Report-Out: Legislative Briefing, 12/2/09

CAA Legislative Briefing 2009


CAA Legislative BriefingThis morning, California Arts Advocates in partnership with Arts for LA, LA Stage Alliance, California Alliance for Arts Education and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission presented a legislative briefing reporting on current arts-related legislation at the state level.

Hosted by the Actors' Gang, the briefing featured lobbyist Kathy Lynch, who works for both California Arts Advocates and California Alliance for Arts Education.  Lynch spent an hour updating the group of arts advocates on issues such as AB 700, the arts education block grants and the new water bonds.  Terence McFarland moderated and led the Q&A after Lynch's overview.

The Honorable Senator Curren D. Price, who represents California's 26th District, provided inspiring opening remarks.  Sen. Price is the new Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Arts and has been enthusiastic in his support for arts and culture within his district and statewide.  He spoke about the connection between arts and the economy, citing the large number of arts businesses and the breadth of Los Angeles' creative sector.  

readingWhile Lynch was generally positive about the progress made in ensuring arts and culture is a consideration for state policymakers, she pointed out the vast discrepancy between last year's state budget and that of the current year, which comes in nearly $40 billion lower and requires sweeping cuts across the board.

Lynch pointed out that the current crisis is leading to new conversations with education, business and labor as arts & culture becomes recognized for its connections to many areas of the ecology and economy of California.  Although California is at the top of the list of states hit hardest by the financial crisis, the crisis is forcing the state legislature to look at restructuring, including public access to information, the 2/3 majority required in the legislature and government safety net issues.

Interestingly, Governor Schwarzenegger's choice for Lieutenant Governor, State Sen. Abel Maldonado, is a member of Sen. Price's Joint Committee on the Arts. Sen. Maldonado has not been confirmed, but Lynch noted that the Senator has been very supportive of arts and culture and could be an excellent ally.

tara speakingLynch commented on the current state of the California Arts Council, whose funding primarily comes from the sale of Arts License Plates ($3.1 million of their $6.1 million budget comes from the arts license plates).  There may be larger conversations in the coming years about the role and scope of the Arts Council, and whether its mission might be broadened to embrace the new idea of the "creative sector" and other arts & culture-related areas.

After the general "State of the State," Lynch went into detail on three specific legislative issues: AB 700, the Arts & Music Block Grant and the water bonds.


AB 700

AB 700, the Creative Industries & Community Economic Revitalization Act of 2010, would direct 20% of the state sales tax revenue from sales of arts-related materials to the California Arts Council.  Arts-related materials could include museum and gallery sales (this is carefully defined in the text of the bill).  The bill would not result in any raised taxes and could inject $30 million into the CAC budget annually.  Existing sales tax revenue would essentially be redirected back to its starting point: California artists.  The money would return to the community to stimulate the creation and sale of more artwork. 

lynch and mcfarlandLynch reports that the California Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on AB 700 in mid January.  She urged all present to take action by sending a letter of support for AB 700 to local elected officials.  You can do this at CAA's website by clicking here or visiting  State Sen. Assemblymember Paul Krekorian, who will compete for the Los Angeles City Council District 2 seat in a special election December 8th (click to find your polling place), is one of AB 700's main proponents. 

Arts & Music Block Grant

In 2005, Governor Schwarzenegger allocated an unprecented amount of $105 million to arts education and created the Arts and Music Block Grant, categorical funding distributed to school districts statewide based on student population.  At this time, the Block Grant was restricted to arts and music spending; however, last February all restrictions on categorical funds were released.  The arts were moved from "Tier 1," the most important elements of California education, to "Tier 2," deemed nonessential for the short-term as schools scramble to survive the budget crisis.  The immediate impact is school districts were free to spend the Arts and Music Block Grant monies on deficit reduction or the general fund.  Lynch indicated that reinstating those restrictions (forcing schools to put the funding back into the arts) is difficult during the current state economic crisis.  She notes that keeping the Arts and Music Block Grant as a "line item" in the state education budget is essential even in the short term, as advocating to reinstate the restrictions is much easier than starting from scratch to get the arts back in the budget at all.  Lynch also pointed out that although the block grant funding is an integral part of building high-quality, sequential arts education in California, the arts must also be included in the general education budget along with other essential aspects of a well-rounded, 21st-century education.


Actors GangWater Bonds

Lynch spoke briefly on the proposed Water Bonds currently under discussion in special legislative session (read more about the bonds on Governor Schwarzenegger's website here:  There is a strong possibility that up to $20 million of the bond revenue will be directed toward museums and cultural centers in California.  Allocations are still under debate, but Lynch indicated that this funding will go to cultural providers with a connection to water issues.  She advised advocates to stay tuned for further information on this water bond revenue. 


Camille and Curren Price

Terence McFarland ended the briefing by urging all present to send letters of support for AB 700, and look for more news as policymakers prepare for major budget and policy debates in early 2010.  

For more information on these and other issues, check out Arts for LA's News section and the California Arts Advocates website.







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