Legislative Updates

 

Constitutional Amendment Limiting First Amendment

  • NRB Position: Oppose
  • Summary: This proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution would serve as a limitation on the First Amendment. Frustrated with the U.S. Supreme Court's opinions on campaign finance and political speech, specifically the Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings, Democrats rallied around this proposal from Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) in 2014. The legislative language states that it would not abridge freedom of the press but does not identify other First Amendment freedoms.
  • Status: When then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) brought this up for a vote shortly before the 2014 elections, NRB warned that this could establish the press as a super-class of speaker and leave other free expression at the mercy of the federal government. All members of the Senate Democrat caucus supported advancing this legislation, but it was halted from advancing by most Senate Republicans in a procedural vote. Amendments to the U.S. Constitution require 2/3 support in both the House and the Senate, and then ratification by 3/4 of the States.

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Equality Act

  • NRB Position: Oppose
  • Summary: The so-called Equality Act is a misnomer. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), would add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" as protected classes in numerous sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and like its much narrower predecessor, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, it does not have an effective exemption for religious employers. In fact, it would specifically forbid any appeal to the broad, bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 in the case of any court challenge stemming from this bill. In this aggressive attack on RFRA, the Equality Act appears to be drafted as a sword against those who only wish to live daily according to the tenets of their faith regarding marriage and human sexuality. Significantly, RFRA simply provides a balancing test that ensures deference to the constitutional right of religious liberty unless there is a "compelling government interest" achieved by the "least restrictive means."
  • Status: The Equality Act was introduced in July 2015, within a month of the Supreme Court's Obergefell ruling on marriage. By the end of the 114th Congress, the bill attracted the support of 179 Representatives and 43 Senators.

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Fair Play Fair Pay Act 

  • NRB Position: Oppose
  • Summary: The so-called Fair Play Fair Pay Act would pave the way for a "performance fee" to be attached to every piece of music played on a terrestrial radio station. This bill would establish a new performance royalty right for terrestrial radio, a record label-preferred royalty rate-setting structure for other media, and support for new royalties for pre-1972 recordings.
  • Status: Introduced in April 2015, it had the support of 42 Representatives at the conclusion of the 114th Congress. NRB opposes a radio performance tax in any form and voiced concern with this proposal.

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First Amendment Defense Act 

  • NRB Position: Support
  • Summary: The First Amendment Defense Act, sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), is written to be a shield against attempts by the federal government to use tax treatment, licensing, grants, and the like to coerce or discriminate against individuals or organizations that merely wish to live in light of their religious conviction that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This bill is very important after the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges marriage ruling, particularly after the shocking admission by former U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli to the Justices that tax treatment of religious organizations upholding biblical marriage is "certainly going to be an issue."
  • Status: This bill was introduced in June 2015 and ended the 114th Congress with the support of 173 Representatives and 38 Senators. NRB has urged its approval in its original form.

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Free Speech Fairness Act 

  • NRB Position: Support
  • SummaryThis legislation is aimed at lifting the political speech burden of the "Johnson Amendment" off of churches and other nonprofit organizations. In particular, the Free Speech Fairness Act would clarify that political statements by 501(c)(3) organizations are permissible, as long as they are made in the ordinary course of the organization's activities and any expenditures related to them are de minimis.
  • Status: NRB supports this bill, which relates to a campaign promise of U.S. President Donald Trump. Introduced in the 115th Congress on February 1, 2017 by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) in the House and Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) in the Senate, it currently has the support of 15 Representatives and 3 Senators. 

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Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act

  • NRB Position: Support
  • Summary: The Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act is intended to protect the privacy of donor information currently required on Form 990 Schedule B's. This bill was spurred in part by the leak of National Organization for Marriage's Schedule B to political opponents, as well as other alleged mishandling of such information by some state attorneys general.
  • Status: Sponsored last year by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), it had 17 Senators signed on in support at the end of the 114th Congress, and it was previously approved by the House of Representatives in a 240 – 182 vote on June 14, 2016.  

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The Local Radio Freedom Act 

  • NRB Position: Support
  • Summary: Sponsored by Rep. Michael Conaway (R-TX) and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) in the House and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in the Senate, this Concurrent Resolution declares that Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station for broadcasting sound recordings over-the-air, or on any business for such public performance of sound recordings.
  • Status: These resolutions are pending review in the House Judiciary and the Senate Commerce Committees. Introduced in the new Congress on January 24, 2017, it currently has the bipartisan support of 129 Representatives and the 12 Senators. The recruitment of additional cosponsors for these resolutions should be encouraged to further discourage attempts to slip performance tax language into any legislation. NRB opposes a radio performance tax in any form.

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