31 Days and Counting

March 7, 2014

By Henry Bogdan, Director of Public Policy, Maryland Nonprofits

With about a month left in the Maryland General Assembly session, here are Calls to Action and updates on several major issues:

Protecting programs and services – the March ‘revenue estimate’ Grinch has arrived, and requires $240 million in additional spending reductions from the Governor’s proposed budget.   The  Maryland Center on Economic Policy’s blog has specific information and suggestions on this, but the message is clear – you need to start fighting even harder to protect any funding you care about, NOW!  Are you having board members or prominent supporters call every legislator they know?  Are you focusing on contacts with legislators in leadership and those on the budget committees?  Are your networks and coalitions engaged?

Even though you and other nonprofits have to compete for space in the ‘budget lifeboat’,  remember that the proposal that legislative leaders have put forward to reduce Maryland’s estate tax, or a cut in corporate incomes taxes proposed by others, will take up a few of those seats if adopted.  You all have a common interest in those proposals being stopped in light of this new budget problem. 

Our proposal – Senate Bill 628– for a study of state programs and their unmet needs – had a good hearing in the Budget and Tax Committee, but we need your help to move it forward.  The Fiscal Note reported that the legislature’s Department of Legislative Services could provide the staff work within current resources, i.e. without additional funds. Please include this in your contacts with the Senate Budget and Tax Committee.

Procurement – the major legislative development in our efforts to improve procurement has become  House Bill 14, since we found that contracts for services that nonprofits perform are starting to be put into the “Small Business Reserve” – meaning that only for-profit small businesses need apply.  We are working hard to prevent HB 14 from making this worse.  Although the “SBR” program has been on the books for years, it has largely avoided displacing nonprofit providers.  Now with more emphasis being placed on all agencies meeting a quota for this program, we are very concerned that its relationship to nonprofits needs to be resolved.  We have proposed amendments that would allow this, and seem acceptable to all parties, but getting the bill approved in this fashion may take “heavy lifting.” Please  contact  Henry Bogdan to help or to get more information.

Protecting Responsible Charities – Last year saw a series of published articles by the Tampa Bay Times that got major media attention, as well as notice by Maryland legislators. This well researched ‘expose’ of the 50 Worst Charities in the U.S. tarnished the credibility of our whole sector.  Unfortunately, when a legislative committee asked what Maryland’s program for regulation of charitable solicitations could do to prevent these problems, the answer seemed to be not much.  Maryland Nonprofits was asked by Delegate Morhaim to work with legislative staff and officials in both the Secretary of State’s and Attorney General’s offices on legislation to correct this.

House Bill 1352, with a series of amendments supported by all parties, should improve the state’s ability to identify and deal with cases where both donors and the credibility of our sector are at risk. It also ensures that all stakeholders have a role in improving this oversight and public information effort, and that the registration and reporting process is modernized and made less burdensome for charities and fundraising professionals to deal with.  While the bill provides some broader authority for enforcement, it also makes clear that it does not weaken the corporate or other protections from personal liability for nonprofit directors and volunteers.  Please urge your own legislators to support HB 1352 and its Senate cross-file, SB 964.

Thanks for your help – contact  Henry Bogdan for more information on these issues or to participate in phone conference updates.

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