January is a busy and optimistic month for many of us, and that holds true for legislators and their staff as well. Capitol Hill is abuzz with people moving offices, finding their way around the buildings, making their “maiden speech,” or introducing what they hope will be their signature legislation.
Want to stay up to date, but need the short version? We’ve got you covered! Here are the major federal policy updates from Washington, DC that may impact nonprofit work this month.
Record-breaking Congress Begins; Record Dysfunction Ensues
On January 3, the most diverse Congress in history was sworn into office. It includes the first two Native American women, the first two Muslim women, the first Somali-American, the first Palestinian-American woman, a record number of Asian American and Pacific Islanders, the first openly bisexual Senator, the youngest ever female Representative, and a record number of women overall. Democrats currently have a 235-199 advantage with one seat still outstanding pending a fraud investigation. The record-shattering government shutdown ended on its 35th day after causing damage to federal workers, their communities, the national economy and the nonprofit sector itself. With the government only funded through February 15, pressure is on congressional and White House negotiators to find a long-term deal quickly.
Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT)
Late last year, then-Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady (R-TX) offered legislative language to repeal one of the harmful UBIT provisions that was included in the 2017 tax bill. While that bill did not become law, it was a significant signal to see the provision’s original author propose to repeal it. Congressman Michael Conaway (R-TX) has once again introduced legislation (H.R. 513) that would repeal the tax on transportation fringe benefits and the requirement that unrelated income streams be calculated separately. Independent Sector has released research this month about the impact of these provisions, as well as tools you can use to ask Congress to support #MissionNotTaxes.
Universal Charitable Deduction Legislation Introduced
Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) have once again introduced legislation (H.R. 651) that would create a universal charitable deduction, available to all taxpayers whether they itemize their taxes or not. In a press release that announced the legislation, Independent Sector President and CEO Dan Cardinali noted, “We are proud to support this legislation, which will enable the charitable sector to better fulfill their missions and help all civil society organizations serve our communities.” Please ask your Representative to cosponsor this legislation today.
Under Republican control last year, the House of Representatives passed appropriations bills containing language preventing enforcement of the Johnson Amendment for churches. The Senate version did not contain any anti-Johnson Amendment language. While more action on this issue may shift beyond Congress with Democrats taking over the House of Representatives, legislators need to understand the urgency of this issue for the nonprofit sector. Please ask your legislators to fully protect the Johnson Amendment in any appropriations package.