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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Commemorative Commissions: Overview, Structure, and Funding

Matthew Eric Glassman
Analyst on the Congress

Jacob R. Straus
Analyst on the Congress

Commemorative commissions are entities established to oversee the commemoration of a person or event. These commissions typically coordinate celebrations, scholarly events, public gatherings, and other activities, often to coincide with a milestone anniversary. For example, the Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission was created “to prepare a comprehensive program for commemorating the quincentennial of the voyages of discovery of Christopher Columbus, and to plan, encourage, coordinate, and conduct observances and activities commemorating the historic events associated with those voyages.”

Using a dataset of all commemorative commissions created by statute since the 96
th Congress (1979-1980), this report examines the content of typical legislative language used to create commemorative commissions and how commemorative commissions are funded. This report does not address noncommemorative congressional commissions, nor does it address commemorative entities created by the President or statutory commissions tasked with designing and building monuments and memorials in Washington, DC.

Statutes establishing commemorative commissions generally include language that states the mandate of the commission, provides a membership and appointment structure, outlines the commission’s duties and powers, and sets a termination date for the commission. A variety of options are available for each of these organizational choices, and legislators can tailor the composition, organization, and working arrangements of a commission, based on the particular goals of Congress. As a result, the organizational structure and powers of individual commissions are often unique.

Commemorative commissions have been funded in two ways: through appropriations or through solicitation of nonfederal money. At times, commissions are authorized both for appropriations and to fundraise or accept donations. In addition, some commemorative commissions are not provided with explicit authorization to solicit funds or accept donations. Commissions without the statutory authority to solicit funds or accept donations are generally prohibited from engaging in those activities.

For general information on congressional commissions, see CRS Report R40076, Congressional Commissions: Overview, Structure, and Legislative Considerations, by Matthew Eric Glassman and Jacob R. Straus.

Date of Report: January 22, 2013
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: R41425
Price: $29.95

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