Please join MNA in protecting the integrity, reputation and agenda of Montana’s charitable nonprofits by opposing SB307.
This week we are issuing our second Action Alert of the Legislative Session. We’ll fill you in on how last week went, but first, here’s what’s up. On Friday, SB307 will be heard in Senate Judiciary. The bill, which will revise reporting requirements for nonprofits and charitable trusts, was requested by Representative Amy Regier (R) HD6 and sponsored by Sen. Mark Nolan (R) SD5. SB307 would prohibit state regulators from establishing annual filing and/or reporting requirements for any type of nonprofit without legislative authorization. It prevents regulators, such as the Attorney General’s office or the Commissioner of Political Practices Office, from either loosening or tightening current regulations without legislative action.
To understand why MNA will oppose a donor privacy bill, let’s look at who is behind the bill and what problem they are trying to solve. This article explains where the push is coming from and why it’s happening. Donor privacy bills almost identical to this are making their way across the national nonprofit network as part of a partisan political agenda.
Here is our message to legislators.
MNA is OPPOSED to this bill for these reasons:
- Nonprofits are not asking for this. Charitable nonprofits work in partnership with government in Montana. The current filing and reporting requirements are not burdensome or worrisome. In fact, recent reports show that, for nonprofits, Montana is one of the least regulated states. The entities most impacted by this bill are not asking for it. SB307 is a solution looking for a problem.
- Public trust depends on a balance. The charitable sector values privacy, but it also values reasonable transparency and accountability. Montanans rely on nonprofits to provide services, and also expect nonprofits to manage finances, engage with government, and remain politically nonpartisan. The privacy-transparency balance in our state is working. Let’s not break it.
- There will be unintended consequences. This legislation would freeze all existing reporting requirements in place, subject to legislative action – which only takes place every two years. Any reasonable reforms that charitable organizations or state administrators truly seek and want would be subject to part-time, partisan legislative activity. How is that better for nonprofits?
- Donor anonymity is protected in the First Amendment. Donor privacy is a first amendment right. Challenges to this right have been overturned by the Supreme Court. Why do we need additional state law?
The bottom line is this. When donor privacy is replaced by donor secrecy, the charitable nonprofit sector has been hijacked by partisan interests. Ask yourself who stands to gain from this legislation. Charitable nonprofits will not be stronger if this legislation passes. Quite the opposite. As transparency is weakened, our integrity, reputation and credibility are also weakened.
Three things you can do:
- Join us in person at the hearing on Friday, February 17, 9:00 a.m. in Senate Judiciary, Room 303.
- Submit online comments here or register to attend via Zoom here. Please adapt our message points and make them your own.
- Do you live or work in the same district as one of the Committee members? Reach out with a personal message.
User Fee on Exempt Property
Thank you for reaching out to your legislators to oppose HB391, which would require a local user fee on exempt property. The hearing included no proponents and about 30 opponents, including MNA. Now we wait for the promised amendments, which still will not be reason for us to withdraw opposition to what amounts to a tax on tax exempt organizations.