In This Week's Edition of Snapshot…
- Potential Tax Policy Action During Lame-Duck Session?
- Tester, Wyden Still Fighting to Overturn Schedule B Decision
- High-Profile Debates in Texas and Ohio, and Election Registration Controversy in Georgia
- 2018 Ballot Measures on the Nonprofit Radar
Of the many questions being asked around Washington, “what’s next for tax policy?” seems to be one of the more popular ones. With the House out of session until after the midterm elections, it is highly unlikely that anything of substance will happen before Nov. 6—but the groundwork for work during the lame-duck session is being laid.
The idea of a “technical corrections” bill has been discussed since immediately after the tax code overhaul passed in Dec. 2017. Whether such a package of provisions (which would address technical errors resulting from the tax bill) will have a path forward during the lame-duck session depends greatly on the outcome of the elections and the willingness among Democrats to work with Republicans to fix provisions that they largely disagreed with in the first place.
Other potential scenarios for action on tax policy include taking up a package of “extenders” (provisions that exist within the tax code that expire and must be renewed on a regular basis), IRS reform, or a retirement saving incentives bill. Any of these pieces could be moved either individually or combined into a larger tax package. However, that will ultimately depend on what gets included in these legislative items and whether they have enough bipartisan support to pass.
Quoting former staffer for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Rohit Kumar, BGov reported that Mr. Kumar shared the following insight with a group of PwC employees, “A tax cut bill passed by the House in September includes a provision to enhance retirement savings. The House already has advanced a legislative package to retool the Internal Revenue Service. There is bipartisan support in the Senate for both provisions. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said previously that the Senate is likely to consider extenders in the lame-duck session. Several of these tax provisions—including breaks for race horse owners and railroad track improvements—expired at the end of 2017.”
Last Friday, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) submitted a petition to force a vote on their Congressional Review Act resolution—a tactic to overturn a ruling from the U.S. Treasury Department that allowed some tax-exempt organizations to avoid reporting the identities of their major donors. Back in July, the Treasury Department announced that it will no longer require nonprofit groups—except 501(c)(3)s—to file the Schedule B (which requires the disclosure of names and addresses of donors who contribute $5,000 or more in the filing year) of their Forms 990.
According to a press release from Sen. Tester, 35 senators have co-signed a petition to force a vote on Senators Wyden and Tester’s disapproval resolution, S.J. Res. 64. Sen. Tester is quoted saying, "If we don't take this aggressive approach, more dark money is going to flood our campaigns and mislead voters. We refuse to allow special interests to buy our democracy and this move will help us force a vote that will draw a clear line between those who are defending our country from dangerous dark money and those who are doing nothing to stop it."
Sen. Wyden also noted, "Restoring this donor disclosure rule is simply common sense. Without it law enforcement officials won't know whether dark money is corrupting our elections. The Senate must act immediately to reverse the Trump administration's reckless decision to hide dark money donors from tax authorities."
The press release offered additional information about Congressional Review Act procedures, stating that “…members of Congress must introduce a disapproval resolution within 60 calendar days from when the final rule was issued. After 20 calendar days, the resolution can be discharged from Finance Committee without a Committee vote. At that point, a motion to proceed to the resolution may be made on the Senate floor, so long as it is supported, in writing, by at least 30 Senators.”
In this section, we will include updates from the midterm election trail. This is intended to provide nonpartisan, matter-of-fact election news about the primary races that will play a key role in the outcome of the November elections.
Tuesday, in one of the 2018 midterm elections’ most high-profile Senate races, incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) debated challenger Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) for the second time. According to The Hill, “[Mr.] O’Rourke went on the attack right at the start of the debate, framing [Sen.] Cruz as ‘dishonest’ and someone who abandoned Texas to run for president. But [Sen.] Cruz continued to aggressively go after the Democratic congressman’s record, which he says doesn’t line up with deep-red Texas. The contentious showdown again highlighted the starkest differences between the candidates, particularly on immigration and health care.”
Earlier this week, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and challenger Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) also clashed in their fight to represent Ohio in the Senate. According to Cleveland.com, the two men “swapped insults and shared contrasting policy positions in Cleveland on Sunday in the first debate between the two Ohio Senate candidates. Although he's held a comfortable lead in nearly every public poll, [Sen.] Brown, a Democrat, spent plenty of time on the offensive and peppered [Rep.] Renacci with sharp critiques. He lambasted [Rep.] Renacci for voting more than a dozen times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which banned insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and expanded Medicaid. [Rep.] Renacci, a Republican who needed a strong debate to give a jolt to his campaign, was less specific in his attacks, saying repeatedly that [Sen.] Brown loves serving in Washington, D.C., more than he cares about Ohio, and that [Sen.] Brown is too liberal to represent Ohio. In doing so, he invoked the name of Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader, no fewer than six times.”
In the race for governor in Georgia, tensions around voter registration remain extremely high. According to the New York Times, “Tensions escalated in the already bitter race to be Georgia’s next governor on Thursday [Oct. 11] after reports that the state had placed tens of thousands of voters’ registrations on a ‘pending’ list, fueling charges of voter suppression and election rigging. The office of Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state and the Republican nominee for governor in November’s election, has stalled more than 53,000 voter applications, according to a recent report from The Associated Press. The list includes a disproportionately high number of black voters, the report said, which is stirring concern among nonpartisan voting rights advocates and supporters of Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate, who is vying to be the first black woman in the country to be elected governor. … Mr. Kemp’s secretary of state office has denied the accusations of intentional voter suppression, and said the reason for the backlog was shoddy voter registration work by liberal groups.”
Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.
Voters from Alaska to Florida states will consider 157 ballot measures ranging from elections to taxes and operational issues. The outcome of the votes could ultimately impact the work, voice, and resources of charitable nonprofits and foundations in the various states.
Election-related issues lead the list of initiatives this year with 21 measures in 20 states dealing with redistricting, voting, and access. Voters in Missouri and North Dakota will decide whether to amend their constitutions to revamp existing state campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics requirements. Counties would be required to hold public elections for certain municipal positions, including tax collectors and property appraisers, under a proposed constitutional amendment in Florida, potentially turning basic administrative decisions about tax exemptions into politically charged issues
Taxes are also high on the list of ballot measures in 2018. Californians will be considering whether to allow homeowners who are older or disabled to keep their property tax rate when moving. Colorado voters are being asked to approve an increase on sales and use taxes on various commodities and goods and an increase in individual income, corporate, and estate tax rates. Going in a different direction, Arizona voters will consider placing a constitutional restriction on any new or increase to any fee, assessment, or tax on any service by the state or any locality. Similarly, the North Carolina legislature added to the ballot a constitutional amendment to limit the state income tax rate to seven percent (down from ten percent). The North Carolina Center for Nonprofits opposes the measure due to concerns for revenue shortfalls and cuts to state grants and contracts with nonprofits.
Finally, among the scores of ballot measures are several that could affect employment costs and individual economic wellbeing. Voters in Arkansas and Missouri will consider increases to their respective minimum wages. In four states (Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, and Utah), there are ballot measures pertaining to expanding or funding for Medicaid.