CalNonprofits is Advocating at the Federal Level to Protect Our Communities at the Local Level

During this time of political chaos and frequent and divisive policy proposals at the federal level, it’s important for California nonprofits to speak up about the potential impacts of these proposals on their organizations and the communities they work in. Here are some of the federal issues we’re engaging on:

Immigration- Standing up for communities: Shortly after taking office, President Trump signed an executive order to stop sanctuary cities from receiving federal funds. CalNonprofits joined an amicus brief in 2017, seeking an injunction against the president’s executive order. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in April 2017, and then granted a permanent injunction in November 2017, finding the executive order to be unconstitutional.

Census 2020- Ensuring that California communities are counted: Each year, California receives $76 billion in federal funding that is based in part on census data. However, there are three large challenges California will face in obtaining an accurate count in the 2020 Census. Our demographics, the way the count is being administered (primarily via the internet), and the possible inclusion of a citizenship question could all contribute to an undercount in the 2020 Census. CalNonprofits is part of the Census Policy Advocacy Network and will be working to get the word out about to nonprofits about the important role we can play in assuring an accurate 2020 Census count in California communities.

The Johnson Amendment- Preserving Nonprofit Nonpartisanship: For decades, the Johnson Amendment kept a clear line separating nonprofits from political campaigns and partisan politics. But, in the past two years, the Johnson Amendment has come under attack. If the Johnson Amendment were to be weakened or eliminated, it could be a disaster for nonprofits. At the local level, elected officials could chose to only contract with nonprofits that had endorsed their campaign. Pop-up, fake nonprofits – whose only purpose is to spend campaign cash and engage in electioneering – could become a real problem. And churches – because they do not have to disclose their donors – would be especially vulnerable as targets for dark money pass-throughs. Some advocates have likened it to a Citizens United 2.0.

In California, CalNonprofits led the opposition to weakening the Johnson Amendment. We alerted our members about efforts to weaken it, wrote a joint letter with the California Council of Churches to our members of Congress against it, and co-authored an OpEd in the Fresno Bee about it. While several attempts to weaken the Johnson Amendment have failed (most recently as the tax law in December 2017 and the Omnibus bill in March, 2018), we will continue to monitor (and oppose) any efforts to weaken it.

Student Debt- Protecting Options for Nonprofit Staff: About 160,000 nonprofit employees in California have student debt. Through our Nonprofit Student Debt Project, we’re making sure these nonprofit staff members know about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF)—and are speaking up to protect the program. PSLF can help not just individual borrowers- but also nonprofits and government to recruit and retain a diverse and well-trained staff. However, several proposals at the federal level would dismantle or greatly reduce the PSLF program. CalNonprofits has activated our membership to protect the PSLF, and we continue to engage on the broader issues related to nonprofit employees, student debt, and recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce.

Federal tax policy- When the federal tax legislation was being debated in Congress, CalNonprofits opposed it and voiced our concerns about the benefits it provided to wealthy individuals and corporations at the expense of middle and low-income families, nonprofits, and the communities we serve. California Senate Bill 227 (de León), was introduced to mitigate some of the damage created by the new federal tax law, and CalNonprofits is supporting it. SB 227 would allow a taxpayer to make charitable, tax-deductible monetary contributions to a newly-created state fund, and would establish a procedure that would allow the taxpayer to obtain a credit against their state taxes for the amount contributed to that fund. SB 227 will ease tax burdens for some California taxpayers while expanding the opportunity for those Californians to itemize their charitable deductions. 
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