughed. Lawmakers in Oregon and Maine are looking at providing state unemployment benefits for federal employees during any future shutdowns. One bill in the New York Assembly would trigger an automatic 60-day extension for tax filings while waiving penalties and interest in the event of another shutdown. Similarly, cities are exploring ways to protect their residents in future shutdowns through assistance programs, municipal payment deferments, and personal loans to workers.

Preserving Nonprofit Nonpartisanship in New York

Lawmakers in New York State have introduced legislation to preserve nonprofit nonpartisanship, regardless of what Congress and the White House do around the Johnson Amendment. Specifically, the legislation updates the existing state-law prohibition on 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organizations, including houses of worship and foundations, endorsing candidates for public office. House and Senate bills go further by adding that: “The provision of this paragraph regarding political campaign activity shall be interpreted in the same manner as Section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code has been interpreted as of the effective date of the chapter of the laws of 2019 that amended this paragraph.” In other words, Congress or the Administration may one day act to politicize charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations for partisan gains, but the state legislation, if enacted, would keep New Yorkers firmly on the side of nonpartisanship.

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