Three states consider bills barring public agencies from disclosing nonprofit donor information

Thus far this year, lawmakers in at least three states – Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee – have introduced bills that would bar public agencies from publicly disclosing identifying information about nonprofit donors.  

What the bills propose

The four bills (HSB28 and SSB1036 in Iowa, LB370 in Nebraska, and HB0159 in Tennessee) propose largely similar policies. All four would prohibit public agencies from: 

  • Requiring tax-exempt 501(c) groups to provide public agencies with personal identifying information about their donors, members, supporters or volunteers. 
  • Releasing any personal identifying information public agencies might possess. 

These prohibitions would not apply to requests for personal identifying information made “pursuant to a lawful warrant issued by a court of competent jurisdiction.” 

Under the Iowa bills, an individual alleging a violation of the law could bring a civil action seeking damages of at least $2,500 for each violation. For intentional violations, this amount would increase to a maximum of $7,500. The Iowa bills also define criminal penalties for knowing violations of the law: imprisonment for up to 90 days, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. 

The Nebraska and Tennessee bills do not define the associated civil and criminal penalties with comparable specificity. 

Bill status and political context   

Iowa: HSB28 and SSB1036 were introduced in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate, respectively, on Jan. 13. The state legislature’s website does not identify sponsors for either bill. HSB28b has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. SSB1036 is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Political context: Iowa has been a Republican trifecta since 2016. That means Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. 

Nebraska: Sen. Rita Sanders (R) introduced LB370 on Jan. 15. It is pending before the Judiciary Committee. 

Political context: Nebraska has been a Republican trifecta since 1999. 

Tennessee: Rep. Ryan Williams (R) introduced HB0159 on Jan. 13. It has not yet been assigned to committee. 

Political context: Tennessee has been a Republican trifecta since 2011. 

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 15 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Recent legislative actions

For complete information on all of the bills we are tracking, click here

  • Nebraska LB370: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Referred to Judiciary Committee Jan. 15.
  • New York S01464: This bill would require that state legislators who receive contributions for the payment of legal services disclose the identities of donors.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Introduced and referred to Senate Ethics and Internal Governance Committee Jan. 12.
  • Tennessee HB0159: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Introduced Jan. 14.

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