CalNonprofits Articles

Kris Twombly 75pxWe worked hard this year to make sure your voice was heard in Sacramento - and we had some great wins! Thanks to your support and the advocacy of CalNonprofits and our allies, seven of the eleven bills we supported were signed into law, ranging from voting rights, to emergency powers for nonprofit boards, to liability protection for nonprofits, to voluntary contributions for nonprofits on state income tax returns.

Here are a few of the highlights:

There’s a lot of misinformation about the voting rights of people with felony convictions, resulting in false disenfranchisement for thousands at every election. Now law, AB 149 requires county probation departments to inform those on probation about their voting rights.

What happens in an emergency situation if your bylaws don’t let you respond in appropriate ways? Thanks to AB 491, nonprofits can now adopt "emergency powers" so the organization may continue to operate during catastrophes and emergencies. This is an important victory in the “earthquake state!”

Three laws passed that allow individuals to make donations to specific causes on our state income tax returns. "American Red Cross, California Chapters Fund” will support emergency response services carried out by the Red Cross chapters in California. "California Beach and Coastal Enhancement Account" will grant money to nonprofits for programs that preserve or enhance our coastal resources and provide education about marine life to underserved communities. The "Keep Arts in Schools Fund" will allocate money to the Arts Council to distribute as grants that support arts programs for kids in California.

When the state couldn’t keep some state parks open nonprofits stepped in. But what happens to the parks that aren’t on the “cut” list the next year? Now law, AB 594 allows the State Parks department to enter into an operating agreement with nonprofits and others to operate parks through 2014 fiscal year even if the park is not scheduled to be closed due to state budget cuts.

Protecting good samaritans from liability makes the goodwill economy thrive – and is crucial to many nonprofits’ program delivery.  Now those who help others see are protected by SB 724, which provides liability protection to nonprofits while protecting clients from negligence.

Bills carried over to 2014:

California’s legislature convenes in a two-year cycle. Some bills from the first year are carried over to the second year, allowing stakeholders more time to negotiate the content of the legislation. CalNonprofits looked at two such bills this year:

"Youth Equality Act" also known as the “Boy Scouts Bill” would revoke the state tax exemption of youth organizations (particularly the Boy Scouts) found to discriminate on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation and other factors.

While we did not take a position on this bill, we are concerned that the tax code is the wrong place to address discrimination. We shared that opinion with proponents and those opposed to the bill, as well as with the media. The bill passed through the Senate and through Assembly Committees, but Senator Lara held the bill before sending it to the Assembly floor vote (where it needed a 2/3 majority), to allow stakeholders more time to address how the Franchise Tax Board and the Board of Equalization might implement the bill.

Did you know that each year over 3000 California nonprofits gross over $70 million in revenue from fireworks sales in July? SB 777 would authorize localities to allow fireworks to be sold between December 26 and December 31 (for New Years) – potentially resulting in significantly improved earned income streams for these groups!  The bill also addresses the disposal backlog of illegal fireworks seized around the state. Senator Calderon has held this bill over for next year, due largely to concerns by public safety agencies regarding the measures to address the disposal backlog.

A victory within a defeat

CalNonprofits was proud to cosponsor AB 580 - Arts Council: Grants - Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D- Van Nuys), which called for an annual allocation of $75 million to the California Arts Council for grants to nonprofit arts organizations.

We worked with Californians for the Arts, Latino Arts Network of California, and others to build support for this proposal. Not surprisingly in a challenging budget year, the bill stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. But thanks to our collective advocacy on AB 580, Assembly Speaker John Perez made a discretionary allocation of an additional $2 million to the California Arts Council for grantmaking, doubling what the Arts Council was slated to receive. We’re continuing to work with the arts community to win more funding for arts in the coming years.

CalNonprofits “at the table”

CalNonprofits has been an active participant in two workgroups convened by legislators on issues relevant to the nonprofits sector.

We participated in the Fireworks workgroup convened by Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, in which we prevented an arbitrary, misguided 400% fee increase on nonprofits for fireworks sales by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.  We also provided important input in shaping the contents of Senator Calderon’s Fireworks bill.

Early this year we testified at an informational hearing on Social Impact Bonds (also known as Pay for Success), which earned us a seat in the Social Innovation Financing workgroup convened by Assemblymember Toni Atkins. We’ll continue to monitor this issue as policy proposals develop, and we’ll be seeking and delivering the input of the nonprofit sector. (To learn more about Social Impact Bonds download the California Policy Forum webinar!)

Amplifying the power of others

This year we re-launched and re-vamped the California Nonprofit Advocates Caucus (CNAC). This network of policy advocates from all issue areas represented by the nonprofit sector serves as a way for nonprofit advocates to share information, learn how state policy trends may affect their organizations, and create opportunities to combine forces in advocacy. We had our first convening in March at the California Endowment in Sacramento, and we’ll be hosting the next convening on November 8 at the same location. <

We’ve also launched an active CNAC listserve, through which advocates keep each other informed about legislative priorities and specific bills – particularly the late session gut-and-amend bills (bills which get changed into completely different bills) which happen fast and can have devastating consequences.  

Now over 100 organizations strong, we’re excited that CNAC has taken on such an active life. We’ll continue to host CNAC into 2014 and beyond, and we’ll continue to build its effectiveness as a tool to bring the voice of the nonprofit sector in shaping public policy in California.

You can join CNAC by simply sending me an email. We welcome your addition to the voice of California’s nonprofit sector. And if you are not already a member of CalNonprofits, I invite you to join us. Information on membership can be found here.


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