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Unusually Busy July for Advocacy

by Jennifer Gray

Typically, the Fourth of July weekend is busy with social plans–visiting with family and friends. For those of us who live in Bath, it’s Heritage Days with rides, music, food, parade, and fabulous fireworks.

Many people, this year, were instead at the State House worrying about the budget. Others, like me, were constantly checking their phone for updates from Augusta. Now that a budget has been passed and signed, hopefully everyone can take a moment to enjoy the beautiful weather and make the most of July in Maine. Later today, I’ll be dropping my son off at his first overnight camp and taking my daughter swimming at a local pond.

Summer time in Maine, vacationland by Boston Public Library (CC BY 2.0)

We’re still analyzing the details of the budget, so more to come on that. Things are heating up on the Johnson Amendment. Here’s some quick intel on what’s been happening in Augusta and Washington, D.C. as well as a call for action:

Augusta (Updated July 6)

  • The state shutdown ended early Tuesday morning when the Governor signed a compromise budget.
  • The approved budget includes direction for the Department of Health and Human Services to revise its reimbursement rules as proposed in LD 967, An Act to Ensure Access to Community Services for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities or Autsim (MANP supports) and provides $11.25 million of funding in the first year.  Funding for the second year will need to be provided in next year’s supplemental budget. We celebrated the bipartisan support for this initiative in a previous blog.
  • Everything is not done. There are items still on the Special Appropriations Table, vetoes to attempt to override, and perhaps a bond package. Fortunately, lawmakers will have some time to cool off and get reacquainted with family before returning to the State House later this month.

Washington, D.C. and all Things Johnson  Amendment

  • Congresswoman Chellie Pingree recently let us know that she stands with us in opposition to efforts to weaken and repeal the Johnson Amendment. Her support is greatly appreciated.
  • Late last week, a House subcommittee attached a rider (Section 116) weakening the Johnson Amendment to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2018 (MANP opposes).
  • This provision would prohibit the IRS from investigating houses of worship that violate the law unless the IRS Commissioner himself first signs off on it and reports it to Congress – making investigations unlikely to ever move forward. Specifically, it says:
    • None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Internal Revenue Service to make a determination that a church, an integrated auxiliary of a church, or a convention or association of churches is not exempt from taxation for participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office unless.
      • (1) the Commissioner of Internal Revenue consents to such determination;
      • (2) not later than 30 days after such determination, the Commissioner notifies the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Finance of the Senate of such determination; and
      • (3) such determination is effective with respect to the church, integrated auxiliary of a church, or convention or association of churches not earlier than 90 days after the date of the notification under paragraph (2).
    • The extraneous rider approved in the House Financial Services Subcommittee today imposes unconstitutional and unreasonable hurdles on enforcing the law that ensures nonpartisanship, and must be removed from the bill known as the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2018.

ACTION

Thank Congresswoman Chellie Pingree for being with us and ask her to help defeat the rider.  Call her at (207) 774-5019. This bill could be up for a vote as early as the week of July 10. Let her know that this is very important.

Talking Points

If enacted, the legislative proposals could politicize charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations, plunging them into partisanship. It could hurt the public and damage the capacity of organizations in a wide variety of ways, including:

  • Erosion of public trust as organizations come to be considered as party-affiliated.
  • Insistence on endorsements by candidates and their operatives.
  • Pressure on charitable nonprofits by donors to endorse favored candidates.
  • Diversion of resources from mission as pressure is applied to 501(c)3 organizations to redirect charitable resources to partisan political campaigns.
  • Being nonpartisan and non-electoral is believed to be fundamental to nonprofits’ success as they are considered a trusted neutral resource.
  • Pressure to engage in electoral activities would redirect resources away from the mission work.

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