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Effects of the Elections on the Nonprofit Community

by Brenda Peluso

From our Friends at the National Council of Nonprofits:

This entire posting was written by the staff of the Council.

Tim Delaney, President & CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, issued the following public statement regarding the impact of the election results on the nonprofit community and its policy agenda:

“While much ink will be spilled about the Republicans claiming the majority in the House and the Democrats retaining the Senate, the truth for charitable nonprofits is that we are nonpartisan, no one political party has all the answers for all segments of the nonprofit community, and there are people of good faith and good will in both political parties. Nonprofits will work with whoever is in office to improve lives and strengthen our communities because elected officials and nonprofits serve the same people in the same communities.

“The split leadership in the U.S. House and Senate significantly narrows the consensus agenda that can get passed at the federal level. Therefore, perhaps now more than ever, the heavy-duty policy action will be occurring at the state level, where so many of the issues affecting nonprofits typically get resolved. That’s where the greatest opportunities and threats will arise, so nonprofits need to get involved in their State Associations of nonprofits to advance and protect their interests locally.”

Federal Elections


The following observations are presented based on review of the election results that shifted majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives to Republicans while narrowing the Democratic majority in the Senate.

House Departures: The Republican takeover of the House resulted from the defeat of 49 Democratic Representatives and the pickup of several open seats. Two Republicans lost their re-election bids as well. Three Democratic committee Chairmen were defeated, as well as Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), who was the lead sponsor of both the estate tax extension and the IRA charitable rollover legislation.

House Ways & Means Committee: The leadership of the House tax-writing committee appears safely in the hands of Michiganders next year, although their titles will change. Current Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI) is expected to become Chairman, replacing Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) who will likely serve as in the top Democratic role on the committee. Two Ways & Means members were defeated – Reps. Bob Etheridge (D-NC) and Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) – and five others retired. Due to the change in majority, half a dozen or more Republicans will be named to the powerful committee and a few Democrats may lose their committee assignment.

Senate Finance Committee: The Senate Finance Committee will remain under the leadership of Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), but the job of Ranking Member switches from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) as a result of Republican rules in the Senate. The committee is losing one member due to retirement, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), and another to defeat, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR). Because of the smaller majority in the Senate, Republicans may be adding another Senator to the panel.

Nonprofit Sector and Community Solutions Act: Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and most, but not all, of her Nonprofit Sector Act co-sponsors are returning next year [including Maine’s Rep. Michaud].  At this writing, two of the 20 co-sponsors were defeated for re-election: Reps. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and James Oberstar (D-MN). Original Republican co-sponsor Rep. Vern Ehlers of Michigan is retiring and two races have not yet been called: Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Ben Chandler (D-KY).

Philanthropy Caucus: Perhaps the most impressive showing comes from the retained membership of the bi-partisan Senate and House Philanthropy Caucuses. All eleven members of the Senate caucus are returning and each of the 40+ members of the House caucus running in Tuesday’s General Election was re-elected, although Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) did lose to a primary challenger.

State Elections


At least two of the Governors who will be sworn into office next year have had positive things to say to the Chronicle of Philanthropy about working with nonprofits to improve their states.

  • Hawaiian Governor-Elect Neil Abercrombie (D): “If state government is going to rely on charitable, tax-exempt organizations to deliver services, it must be willing to invest in the capacity of those organizations. This can and should be accomplished in many different ways, including by providing ongoing, regularly scheduled workshops on things like proposal development, contracting, procurement, and board governance.”
  • Vermont Governor-Elect Peter Shumlin (D): “Fund them. State government has tended to off-shift services to nonprofits, and not always with a clear definition of the division of labor. But if we expect nonprofits to do the work of government, then we must fund them appropriately.”

State Legislatures

According to the National Council of State Legislatures, there were 6,115 seats in 46 states up for election on Tuesday. Here are some key results:

  • Six states saw control of both chambers of their legislature switch from Democratic to Republican majorities: Alabama, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
  • In total, Republicans will soon control both chambers in 25 states and Democrats will control 16. Four chambers are undecided as of this writing: New York Senate, Oregon House and Senate, Washington Senate. The rest are split. This year, Democrats held the majorities of both chambers in 25 states and Republicans led in 14.

Ballot Initiatives

Here are a few highlights of the over 150 statewide measures on the ballot this week:

  • California: Voters removed the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a state spending plan, perhaps reducing the risk of budget gridlock next year.
  • Colorado: Coloradans resoundingly defeated three budget-cutting propositions that would have cut state income-tax rates and vehicle-registration fees, restricted the ability of state and local governments to borrow money, and limited property-tax increases. The Colorado Nonprofit Association lead an advocacy campaign against the provisions that “would increase Colorado’s job loss by more than 70,000, burden small businesses, increase class sizes in schools, and impede the ability of nonprofits to deliver needed services.”
  • Massachusetts: Voters rejected a proposal to cut sales and use taxes but approved a measure to eliminate sales taxes on alcoholic beverages. Providers Council had aggressively opposed both ballot questions.
  • Michigan: Voters defeated a proposal to hold a convention to study and rewrite the state’s constitution.
  • Washington: Voters approved two initiatives that repealed tax hikes passed last year and imposing a 2/3 vote requirement to pass tax increases during the 2011 session.

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