June Public Policy Update: What’s Happening on Capitol Hill?

June 12, 2018

Below is a brief summary of state and federal public policy issues impacting nonprofit organizations. Please share with us any thoughts you may have and keep us apprised of the advocacy that your organization is conducting to advance its mission. We would love to hear from you this summer and help you in your advocacy work!

WA Plans Changes to Overtime Pay Rules: Share Your Nonprofit’s Perspective

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is working on an update to the state’s Minimum Wage Act’s overtime regulations. The intent of the proposed update is to raise the exemption threshold for executive, administrative, and professional employees so that more employees will be eligible for overtime pay. This will rule change will undoubtedly impact your nonprofit organization. Because of this, we strongly encourage your organization to join Washington Nonprofits in responding to the Department’s scoping questions before the July 10th deadline. Importantly, questions #3 and #8 of the current questions posed by the Department warrant special attention because they ask what the new overtime pay exemption threshold should be and when it should take effect. Click here to view the full set of questions and learn how you can respond. 

Additionally, Washington Nonprofits is aware of the rumor that that the proposed exemption threshold will be $68,000-$70,000 per year. At this point, that level is just speculation and we asked in our Round 2 comments for the Department to address it head on. We are continuing to monitor this rule making process and encourage you to engage with the Department on this issue. Until then, your organization can learn more about this issue on the Department’s engagement webpage here.

Heard on the Hill: The Latest on Our Federal Issues

Washington Nonprofits’ Director of Public Policy and Advocacy David Streeter recently visited Capitol Hill to meet with our state’s congressional delegation about the key issues impacting nonprofit organizations. Click here to read a recap of his lobby days.

Your Chance to Comment on the Census

As of June 8, 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau has an active comment request in the Federal Register on its proposed data collection plan. This is an opportunity to weigh in on what information is collected (including the proposed citizenship question) and how it is collected (internet collection, in-person, etc…). Your organization can review the request and submit comments here before August 7, 2018. Please contact us with any questions or to discuss what you are planning to submit.

Nonprofit Times Highlights Our Census Video; Take Action to Encourage Full Census Funding

The Nonprofit Times published a story highlighting Washington Nonprofits’ new census video. According to the Nonprofit Times:

Washington Nonprofits debuted a six-minute video highlighting the importance of the census, featuring state nonprofit leaders, at its annual conference on May 16. The video was a means of generating attention to the issue in 2018, but will also be used in the coming year, said Laura Pierce, executive director. At stake is the $13.7 billion in annual federal funding the state receives through initiatives tied to census data, per the video. It also quotes Gov. Jay Inslee in noting that Washington loses $4,800 annually for every uncounted household. …

Association concerns include ensuring that the U.S. Census Bureau has adequate resources, broadband access among low-income and rural residents, the potential citizenship question, and the lack of questions relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. Pierce stressed that the association’s focus was not purely on low-income residents, but rather everyone in the state. Causes such as arts and environment impact individuals across the socioeconomic spectrum.

Pierce anticipates old-fashioned community organizing throughout the state, with organizations in some communities already active in engaging with constituents about the importance of being counted. She sees nonprofits as critical in efforts to engage hard-to-reach communities.

David Streeter, director of public policy and advocacy, was in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday meeting with the association’s state delegation. Democratic members are in agreement that a citizenship question would be inappropriate, while those across parties are in agreement that an accurate count is needed.

Streeter said that members of Congress are aware of underfunding concerns and that it has been Washington Nonprofit’s goal to share those concerns with members of the nonprofit community. There is still time to act, he said, with the proposed census being posted for public comment serving as the next step.

Click hereto read the full article. Click hereto view our census video.

Next week, the Senate Appropriations Committee will mark-up the FY2019 Commerce, Justice, and Science bill, which will include funding allocations for the Census. Senator Patty Murray sits on the Appropriations Committee and we need to urge her to fully fund the 2020 Census. Approving requests for additional funding for the 2020 Census is critical for a full count that will bring in needed federal resources to our communities. Click here so that your organization can sign the letter organized by Win/Win Network to urge full funding for the 2020 Census.

Federal UBIT Charge on Employee Transit Benefits

Hidden in the weeds of the federal tax law enacted in December are two new taxes on nonprofits’ “unrelated business income” that are surprising just about everyone. One provision requires tax-exempt employers to pay a 21 percent income tax on its expenses for employee transportation benefits such as transit passes and parking. Another tax change requires nonprofits with business income to pay the tax on each separate “trade or business” and prohibits the blending of profits and losses across lines of business. Both technically became effective on January 1, 2018, with quarterly tax payments due on April 15 for many nonprofits. Unfortunately for all law-abiding nonprofits, the IRS hasn’t told anyone which transportation benefits are taxable or what types of activities constitute a separate “trade or business.” Please consider submitting comments to the IRS requesting that they delay implementation of the new unrelated business income tax on employee transit benefits. Our action alert, with a template for you to use, is available here.

Washington Equal Pay Opportunity Act Went into Effect June 7, 2018

From the Department of Labor and Industry Press Release:

Starting June 7, 2018 in Washington, employees are legally required to receive equal pay and career advancement opportunities, regardless of gender. The changes are a result of the Equal Pay Opportunity Act … The new regulations update Washington’s equal pay law, which was established in 1943. The law has several elements that require employers to provide equal compensation to “similarly employed” workers along with equal opportunities for career advancement, regardless of gender.

Click hereto review compliance resources available from the Washington Department of Labor and Industry.

Advocacy Tip: Create a Well Crafted One Pager for Lobbying Meetings

When David met with our elected officials in Washington, DC, one consistent piece of feedback he received is the importance of the one page document summarizing our policy agenda that he wrote before the meetings. Besides making you and your organization look savvy, providing a well crafted one pager will help distinguish your policy concerns from the mountains of other papers that come in to legislative offices. It will also provide legislators and staff something easy to refer to when it comes time to debate issues or even vote on issues in committee or on the floor.

As you can see from this example, each issue is briefly summarized in one to two sentences and contains a bolded summary sentence at the bottom of each item that conveys Washington Nonprofits’ ask on each issue. The reason for this is that brevity matters when you meet with an official or their staff. They simply do not have time to read lengthy reports, review and process multiple documents quickly, or search through packets for pieces of information. To make decisions quickly, legislative offices need the basic facts of the issue and the recommended action from your organization in an easily accessible format.

Folders being prepared for lawmakers.

But, having a one pager does not mean that you should forgo assembling folders of other materials to leave behind. It simply provides a way to summarize any collateral information that you are presenting to the staff or official. The folders David prepared for the meetings contained more detailed fact sheets on the issues, letters and statements from Washington Nonprofits, and other items that may be of interest to the offices. However, there is no guarantee that the other materials will be read, and if they are, it will likely be by someone who is preparing a memo for their boss and is picking out key kernels of information from a variety of sources. Because of this, creating a well crafted one pager is critical for making a lasting impression on elected officials and their staff.

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