CalNonprofits Articles

Collective nonprofit advocacy powered these bills to the finish line!

Now that Governor Brown’s deadline to sign or veto bills has passed, we’re writing to share our legislative wrap-up of bills we worked on. We’re proud to report California nonprofits racked up some impressive wins this year in the California Legislature.

As you know, it was not CalNonprofits alone that secured these wins. They could not have happened without the hundreds of nonprofits that championed the bills, signed on to official letters of support, educated their constituents and communicated with their elected officials. In short, it pays to advocate. If you want more detail on any of these bills visit our Legislative Tracker.

Six bills signed into law by the Governor!

1) Website portal centralizing state grants for nonprofits: Assembly Bill 2252 (CalNonprofits sponsored)
If you've ever thought about getting funding from the State of California, you know how difficult it is to find out what opportunities are available. And this isn’t just frustrating for individual nonprofits: it also plays a role in the funding disparities we see throughout the nonprofit community. AB 2252, authored by Assemblymember Monique Limón (Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on the Nonprofit Sector), and sponsored by CalNonprofits, addressed this problem by directing the creation of an online portal centralizing all state funding opportunities, and enabling nonprofits to apply for grants online. Thanks to dozens of nonprofits signing letters and calling their representatives, the bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (80 Aye votes and 0 No votes in the Senate), and was signed by Governor Brown.

Next steps: CalNonprofits will now be working with the State Library — where the website will be developed and housed  to ensure as quick a launch as possible. We’ll keep you posted.

2) Budget win: $90.3 million for Census outreach
Getting an accurate count in the 2020 Census is crucial for nonprofits and the communities we serve. But how do we accomplish that without the funds to reach out to people, especially those who may be fearful of participating or confused about the census? As a member of the Census Policy Advocacy Network (CPAN), CalNonprofits helped mobilize nonprofits in support of increasing the budget for Census outreach and planning by $50 million. This additional allocation will be essential in ensuring that all Californians get counted in 2020.

Next steps: We’re in discussions with the state to develop the process for how to get this money where it needs to go and our priorities are that funding is provided to nonprofits in a way that’s straight-forward (like grants), flexible, with adequate indirect costs, and that’s effective in reaching communities who would otherwise not get counted. We’ll keep you posted on the next steps as they emerge.

3) Protecting student loan borrowers: Assembly Bill 38
We supported AB 38 (Stone) because of what we’ve seen and heard from nonprofit employees who are encountering problems with their student loan servicers. AB 38 will ensure that borrowers are given reliable information, quality customer service, and meaningful access to repayment and forgiveness programs. Supporting nonprofit staff with student debt is an important part of CalNonprofits' work supporting the nonprofit workforce.

Next steps: CalNonprofits will help get the word out about AB 38 to student loan borrowers and we will continue our work to connect nonprofits with the PSLF program. If you haven’t yet, download our Student Debt Toolkit for Nonprofits!

Because voting ought to be easy - CalNonprofits supported two bills that make it easier to vote.
California has already removed some barriers to voting with online voter registration, same-day voter registration, and automatic registration at the DMV. We supported two more bills to continue this progress.

4) Prepaid postage for mail ballots: Assembly Bill 216
While many states are moving backwards and making it harder to vote, we were proud to support AB 216 (Gonzalez Fletcher) that makes it easier to vote by requiring county election officials to include prepaid postage on vote-by-mail ballot return envelopes. While this law goes into effect in 2019, the LA Times  reports that 10 counties will begin providing prepaid postage envelopes in the November election (just 6 weeks away!), including Los Angeles County.

5) Enabling vote-by-mail voters to track their ballots: Assembly Bill 2218
More people than ever are voting by mail (57% in the 2016 general elections). That’s why we supported AB 2218 (Berman) that will establish a system to allow vote-by-mail voters to track and receive information about their vote-by-mail ballots via email or text message from the county elections official about the status of his or her vote-by-mail ballot. Now voters can be assured that their ballot was received and counted, increasing confidence in the electoral process and encouraging more individuals to vote.

Next steps: Through our Vote with Your Mission campaign, we’ll help get the word out about AB 2218 and AB 216.

6) Protecting nonprofits’ access to the internet: Senate Bill 822
The idea behind “net neutrality” is that all of us — whether businesses, nonprofits, or individuals, should have equal access to the internet at the same speed. This access is essential for nonprofits and the work we do (much of it online) to connect our communities to programs, whether its’s locating housing, identifying legal help, free arts programs for kids, or connecting a family with health care. Without net neutrality, nonprofits could be forced to pay more for internet service, hindering our ability to provide crucial services to Californians. SB 822 will prohibit service providers from blocking websites or speeding up or slowing down websites or whole classes of applications such as video.

Next steps: The US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit yesterday to block SB 822, and the fight over “net neutrality” continues at the federal level. This could impact California nonprofits, so we will continue to advocate.

Crowdfunding regulations on the horizon? CalNonprofits expressed concerns about AB 2556 (sponsored by PayPal), which failed in this legislative session. We will continue to meet with PayPal, Assemblymember Irwin and other stakeholders on the issue before the next legislative session is convened. Let us know if you’ve got expertise and insights to offer.

You can't win 'em all: Assembly Bill 888 We were not able to defeat AB 888 (Low) which extends a problematic raffle carve-out for nonprofit affiliates of major league sports teams, enabling them to distribute 50% of their proceeds to a winner, whereas all other nonprofits give 10% to the winner and 90% to charitable causes.

In 2015, legislators promised that the legislature would also receive a report about if and how communities had benefited from this carve-out. But in fact, there has been no audit or review to see if this program is working or where the money is going. The first draft of AB 888 would have allowed these raffles to continue indefinitely with no further oversight. The final bill includes a sunset on these large-scale raffles in 2024, and directs more funds to DOJ for auditing and compliance of these large-scale raffles.

Next steps: CalNonprofits will be working with the Attorney General to ensure that meaningful oversight occurs, while continuing our efforts to make raffles rules simpler for smaller authentic charitable raffles.

Conclusion

Just as a chamber of commerce speaks for businesses, the California Association of Nonprofits (CalNonprofits) is a collective voice for nonprofits. These "low profile/high impact" bills represent not only important victories in themselves, but reflect a growing power of nonprofits to change the narrative in Sacramento.

At CalNonprofits, more than one-third of our income comes from membership dues— unrestricted funds that allow us to be nimble and passionate. And three-thirds of our impact comes from CalNonprofits’ 10,000 members and allies responding to policy alerts and calls to action. Let's take a moment to celebrate our collective victories this year, and then start getting ready for next session's issues.

(photo credit: bill becoming a law: State Dept./D. Thompson)

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