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Dec. 12, 2017

Tax Reform Update
In November, the House passed its tax reform bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), by a vote of 227 to 205. No Democrats voted for the bill. Only 13 Republicans (from high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California) voted against it.

The Senate marked up its version of the tax reform bill before the Thanksgiving recess. The full Senate debated the bill last week and passed it on Dec. 2. The final vote was 51-49, with all Democrats and one Republican Senator, Bob Corker (R-TN), voting against it.

Generally, both the House and Senate tax reform bills lower individual and corporate tax rates and set a new rate for so-called “pass-through” businesses that pay taxes at the individual rate. To pay for the rate cuts, the bill eliminated several tax deductions and credits.

The Senate bill has some substantial differences from the House-passed tax reform bill that will have to be resolved in a conference committee between the two chambers. The House and Senate appointed their conferees to the tax bill this week. Because of the Republicans’ narrow majority in the Senate, we expect the final version of the tax bill to be closer to the Senate bill than the House bill when negotiations are completed.

Items to Highlight
One of the key differences in the two versions of the bill is that the Senate bill repeals the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual health insurance mandate. The House, which has repeatedly voted to repeal the ACA, is expected to agree to the Senate provision on this.

Other highlights of the two bills include:
  • Both the House and Senate bills maintain the deduction for charitable contributions and increase the limit on cash contributions to qualified organizations from 50% to 60% of taxable income. However, both bills increase the standard deduction for individuals, which will likely have a negative impact on charitable giving since fewer taxpayers are expected to itemize their taxes. The Senate bill increases the standard deduction to $12,000 for single filers to $24,000 for joint filers, which is slightly less than the House version of $12,700 for single filers and $24,400 for joint filers.
  • Both the House and Senate bills retain the Adoption Tax Credit, which provides up to $13,570 in tax savings per adopted child under current law. However, the House bill repeals the exclusion from income for employer-provided adoption assistance.
  • The Senate bill makes no changes to the “Johnson Amendment,” which bars political campaign activity by churches and other 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations. However, the House bill repeals the Johnson Amendment for churches and related auxiliaries, starting in 2019. The provision would sunset in 2023.
The conferees will begin negotiations later this week on a final tax bill, which Republicans expect to approve before the end of the year. Compromises will be made in the conference committee. However, the final bill is expected to be closer to the Senate version since they can only afford to lose 2 Republican Senate votes and still pass the bill.

VOCA Funding
As you may have seen, there has been a number of reports about the potential impact of federal Pay-as-You-Go Act (PAYGO) rules and the tax reform bill. In simple terms, PAYGO rules require that any legislation that adds to the federal deficit must be paid for with spending cuts, revenue increases or other offsets. If the tax bill currently being debated in Congress adds to the deficit, Congress would need to take action to waive the PAYGO rules in order to avoid triggering automatic cuts to certain mandatory spending accounts, such as the Crime Victims Fund (including Victims of Crime Acts, or VOCA, funding), Medicare, Social Services Block Grant and others.

PAYGO rules can be waived through legislation and have been in the past for other tax cuts. Options include adding a provision to the tax bill itself, passing a separate bill to exempt the tax bill from PAYGO scoring, or adding the waiver to another bill moving through Congress. Concerns have been raised that Congress may not agree to address the PAYGO issue, which would then result in automatic cuts to these critical programs. While the resolution may require bipartisan support, there is no indication from either Congressional Republicans or Democrats that this is going to be an issue. While the tax bill will pass with only Republican support, Democrats will work with them to address the PAYGO issue and prevent drastic cuts to mandatory programs.

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2018 Conference Program

Now that registration is open for the March 10-13, 2018 National CASA/GAL Conference at the Boston Sheraton Hotel, we want to keep you informed about the program and important dates.

Participating Organizations
Conference speakers are confirmed from the following organizations, with many more in the works: Don't Miss the Chance to Nominate Programs and Colleagues for the Awards of Excellence
The Awards of Excellence is the highlight of the annual National CASA/GAL conference. It embodies who we are as a network, and it demonstrates our mission through the power of storytelling. Help us highlight your program’s achievements, people, and partners by submitting nominations for our six awards. Winning programs will receive a financial award, a consultation with National CASA staff on how to promote the program and/or individual’s work in your media market, and a free trip to the conference in Boston for the award recipient.

Award details and nomination forms are located here.
Key Upcoming Dates

Questions? Contact us through conference@casaforchildren.org. We look forward to seeing you in Boston!

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2017-18 Local Program Grant Awards

National CASA launched the 2017-18 local programs grant opportunities with up to $1 million in combined Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and Jewelers for Children (JFC) funding available for award. This competitive grants process had a category for Rural and Tribal programs and another category for Suburban and Urban programs. Applications were received from 95 applicants: 33 Rural and 62 Urban/Suburban programs (no tribal programs applied).

The applications were reviewed by panels of National CASA staff and external contract reviewers. As a result of the review and funding recommendations process, 32 applicants from 17 states were selected for award.

A list is available on the Grants Program page. The awards totaled $1,108,600, exceeding the $1 million initially slated for local programs.

Please direct any questions regarding state or local grant awards to grants@casaforchildren.org.

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Comments Sought by Dec. 29:
State Standards and CASA/GAL Core Model

National CASA is seeking your input on two important bodies of work. There are documents you can review to email your input, and we have organized a community call as another way to learn more and provide feedback.

New Standards for State CASA/GAL Organizations
This past September National CASA sought network-wide input on several documents to guide the development of new CASA/GAL standards for state organizations and local programs. We thank all who participated and provided feedback to further improve those guiding documents. We are now pleased to share and seek input on the newly proposed Standards for State CASA/GAL Organizations.

National CASA worked in partnership with the State Leadership Council to develop these standards to ensure each is essential to our mission, measurable and clear. Please take this opportunity to review the proposed standards and provide your input.

Document available for review:
CASA/GAL Core Model
National CASA has developed a core model that describes the foundational elements to be a CASA/GAL member program. The core model will assist all of us in:
  • Defining our work to courts, children, partners and the community so they know what to expect from us
  • Further developing and protecting our brand; when you hear CASA, you know what it means
  • Having elements on which to measure our work as we move toward an evidence based model, have a consistent model to measure.
The process to form this core model began in 2016. It has involved gathering input from the local, state and national leadership councils and presenting to the National Board of Trustees for guidance and decision-making.
Documents available for review:
How to Provide Input
  • Questions and input about these two bodies of work can be emailed to QA@casaforchildren.org by Dec. 29.
  • You also can participate in a community call to learn more and provide real-time feedback. The community call will be from noon-1:30 p.m. Pacific time Dec. 21. Anyone interested is invited to participate on the community call. Registration is required. Registration will be open up until 15 minutes before the start of the call.
After the comment period we will consider all feedback as we continue with these initiatives. Once further developed, we will report back on our progress.

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Look Out for Network Satisfaction Survey
National CASA is conducting its annual satisfaction survey. The results are used to inform both state organizations and National CASA about how we are doing and how we can best support local programs and state organizations.
An announcement with the survey link will be emailed Friday, Dec. 15.

Data gathered from this survey will inform National CASA and state organizations on the most effective strategies for partnering in support of local programs for high quality advocacy and service for children. This survey represents one of several components in a process to create individual state development and growth plans to strengthen and grow the CASA/GAL network.

Renew Membership by Dec. 31
National CASA appreciates your commitment to best interest advocacy for abused and neglected children in your community. We look forward to continuing to serve you as a full member of the National CASA Association.

To remain a full member in good standing, your 2017 membership dues must be paid by Dec. 31, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time. Invoices were mailed to members on Sept. 30. If you have not made your payment, please make sure to do so before the deadline. Programs that have not paid their dues by Dec. 31 will lose the benefits of membership.

We also are introducing a renewal certificate beginning in 2018. This certificate will signify that your organization is in ‘good standing’ with National CASA by completing the annual survey and submitting payment of annual dues for the membership year. Certificates will be mailed in January.

If you have any questions about the membership renewal process, please contact memberservices@casaforchildren.org.

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  • BoardSource – a reminder to tap BoardSource as a membership benefit to access a variety of governance resources. Complete the sign-up form if you haven’t already. And bookmark the site to reference often.
  • Working with Volunteers in Organized GroupsEveryone Ready is another member benefit and the featured training topic through Feb. 2 exploring partnerships with corporations, school programs, religious groups or other community groups
  • Tip Sheet for Incarcerated Parents: Planning for a Visit from Your Child/Children – a 2017 resource from youth.gov.
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Questions? Input? Story Ideas? Contact us at marketing@casaforchildren.org

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