League of Women Voters of NYS

 STATE VOTER

April 2015  



From the President

Final Call to Convention!

This is the final call to Convention! Come join your League friends to network and learn what activities other local Leagues are organizing - share your knowledge and strengthen all Leagues. Also, Convention is the time to plan the next two years of the state League's operations: officers and board are elected, budget and program planning (our positions on issues) are adopted, and the bylaws are amended. The League is only as strong as its membership so come help us celebrate our accomplishments and plan for the future! Registration form is here


 
Congratulations, Barbara!

US Senator Schumer appointed LWVNYS Legislative Director Barbara Bartoletti, as one of his two appointees to the Elections Assistance Commission's (EAC) Board of Advisors. The 37-member Board of Advisors is designated in HAVA to assist EAC in carrying out its mandates under the law. Congrats Barbara!


 
LLC Loophole

Thanks to all of our members who took action during the past couple of weeks concerning the LLC loophole. Check out the Issues and Advocacy report to see how our actions helped advance legislation to close the LLC loophole! 
 

Sally Robinson, President

League of Women Voters of NYS
robintwins@gmail.com
Facebook: League of Women Voters of NYS
Twitter: @LWVNYS
What's Your Water Footprint?
Some of you may remember hearing from Peter Hanlon of GRACE at the UN Event last fall. GRACE has just launched its new and improved Water Footprint Calculator . The Water Footprint Calculator helps users account for how much water they use every day. It adds up water used directly from the tap, plus the virtual water it takes to make the food we eat, the energy we use and all the things we buy.
IN THIS ISSUE
STATE CONVENTION
JUNE 6-7, 2015
ALBANY
The 2015 State League Convention will be held on 
June 6-7, 2015, at the Desmond Hotel in Albany.
See the Pre Convention Kit here with the Nominating Committee Report, proposed state budget and program planning, and proposed bylaw amendments. 
Travel with the League
Click here  for trips and itineraries.
2015 State League Convention
A Voice for Citizens, A Force for Change
The State League Convention will be held on June 6-7, 2015, at the Desmond Hotel in Albany. The theme is "A Voice for Citizens, A Force for Change."  
 

The final call to Convention has been announced. The Pre-Convention Kit has been mailed electronically to all members who have registered as a delegate; paper copies are available upon request. The Kit is also posted on the homepage of the state website. This Kit includes the program planning proposals, Nominating Committee report, proposed 2015-16 Budget and proposed bylaw amendments. Take a look and discuss how your delegates should represent your local League in voting on these important issues.


The Convention includes workshops on membership, leadership, voter services, advocacy, fundraising, youth programs and more on Saturday morning. Plenary session will be held in the afternoon with presentations on the proposed officers and state board members, proposed 2015-16 budget, proposed 2015-17 program planning (positions), and proposed bylaw amendments. We will also have a panel discussion on the issues surrounding a possible constitutional convention with speakers, John Faso and Richard Brodsky, both experts in this topic and former state legislators. The evening will include a reception, dinner and a presentation by MOPCo, an improv comedy group, followed by caucuses and more information sessions on issues of interest to members and local Leagues. Voting on the business items will occur on Sunday morning during plenary session. 

Come learn, share, help plan and just enjoy the company of many League friends!
Workshop in Rochester - May 9th

League workshops have been held in Albany and New York City during the past month. Many of our members attended to learn more about the organ donation tear-off attached to the voter registration forms. We also had great discussions about League activities and its future. 


 
There is one more planned workshop - on Saturday, May 9th, in Rochester (at Sperry High School in Henrietta). If you'd like to attend, just call Katrina in the state office at 518-465-4162.

 

Organ Donation Project

This innovative partnership with the New York Alliance for Donation (NYAD) isn't asking local Leagues to advocate for organ donation; the purpose is to ensure that those who are doing voter registration can answer questions about the organ donation registration included on the voter registration form. NYAD's mission is to increase organ, eye and tissue donation in New York State through collaborative advocacy, education, promotion, and research.  Their goal is to ensure a transplant for every New Yorker in need; NYS currently ranks last of all states and DC in the percentage of residents who are registered to be organ donors. NYAD and our local Leagues will coordinate a number of voter registration drives in highly populated and public areas. The hope is that we can increase both voter registrations and organ and tissue donor registrations together!

 

In order to learn more about this partnership, the League has and is offering a series of educational sessions around the state. These educational sessions will provide an overview of organ and tissue donation in New York State, specifics about the grant, role of the Leagues and important information on what is necessary to meet the project's goals and objectives.

Financial benefits will be available to local Leagues who agree to participate in the program. Local Leagues will be eligible for stipends of $100-200 and receive free and reduced cost Voter Guides. Additional materials on organ donation will also be available, as well as public relations materials for advertising voter registration drives and the partnership program. Additional money will be available to help local Leagues pay for "table fees" at specific events in their area. One person from the local League MUST attend one of the training session (the webinar on May 26th can count, too) to be eligible for these benefits and to participate in the program.

Other topics will be discussed in the afternoon training sessions. These topics may vary depending on the interest of those attending. The schedule for the workshops is as follows:

11:00-12:00     Organ Donation Program training

12:00- 1:00      Lunch (provided) and networking with League members

1:00 - 3:00      How do we get our League jobs done with the people resources we have?


 

Call the state office (518-465-4162) to join us - all members are welcome at no charge!

 

ISSUES AND ADVOCACY
Sally Robinson, robintwins@gmail.com

Election Law Reform and LLC Loophole

Thanks to all of our members who took action during the past couple of weeks concerning the LLC loophole. This loophole allows LLCs (limited liability companies) to contribute to candidates up to the same amount as an individual, rather than other types of corporations. Typically, corporations are limited to $5,000 per candidate although many exceed that limit with subsidiary corporations who are also limited to $5,000. LLCs, however, since they are treated as individuals, can contribute up to same amount as an individual, eg, $41,100 in 2014 for statewide candidates (general elections only). Large donors also easily exceed this limit by hundreds of thousands of dollars by creating multiple LLCs who can each donate that same amount.

 

Our first action alert asked members to email the state Board of Elections (BOE). The BOE created the rule in 1996 allowing LLCs to be treated as individuals. The League, with the other good government groups, asked BOE to reverse this ruling and hold LLCs to the same limits as corporations. At the April BOE meeting, the vote was tied among the 4 Commissioners so the change did not occur, arguing that only the Legislature can make that change. The League moved to the Legislature then for action. Thanks to our many members who signed the petition (over 400 League members of the 5,000 signers) urging the Senate Elections Committee to pass S60, changing the status of LLCs in relationship to campaign donations. The League again joined other good government groups at a press conference with the Senate Minority Leader pressing for Senate action. The Senate Elections Committee did pass the bill and it has moved on to the Corporations Committee (watch for another action alert shortly). On Wed, the Assembly Elections Committee also passed a bill making the change in the status for LLCs' contribution limits, moving the bill on to the Codes Committee. We couldn't have had these successes without the action from our members!

 

Women's Issues: Barb Thomas, barb.lwv@nycap.rr.com

Victory for Working Women! A6075 (S1) passed the Assembly April 27. It had already passed the Senate, so this part of the Women's Equality Act, the one that guarantees that employees can share wage information without fear of retaliation from their employer, will become law once it is signed by the governor (who negotiated the bill in the first place). The State League also participated in an Assembly Speaker's Press Conference yesterday prior to its passage in the Assembly. More women's issues still need your help - see the Legislative Packet for lobbying these other women's issues.

 

Education Investment Tax Credit, Marian Bott, sydneymab@aol.com

The Education Investment Tax Credit was dropped from the 2015-16 state budget because of the advocacy of League members and other public education supporters. We applaud the Assembly members for their staunch support of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which would drive funds to high-needs districts. This tax credit would have likely distributed funds to already wealthy districts and/or private and parochial schools. We expect the issue to be considered again this legislative session, so we've included information in the Legislative Packet and ask you to strongly urge your legislators to oppose this proposed tax credit.

 

Transportation Issues: Gladys Gifford, schuford@earthlink.net

The 2015-2016 NYS Budget has been completed.  The results for public transit are encouraging: additional funding for operating assistance as well as capital maintenance projects.  A complete run-down of transit features of the budget is available at the New York Public Transit Association (NYPTA) website, nytransit.org.   Of particular interest to some of our Leagues is the inclusion of $4 million from the state Department of Health to support rural transit systems.  In addition, the budget requires a study of transportation needs for the disabled community, to coordinate medical and non-medical transportation services.  

 

However, the budget did not include legislation that would fix structural problems for funding upstate transit systems, which face increased ridership while state funding sources are decreasing.  NYPTA reports that several legislators are interested in creating a task force to identify the problem and offer solutions.

 

Overall, the budget is favorable toward transportation infrastructure and public transit support.  We can agree with NYPTA, who says that advocacy on behalf of public transit is making a difference.  Our legislators are now aware that the public wants them to work for better transportation, as a vital part of our communities.  But the work is not done- so keep at it!

 

Action: urge legislators to create and support legislation that fixes the structural funding problem faced by upstate transit systems. See you at the LWVNYS Convention, June 5-7!


 
Legislative Packet

The Post-Budget Legislative Packet is now available (will be posted on the state website tomorrow). We are asking each local League to schedule appointments with your Assemblymembers and Senators during the month of May to lobby them on 3 issues: election law reform, women's issues and the education investment tax credit. We have included talking points to educate yourselves on the issues and also to provide a handout to the legislator when you go on the lobby visit. These visits are very important for our advocacy efforts. The legislators must hear from their constituents and then your information is helpful to our lobbying those same legislators here in Albany. Please help us make the state League even more effective in advocacy - contact your local League leadership and join them on their visit with your legislators. 

 

 

BALLOT ACCESS POSITION

Ballot Access Consensus

In New York State, candidates for elected office most often gain access to the general election ballot by obtaining political party ballot lines via various mechanisms.  The Ballot Access study, adopted at the June 2013 state convention, examined the role of political parties in the process of gaining access to the general election ballot. The study explored the process of gaining party lines on the general ballot via (1) New York's closed primary system, (2) fusion voting, and (3) Wilson Pakula certificates. The study included discussion and comparison of the different forms of primary systems and other states' experiences with fusion voting. A new position in favor of retaining fusion voting was adopted by the state Board in April, 2015.  No consensus was reached with respect to the issue of opening up state primaries to non-affiliated voters.

 
New position: The League of Women Voters of New York State supports the continuation of Fusion Voting in New York State whether or not Wilson-Pakula is repealed.  

 

Constitutional Convention Position Update
At the state League convention two years ago, the delegates voted to update our current position on Constitutional Convention with an emphasis on the method of delegate selection. The materials for the update are here and will also be sent to all local League Presidents separately. A chapter from the book, Decision 1997, published by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute, is also available here. This book is considered the most comprehensive source of information on the constitutional convention process. The excerpt includes the Delegate portion section of the Commission report and provides details on both sides of several issues related to the delegate selection process.

This is an update with a limited scope and we are not changing any of the substantive aspects of the current position. Therefore we are asking local Leagues to approve the updated position instead of  responding to questions and then the state Board developing the updated position. 

 

The memo giving the background and explaining the updated position is only a couple pages long and should be very easy to understand. If you have any questions, you can call the state office, email Laura, or email me at robintwins@gmail.com. While we recommend that you discuss the update in a general membership meeting attached to a board meeting, your board can use other methods to get input from your local League members on the update, including soliciting their input by email. Return the completed form to the state office by May 30, 2015.
MEMBERSHIP
Dare Thompson, darethompson@gmail.com

Networking opportunities continue for League members and leaders.  In connection with our training about the organ transplant option on voter registration forms we had a great conversation with several League folks from the NYC area at the LWV-NYC office on April 18 that covered everything from how to improve studies to voter service.  We'll have another such training on Sat., May 9 in Rochester  and again, after the organ transplant discussion, the lunch is free and the topics are up to you!

 

Of course State Convention offers the best networking opportunities of all. As promised, LWVUS board member and membership chair, Anne Schink, will be with us all weekend and will participate in the Sat. morning workshops on membership, particularly the one on Creative League Leadership.  She and I will also lead a discussion on evolving attitudes toward membership in the post-Boomer generations during the second Sat. night caucus sessions. 

 

We all look forward to seeing you there!

 

YOUTH PROGRAMS
Judie Gorenstein, JudieL728@aol.com

This is an extremely busy and exciting time for youth programs as we prepare and wait for the 62 students who will be arriving in Albany May17   to participate in Students Inside Albany.  The students have all sent in their signed paper work.  Remember  though it t is up to the local Leagues to arrange for the transportation for their students and make certain they have their tickets and also contact information if anything changes that day regarding their arrival times.  Once they arrive, the LWVNYS has arranged everything to enable them to have wonderful opportunities to learn about and experience their state  government, meet other interested and engaged students, and return home motivated to be involved  share with others  what they have learned.

 

As director of Youth Programs, I am also looking forward to meeting many of you at the youth programs workshop, where we can learn from one another about successful youth programs.  Members of the LWV of the Hamptons, LWV of Huntington, and Wayne County Mal will be on a panel to discuss their programs.  Other Leagues who have information they would like to share are encouraged to participate and also bring any materials they would like to distribute.  Of course, Leagues who have struggled with either getting a student for SIA or beginning a local youth program are encouraged to attend.  Discussion will focus on how the different programs can be adapted for your individual chapter and community.    

 

DEVELOPMENT
Kate Jankowski, kate@lwvny.org

The League Matters Campaign is a Success (almost!)


 

After three years, our League Matters Campaign is almost over. Thanks to over 250 donors, we have received $378,000 to-date for this special fundraising effort. Our goal is $400,000 above and beyond our normal annual fund by June 30, 2015. In order to help us reach that goal and safeguard the future of the League in New York State, several members of the state League Board of Directors have come together to offer a final match. All Campaign gifts received between now and June 30, 2015 will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, by members of our Board. If you'd like to be part of this gift match, please make a gift online here:   https://secure.lglforms.com/form_engine/s/Qz8HLNG0DucaSDLlq0BD9g. You may also send a check, made out to LWVNYS EF, to the state League office at 62 Grand Street, Albany, NY 12207. Please include, "League Matters Campaign Match" on the memo line of your check. 

LOCAL LEAGUE NEWS
The LWV of the Rivertowns hosted "Meet Your Elected Officials" on April 19th. Elected officials from the Rivertowns were available to provide information about their legislative priorities and answer constituent questions.

Representatives from the LWV of Bedford/Lewisboro/North Salem were at Fox Lane High School on Tuesday, April 21, to register voters. They set up a voter registration table outside of the school cafeteria, offering voter information and registration forms to eligible Fox Lane students. Some 23 students were registered. This League will be holding school board candidate forums on April 30 and May 4.

Professor James Kurland, Stony Brook University School of Journalism, will discuss, "Giving News Consumers the Tools and Understanding They Need to be Responsible Citizens," with the LWV of Brookhaven on April 24.

On May 15, the LWV of the Syracuse Metro Area will celebrate the 95th birthday of the national League of Women Voters. 

CHEERS to the League of Women Voters of the North Country for its perennially successful Meet Your Legislators event. See the press coverage here.  

Karen Bradley, Director of the Schenectady County Public Library, presented "Shining a Light on Literacy: Phyllis Bornt Branch Library and Literacy Center to be a Beacon of Hope for Families" on Thursday, April 16th for the LWV of Schenectady County. On May 6, this League will hear from Jackie Mancini, Director of Development, Land Trust and Housing in Schenectady.

The LWV of Albany County will host a Bethlehem School Board Meet the Candidates Night on May 5th.  The LWV of Port Washington/Manhasset hosted a candidates' forum for the five candidates running for three seats on the Port Washington School Board on April 27th.

The LWV of East Nassau held a program called, "Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning: Not Just for the Wealthy," on April 15th. Elder law attorney, Beth Polner Abrahams, discussed such topics as the necessity of using a lawyer and how to create a will that will not cause a rift in your family.

On March 4th, a total of 118 new citizens were welcomed and awarded Certificates of Naturalization at the County Office Building in White Plains. Barbara Brunner represented the LWV of Rye, Rye Brook, and Port Chester at the ceremony. Following the ceremony new citizens take advantage of the opportunity to apply for a U. S. passport and to register to vote. On the same day, this League also sponsored a lively candidates' forum for the office of Mayor of Port Chester. Candidates were Gene Ceccarelli and  Dennis Pilla.

The Leagues of Larchmont/Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, and Rye, Rye Brook, Port Chester co-hosted their annual Spring luncheon on April 21st. Their featured speaker was Professor Zephyr Teachout, a former candidate for New York Governor and an Associate Professor of Law at Fordham University.

The LWV of Huntington held an orientation meeting on April 16. New members and those interested in joining had the opportunity to hear from their board about their mission, their committees, their legislative agenda and the positions they will be advocating for, as well as the interesting programs coming up this year. This League also presented a program including the movie, "Not For Sale," A shocking & true documentary about Human Trafficking-A growing and Lucrative Industry in Our Own BACK YARD on April 30th . After the movie there were several speakers sharing their background, experience & recommendations including: Judge Ukeiley - Previous presiding judge of Human Trafficking Suffolk Court, Matthew Okerblom - Activist Federal legislation dealing with HumanTrafficking, and Shannon Speed - LMSW - Project Coordinator of Safe HARBOUR.

On March 6, the LWV of Syracuse held their annual legislative breakfast.  Approximately 40  league members and friends attended our they event and enjoyed hearing where Assembly members Bill Magnarelli and Al Stirpe and Senator David Valesky stand on the issues of interest to central New Yorkers.

The LWV of Buffalo/Niagara is holding an event titled, "Pies and Pie Charts, Budgets and Brunch" on May 16th to answer questions about the Erie County budget. They will also be hosting a membership event on May 6th called, "It Started with the Vote."

On May 11th , the LWV of Somers will be holding a meeting on the topic, "Women and Their Money" and then on May 21st , they will host their annual "Book and Authors Luncheon." This year's event will feature four authors.

The LWV of Mid-Hudson is holding, "A Discussion on America's Income Inequality," with Joel Diemond, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Dutchess Community College. The discussion will center around the questions, "Why is this such a hard topic to nail down, and why is it even harder to address?" The LWV of Smithtown is hosting a presentation by the Town Planning Department about the updated Master Plan on May 4th.

On April 13th, the LWV of the Hamptons held a successful meeting on the topic, "School Mergers: What You Need To Know." The noted panel, moderated by LWVH Education Committee chair Judi Roth, was composed of NYS Assemblyman Fred Thiele, on the role of the state; Southampton Superintendent of Schools Dr. Scott Farina, on the financial impact on budgets and taxes; Eastern Suffolk BOCES Chief Operating Officer Dr. Julie Lutz, on the role of BOCES; and Tuckahoe Superintendent of Schools, Chris Dyer, on the impact on students and curriculum. In the audience of approximately 70 people were Superintendents of Schools, school officials, school board members, parents and League members.

The LWV of Broome and Tioga Counties held a screening of "Madame Presidenta: Why Not U.S.?" with filmmaker Heather Arnet on April 23rd. The film chronicles the election of the first female president of Brazil and asks "Why not a woman president of the United States?"

The LWV of Utica/Rome in conjunction with The Mohawk Valley United Nations AssociationPresents a Hot Topic: Haiti: Medical Mission Experience January 2015 on May 6th. Presentation and slide show by Joanne Byrnes, RN.

On April 14th, the LWV of Chemung County joined the Horseheads Woman's Club to hear speaker, Deb Kuehner of Potter's Hand on the topic of Human Trafficking.

The LWV of New Rochelle is publicizing two new interviews, conducted by their members, on their local cable television program, "City People and Issues": an interview with Linda Tarrant-Reid, award winning author of African-American history and community activist, and another with Assemblywoman Amy Paulin on key legislation she is sponsoring. Each interview is shown alternating Monday nights at 7 pm and repeated Wednesday and Thursday nights at 9 pm on Cablevision Channel 76. 

The LWV of the Rochester Metro Area joined with the Social Justice Council of the First Unitarian Church to present, "The 5th Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act: Challenges of Implementation."  Sarah Liebschutz, Professor Emerita at SUNY Brockport and LWV-RMA member, moderated this expert panel: Bryan Hetherington of Empire Justice Center, Kim Wynn of Coordinated Care Services, and Christine Wagner of St. Joseph's Neighborhood Center.

On April 26th, the LWV of Shelter Island held their 8th annual State of the Town Luncheon. Supervisor Jim Dougherty addressed the community about Town business and Island issues.Annual Meeting season has begun.

Following are several local Leagues holding their Annual Meetings in late April and May:
  • On April 23rd, the LWV of Geneva held their annual meeting. During the meeting, there was a panel discussion on fair housing issues in Geneva. Speakers are attorney Murray Heaton, Real Estate Agent, Sandra Ansley and Sage Gerling of the GNRC.
  • The LWV of Brookhaven held their annual meeting on April 24th. James Klurfeld, Stony Brook University School of Journalism, spoke.
  • The LWV of Suffolk County is holding their annual convention on May 5th. Their speaker will be Suffolk County Legislator, Al Krupski, 1st LD. He will speak about his experience in the Suffolk County Legislature, the challenges and rewards of being a Legislator, the issues which are most important to the citizens of Suffolk County, and share some insights into what he expects to be the significant or urgent issues in the coming year.
  • The LWV of the North Country will hold its annual meeting on May 7th. Entertainment will be provided by Sounds of the Northway, a women's trio led by Ann Ruzo Holland. Songs pertain to social justice issues.
  • On May 8th, the LWV of Scarsdale will have their annual meeting. Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and author of Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World, will speak on the topic, "The Power of One: Stories of Inspiration from Women on the Cutting Edge of Social Change."
  • The LWV of Broome and Tioga Counties annual meeting will be on May 12th. At the meeting, Pat Donohoe presents: "Suffrage Era Sisters."
  • On May 13th, the LWV of Oneonta's annual meeting will feature speaker Billy Easton, Executive Director of the "Alliance for Quality Education in New York." He will share his insights regarding the issues and the politics of education policy in New York.
  • The LWV of Utica/Rome will hold their annual meeting on May 16th. Their topic is Ethics Reforms in NYS Government with speaker, Blair Horner, Legislative Director, New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG).
  • The LWV of the Hamptons will have their annual meeting on May 17th. New Congressman Lee Zeldin will be speaking about his agenda and priorities.
  • On May 20th, the LWV of Rensselaer County's annual meeting will feature the Honorable Richard McNally, former Rensselaer County District Attorney, now NYS Supreme Court Judge of the 3rd Judicial District. He will talk about judicial reforms and the role the District Attorney's office plays in grand juries and indictments.
  • The LWV of Chautauqua County's annual meeting will also be on May 20th. They will honor their "Leaguer of the Year," have a presentation on the "Complete Streets" program, present the Laura Paul Award for Service to Democracy, and hold a raffle fundraiser.
Congratulations to:
  • The LWV of Rensselaer County for presenting, "The Stone that Started the Ripple" last month. The play, written by LWV of Saratoga County member, Pat Nugent, was a successful fundraiser-grossing more than $1,900-and also helped call attention to the League in Rensselaer County.
  • The LWV of Saratoga County delivered 1,764 new voter registration packets for students at 13 local high schools. 

  • Diane Hofner has been chosen "Leaguer of the Year" by the LWV of Chautauqua County.She will be honored at their annual meeting in May.

League of Women Voters of New York State
62 Grand Street, Albany, NY 12207
Tel: 518-465-4162;  FAX: 518-465-0812
Facebook: League of Women Voters of NYS
Twitter: @LWVNYS