League of Women Voters of NYS


October 2015  

From the State Office
Hang in there! We're almost to Election Day! We've been answering many phone calls and emails with questions about how to register, how to get an absentee ballot, where to vote, etc - but also many from local Leagues concerning candidate forum issues. Election Day is only 10 days away - keep up the great work!

Encourage your family, friends and co-workers to go to Vote 411 for information about races and candidates in their area (if you don't have Vote 411 in your area, ask your local League how you can work to get it available next year). And, help encourage everyone to be an informed voter! 

Jennifer Wilson, the new Director of Program and Policy at the state office, created this short YouTube to advertise Vote 411. We've posted it on our facebook page and twitter account - feel free to post it, too.

Thanks for all of your hard work this fall - we couldn't do it without the help from so many of our members. And, don't forget to take a friend, family member or co-worker with you to vote on November 3.

Laura Ladd Bierman, Executive Director
League of Women Voters of NYS
Facebook: League of Women Voters of NYS
Twitter: @LWVNYS
Chocolates in the League Logo
Announcing a new chocolate treat just in time for Halloween, Thanksgiving or any holiday - the League logo chocolate.
The state League now offers customized logo chocolates to use for volunteer recognition or just a fun gift for your fellow League members. The chocolates are made at Krause's Homemade Candy in Albany, NY and shipped to you.
There is a minimum order of 10 chocolates and they can be made in milk, white, or dark chocolate. You can order multiple types of chocolate in one order (for example, 15 pieces with 5 white, 5 milk, and 5 dark). Chocolates arrive wrapped in cellophane bags and tied with ribbons.
The price is $2/piece (includes tax) with additional shipping costs depending on how many you order:
  • 10 - 80 pieces--$2/piece with $12 shipping
  • More than 80 pieces--$2/piece with $20 shipping
Please call the state League office at (518) 465-4162 to place your order. The chocolates are custom made for each order so please allow one to two weeks for delivery.

Travel with the League
Click here  for trips and itineraries.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton's 200th Birthday
Vote 411 - Find Your Race and Candidate Info
Check out Vote411.org for more information about races in your area!

Thursday, December 3
The state League is pleased to offer its annual League Day at the United Nations on Thursday, December 3, 2015. This year's briefings will cover two topics: Global Healthcare Issues and Educating the Youth of the World. The briefings this year will be held in the morning, from 10:00-12 noon, followed by lunch in the Delegates' Dining Room and optional tours of the UN in the afternoon. Click here for the registration form.

We will have two one-hour briefings this year. Speakers won't be announced until closer to the event, but the topics of global healthcare and education of youth are constantly in the news and updates from specialists in these fields will present timely information and be available for questions and answers.

The renovations at the UN have been completed so even if you attended before, the tour will cover more and different areas of the facility than in the past. And, lunch in the Delegates' Dining Room is always such a treat - so beautiful looking over the East River and wonderful food. Come join the fun!
Judie Gorenstein, JudieL728@aol.com
Voter Service drives for this year's elections are over and most Leagues have already held their candidate forums or debates.  It was apparent by the 52 persons that were initially on our scheduled teleconference call on Sept. 28 that local Leagues are interested in discussing and learning how to have a successful candidate night. Unfortunately technical difficulties occurred in that call after the first half hour when we were discussing the "Empty Chair Policy." Many people were unable to get back on that call. Those who were able to do so, discussed concerns regarding controlling the audience and candidates, as well as the taping and airing of the debates.
A follow up conference call was held on Oct. 5, when we reviewed and discussed Empty Chair, control, and taping.  It became apparent that Leagues are struggling with what they can and cannot do. Information on what must be done when candidates are running for federal office and what is strongly recommended in other races can be found in The Road to the Voting Booth Part II. Voter Service chairs, Presidents or any members are encouraged to either download here or purchase the 2011 revised edition for the cost of $5.00 (call the state office to order your copy). 

Sally Robinson, robintwins@gmail.com
2016 Legislative Agenda and Legislative Priorities 
Now is the time for your local League to have input on the state League's 2016 advocacy in Albany.   Last year we debuted a new Legislative Agenda document for distribution:  a booklet with more information on each of the main issues that we monitor. With this new approach, we believe that members, the public and legislators are able to see the full breadth of issues (rather than the few listed on the former Legislative Agenda brochure) that we are monitoring, even if we don't expect to accomplish all of these during this session. 
The state board still needs and wants your input on our lobbying priorities.  Please encourage your local League to discuss with its members their suggestions and concerns - what are the issues that they want the state League to lobby this coming legislative session.  Once we have responses from the local Leagues, our Issue Specialists will consider them and make recommendations to the Board, but as always League resources and the evolving politics of issues will also influence our goals for the session. Please make sure your local League shares its opinions with us now! 

The state League Needs You!
We are still looking for volunteers for three different issues-related committees.  Please email me (or Laura@lwvny.org) with any questions about the committees.
If you have an interest in serving on the study committee for the Legislative Procedures update, please contact the state office (Katrina@lwvny.org).  The update would be focused on two aspects of our current position in particular, although it might consider other parts:
  1. the reference to a part-time legislature
  2. the ambiguous reference to length of terms. 
A recent LWVUS announcement interpreted the Meeting Basic Human Needs position to permit state and local Leagues to lobby in support of raising state or local minimum wages or adopting a living wage position. The state League is forming a committee of League volunteers to look at the issue and possibly make a recommendation on a state minimum wage to the Board.  For more information on the living wage concurrence, contact Barb Thomas at barb.lwv@nycap.rr.com.
We are also forming a long-range program planning committee to look at the last decade or two of program planning, what studies and updates were undertaken, and analyze the effort involved and the results.  Please email or call the state office (Katrina@lwvny.org or 518-465-4162) if you are interested in serving on either committee.  
Carol Mellor, carolmellor140@gmail.com
State Conference Call: LWVUS Study on Amending the US Constitution 
Two interrelated studies were adopted at the LWVUS convention in June of 2014 joined under the umbrella topic of "Structures of Democracy": the Constitutional Amendment Process study and the Money in Politics (MIP) review and update. Although they were originally on the same timeline with a deadline for reporting results of February 1, 2016, the deadline for the Constitutional Amendment Process study completion was moved up to December 1, 2015. 

The state league would like to offer help to local Leagues and their members who want to complete these studies and report the answers to LWVUS. We are offering a conference call to all members to go over the LWVUS materials on each of the studies. Results will still have to be reported by the local Leagues as Leagues to LWVUS. The Constitutional Amendment call will be on Monday, November 16, at 7:00 pm. We need you to RSVP as soon as possible by email to Laura@lwvny.org that you want to be on the call and we will get back to you with information for the call. A separate conference call will be held in December to review the Money in Politics materials and study - watch for the date and time of that call. The LWVUS materials on the Constitutional Amendment study can be found at http://forum.lwv.org/category/member-resources/our-work/constitutional-amendment-study, and the LWVUS materials on the MIP review and update can be found at http://forum.lwv.org/category/member-resources/our-work/money-politics-review.

Constitutional Amendment Study Background for the November 16 Conference Call
This study is not about any particular amendment; rather it is about establishing guidelines for evaluating amendments

Questions to Consider for Guidelines to Evaluate Proposed Constitutional Amendments
The study asks us to first decide what constitutes an appropriate and well-crafted amendment. This is accomplished by addressing the following issues. 

1. Should amendments be made to the constitution only when they address extreme problems and long term needs or should overwhelming public sentiment in favor of the change override exercise of restraint?
Historically, the Constitution was only been amended a very few times, reflecting the exercise of great restraint of the American people to use this tool. This question asks whether the League favors the use of the amendment process only when the matter at hand is of extreme importance and has long term repercussions, or the reluctanceto amend the constitution can be overridden when the public is very much in favor of the change. 

2. How important is it that the wording of the amendment be effective in achieving its policy objective? In other words, should we support an amendment that may be unenforceable or miss the objective or have unintended consequences with the view that the Courts and legislature can sort it out over time? 
This question speaks to the issue of how carefully the proposed amendment should be crafted. In other words, should we demand that the proposal be drafted so that it is sure to achieve its goals, or should we support a less precise proposal which might not reach its goal, or have unintended consequences relying on the courts and legislature to sort it out.

3. Should we only support amendments that make our political system more democratic or support individual rights, or should we not be constrained by these parameters?
Most of our amendments have either been aimed at making our country more democratic or protecting individual rights ( I.e. The Bill of Rights and lowering the voting age). Should we limit our support of future amendments to those which foster these goals, or should we not consider these parameters as important to whether to support a proposal.

4. Should we only support amendments with policy objectives which cannot be achieved by legislation or a political approach which are easier to achieve than amending the constitution? 
It is very hard to change the Constitution and much easier to pass/change a law. Should we only support constitutional amendments which have goals which cannot be achieved by other means, such as legislation or executive action.

5. Should we take into consideration whether the public policy objective is more suited to a constitutional (i.e. general) approach or a legislative (i.e. specific) approach? 
Constitutional provisions are very broad (e.g. Congress shall make no law abridging the right to speech); legislation is very specific (e.g. It is unlawful to threaten the life of the President). In assessing a proposal, should we take into consideration whether the problem is best solved by a general or a specific approach.

The second part of the study considers the possibility of convening a Constitutional Convention to consider the passage of a proposed amendment. This process has never been successfully used and so it is rife with questions such as how it would work, who would be the delegates, how they would be chosen and what the convention could consider once convened. The first questions for study consider these and other questions; the second part asks whether, given the uncertainty of the process, we should support any call for a constitutional convention. The final question asks, basically, whether it is more important to foster our positions, or to ensure that the process of amending the constitution is done carefully and correctly.
Barb Thomas, barb.lwv@nycap.rr.com
Finally, on October 21st Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the eight Women's Equality bills that the legislature passed this year.  Congratulations to all of you who worked so hard to get this done! The Leagues and their members were an important part of the 850 organizations who made up the Women's Equality Coalition. 
The missing plank of the WEA - protection for reproductive rights - didn't even get introduced into the Senate this year. This situation isn't likely to change until after the election in 2016, so for the upcoming legislative session I encourage Leagues to put their energy into the campaign for Paid Family Leave Insurance (PFLI) and to work in coalition with other groups working for PFLI.   PFLI isn't exclusively a women's issue, but since caregiving, whether for children or the ailing, has fallen most heavily on the shoulders of women, it is of great importance to women's economic and social welfare.   
LWVUS Studies
LWVUS Studies: 
Money in Politics and Constitutional Amendment Process
Money in Politics Materials
The Money in Politics Introduction and Overview paper is now posted. This paper provides a comprehensive overview of the existing LWV position on Campaign Finance, the proposed update, League action on Campaign Finance, the purpose of a campaign finance system and why Money in Politics matters to the League of Women Voters. Newly posted is a brief background paper (2 pages) on the current LWVUS Money in Politics Review and Update. This short paper provides key points of the MIP Review including scope of work, timeline, current position, background and history. Feel free to use this paper as a handout for your MIP events, as notes for an introduction to an event, as talking points, or as a newsletter article. For additional information, please contact Barbara Zia, MIP Committee Chair at MIPCommitteeChair@lwv.org.
Constitutional Amendment Study Materials
Subscribe to the newly-formed Yahoo group to discuss the League Constitutional Amendment Study and share information with other League members. To subscribe, send an email message to this address: lwvconamend-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. You will receive an email back inviting you to join the discussion group. Follow the instructions in this email and you will be signed up for the CA discussion group. Be sure to check out the Constitutional Amendment page on the LWV web site, which includes the Study Guide, Consensus Questions and background materials. Questions can be sent to Pat Donath, CACommitteeChair@lwv.org.
Kate Jankowski, kate@lwvny.org
Local Leagues are using all kinds of techniques to get people out to vote on Election Day - and to educate them on the races and candidates. 

In the northeast part of the state, thanks to Stewart's Shops, Vote 411 is advertised on milk cartons.

In Suffolk County on Long Island, the League placed signs in English and Spanish to advertise Vote 411 in the buses. The LWV in Tompkins County also had posters placed in county buses. 

And, in White Plains, the League secured space on electronic billboards, thanks to the town.

The LWV of Brookhaven had a very successful membership tea at which three new members joined. They are also planning their annual UN Dinner for October 23rd. Speakers for the Dinner are:  Maddie Joinnidis, Rae and Emmy Specht, and Clara Walker. They will speak about the charity they created to help fight the poverty they saw when they visited Cambodia-Four Girls for Families.
The LWV of Huntington is hosting a Meet the Candidates night for Suffolk County Legislature, Huntington Town Council, and Receiver of Taxes candidates this month. LWV of Huntington also registered voters at the Long Island Fall Festival (photo on right).
On October 9th the LWV of the Syracuse Metro Area co-hosted the Syracuse Commissioners of Education Forum at Huntington School. The event was sponsored by Parents for Public Schools. (photo on left) League Members were also there to register voters. This League will be hosting a "Raise the Age" concurrence meeting this month.
During this month, the LWV of Tompkins County hosted a forum called, "Our Electric Grid - Our Energy Future :What Will a Modern Electric Grid Mean for All of Us in New York State?"
Approximately 80 people attended a State of the Three Towns Meeting organized by LWV of Bedford, Lewisboro and North Salem; the three Town Supervisors presented information on the past year's activities. 

The LWV of White Plains hosted two programs this month. The first was a candidates forum for the candidates for Common Council and County Legislature and the second was an update on the White Plains Hospital presented by its new President and CEO, Susan Fox.
In early November, the LWV of Chautauqua County will hold a consensus meeting on Money in Politics. They are also hosting four meet the candidates nights in October.

The LWV of the Rochester Metro Area co-hosted a presentation on Constitutional Convention titled, "Nuts, Bolts and Monkey Wrenches of a NYS Constitutional Convention." 
Their co-host was the Interfaith Alliance of Rochester and presenters were Peter J. Galie, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Canisius College; and The Honorable Brian M. Kolb, Assemblyman of the 131st District and the Assembly Minority Leader. Listen to the speakers being interviewed on the radio here. They also hosted a variety of voter registration drives including one at Susan B. Anthony House on National Voter Registration Day and one on Constitution Day at the College at Brockport. 
The LWV of Saratoga County hosted three candidate forums in October and they are also hosting a Constitutional Amendment Study Presentation and Consensus meeting. They also put on a successful update of The Stone That Started the Ripple over the summer:  More than 200 enthusiastic audience members-Standing Room Only- poured into Skidmore's Filene Hall, on Women's Equality Day, Aug. 26, to hear straight talk from "back-to-life" Suffragists. These revolutionary women had come to discuss with us what progress, if any, had been made in women's equality issues during the 95 years since the 19th Amendment, in 1920. They came to us in the play, The Stone That Started the Ripple, written by former LWVSC President, Patricia Nugent, and performed by director Lezlie Dana's group, Saratoga's Humanitarian Youth for Transformation. The fundraiser raised almost $1,000 for the League.

Members and friends of the LWV or Rensselaer County recently toured two historic sites in downtown Troy-the Kate Mullaney House and the Hart-Cluett Mansion. In photo on left,  Paul Cole, Director of the Kate Mullaney House gives LWV Rensselaer County members a tour. The site is a work in progress, but significant.  This League also hosted several voter registration events during September and October and were invited to oversee the library budget and trustee elections for two local libraries.

The LWV of Schenectady County hosted four voter registration drives and five candidates forums this month. They are also currently recruiting volunteers to help with their 15th annual "Take Me to Vote" project where they work with local elementary schools to encourage parents to take their kids to vote with them.
Michael Kaplowitz, Chair, Westchester County Board of Legislartors, addressed a meeting of the LWV of Somers last month.

Buffalo City Court Judge Susan Eagan was the speaker at a recent meeting of the LWV of Buffalo/Niagara to discuss the Raise the Age concurrence.
The LWV of East Nassau is hosting three candidate forums in October. They are also planning a meeting in mid-November to discuss, "Juvenile Justice Issues in New York State." This meeting will serve as their consensus meeting on the "Raise the Age" concurrence.
The LWV of Albany County is planning four candidate forums for October and they also held a concurrence meeting on "Raise the Age" in September.
LWV Mid Hudson Region enjoyed a Fall Gathering Salad Supper at the Town of Esopus Library in Port Ewen October 20th.  Here (on right) NYS  League President Dare Thompson introduces local farmer Dan Guenther and Professor of Sociology at SUNY New Paltz Brian Obach, author of "Organic Struggle: the Movement for Sustainable Agriculture in the United States." 

LWV of Mid Hudson also congratulated its good friend and frequent advisor on all things governmental, Dr. Gerald Benjamin ("Jerry" to almost all), on the renaming of the center he heads up at SUNY New Paltz. Formerly the Center for Research, Regional Education, and Outreach (CRREO), it is now very appropriately being called the Benjamin Center. This brief video was created for the public celebration of the renaming on 9/30/15 and features one of our LWV-MHR members, Dare Thompson, currently LWVNYS president and a member of the Center's advisory board. 
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