Friday, February 13, 2009

Congratulations to Us!

Today the U.S. House of Representatives approved their final version of the Economic Recovery bill by a vote of 246-183. We can now confirm that the package DOES include $50 million in direct support for arts jobs through National Endowment for the Arts grants. We are also happy to report that the exclusionary Coburn Amendment language banning certain arts groups from receiving any other economic recovery funds has also been successfully removed. Tonight the Senate is scheduled to have their final vote, and President Obama plans to sign the bill on Monday - President's Day.

A United Voice
This is an important victory for all of you as arts advocates. More than 85,000 letters were sent to Congress, thousands of calls were made, and hundreds of op-eds, letters to the editor, news stories, and blog entries were generated in print and online media about the role of the arts in the economy. Artists, business leaders, mayors, governors, and a full range of national, state, and local arts groups all united together on this advocacy issue. This outcome marks a stunning turnaround of events and exemplifies the power of grassroots arts advocacy.

We would like to also thank some key leaders on Capitol Hill who really carried our voices into the conference negotiation room and throughout the halls of Congress: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey (D-WI), House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks (D-WA), and Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chair Louise Slaughter (D-NY). We also want to publicly thank President Obama for taking the early lead in recognizing the role of the arts in economic development. These leaders were able to convincingly make the case that protecting jobs in the creative sector is integral to the U.S. economy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Senator Grassley needs to hear from YOU!

February 10, 2009

Today, Sen. Charles E. Grassley was named to the conference committee that will conduct the final negotiations to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the Economic Recovery legislation. There are only 10 conferees in all, five from the Senate, five from the House.

Because you are represented by Sen. Charles E. Grassley in Congress you have an amplified voice in carrying the pro-arts message on behalf of arts advocates across the country. The conference committee formally began working today and they hope to finish their work by Friday, February 13, 2009. Will you please take two minutes by Thursday to contact your Senator and make the following pro-arts request:

Remove the Coburn Amendment prohibition on museums, theaters and art centers. The Senate bill includes a provision that would specifically ban any economic recovery spending on these types of arts groups. Conversely, the House bill does not prohibit museums, theaters, or art centers from receiving economic recovery funds. Please urge your Senator to remove the Senate's exclusionary language on arts groups from the final conference bill.

Keep the $50 million in funding for arts jobs. The House bill provides $50 million in economic recovery funds for arts jobs through grants made by the National Endowment for the Arts. Unfortunately, the Senate version of the bill does not include any similar funds. Please urge your Senator to support the House funding provision.

Further details and talking points are supplied through The Americans for the Arts' E-Advocacy Center. Thank you for supporting the arts.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Action Needed to Reverse the Coburn Amendment!

February 6, 2009

Breaking News from Americans for the Arts:
"This afternoon the U.S. Senate, during their consideration of the economic recovery bill, approved an egregious amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that stated “None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.” Unfortunately, the amendment passed by a wide vote margin of 73-24, and surprisingly included support from many high profile Senators including Chuck Schumer of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and several other Democratic and Republican Senators.

If the Coburn amendment language is included in the final conference version of this legislation, many arts groups will be prevented from receiving economic recovery funds from any portion of this specific stimulus bill. It is clear that there is still much work to be done in the Senate and in the media about the role that nonprofit arts organizations and artists play in the nation’s economy and workforce.

Plan of Action
Arts advocates need to quickly contact Senators who voted for the Coburn Amendment and express your extreme disappointment with their vote. We need these Senators to know that their vote would detrimentally impact nonprofit arts organizations and the jobs they support in their state.
We have crafted a customized message for you to send to your Senators based on their vote on the Coburn Amendment. The correct letter, customized to each of your Senators will appear when you enter your zip code. If your Senator voted for this funding prohibition, you can send them a message expressing your disappointment and ask them to work to delete this language in the final conference bill with the House. If your Senator voted against the Coburn Amendment, you can thank them for their support of the arts."

If you would like more information from Americans for the Arts, go to their website and sign up for their eNewsletter.