League of Women Voters of NYS


December 2015  

From the State Office
Happy Holidays! I hope everyone is enjoying this un-winter like weather as we know it can't last much longer!

We had a wonderful event at the United Nations earlier this month. Over 100 people heard remarks from two speakers: first on women and education, with focus on prevention of sexual violence against women, and the second, on peacekeeping operations and counter-terrorism efforts. Rosalee Keech, LWVUS UN Observer, also spoke about the League's role in the development and history of the UN. Lunch in the Delegates' Dining Room was delicious as usual and the tours of the UN included all assemblies as the renovations are finally finished! Photos, information on the speakers and their remarks and more are all available on the state website here

We have a busy 2016 coming up - the State of the State is scheduled for January 13 with the Governor's proposed budget being presented then, too. The Legislature will keep us active again - we've already taken action on a number of issues which you can see on the homepage of the state website. Then, we'll have regional workshops open to ALL MEMBERS: March 5 in NYC, March 12 in Saratoga, April 2 in Syracuse and April 9 in Buffalo - watch for registration info in early January. 

We are also beginning plans for the 2016 Students Inside Albany Conference when 60 high school students will come to Albany for 4 days of workshops and shadowing their Assemblymember and Senator. See more info on the Youth page of the website and make sure that your local League has told us if they are sending a student!

I'd like to copy comments offered by Deb Morel, President of the LWV of Scarsdale, in their newsletter. I believe it sums up the feeling of many local League members and gives us motivation for the coming year.
"In my experience, the members of the League of Women Voters- from the national League to each state, county and local League-are like those eternally optimistic New Year resolution makers. We see unacceptable circumstances and we decide to try and change them. Yes, it's hard work. Yes, we have setbacks. Yes, we fail sometimes even though we've tried our best and done everything we can think of to succeed. But we never let failure stop us from trying again and we never rest on our laurels when we do succeed."

Happy New Year to all from the state League staff!

(l to r) Kate, Katrina, Laura, Jennifer and Lisa

Laura Ladd Bierman, Executive Director
League of Women Voters of NYS
Facebook: League of Women Voters of NYS
Twitter: @LWVNYS
Travel with the League
Click here  for trips and itineraries.
Regional Training Workshops
Thursday, December 3
Over 100 League members and friends convened at the 
United Nations on Thursday, December 3rd, for the annual League's Day at the UN. Attendees toured the newly renovated facilities, seeing the updated Security Council Chambers, various gifted art pieces from member states, and the Human Rights wall. Lunch in the Delegates' Dining Room was beautiful and delicious as usual. The briefing in the afternoon on the topics of education and counter terrorism were presented by two speakers: La Neice Collins, speech writer and communications adviser for the United Nations in New York City, and Jean-Victor Nkolo, spokesperson and former manager on many UN Peace Keeping Missions.

More photos, bios of the speakers and more information is available on the state website here
Judie Gorenstein, JudieL728@aol.com
There is a lot of good news this December regarding voter service.  First, 26 local leagues have completed their voter service surveys.  Of these, only two did not hold a debate or a meet the candidates night forum and one was due to the fact that their candidates were all running unopposed.   There were only four other leagues that had to cancel a debate because only one party agreed to participate (they were following the no open chair policy recommended by the LWV) but these leagues held other debates or forums.   All of the leagues reporting a debate or forum had at least some of the questions come from the audience.  Most had written questions that were screened; two had questions asked directly by the audience; and five leagues had a mixture of both written screened questions and those asked by audience.   Attendance ranged from 15 people to 500 but as the majority of leagues indicated, their events were videotaped and aired and all but one had media coverage. Our local leagues are doing well in reaching people other than those who actually attend.  Congratulations leagues!   It was also good to see that 17 of the leagues did have debate policy guidelines, some more extensive than others.   Once again, the state league stresses the importance of having guidelines in place, in writing, and well publicized. Several leagues indicated they were in the process of either reviewing or developing their league's policy.  This is great!
The bad news this fall is what we all know.  New York ranks 49 in low voter turnout!  What as the league can we do? 
 It was clear from the surveys as well as the teleconferences held this fall, that local leagues are constantly striving to run successful candidates nights and voter registration drives  but are also frustrated by the low turnout.   The state league hears you.  By Feb. 2016, we will be setting up a google group to have an on line conversation where we can learn from one another and share ideas, concerns, problems and resolutions. (In January we will let you know how to be part of this conversation.)  This spring we will hold voter service workshops but even before then will be providing templates of not only recommended policy guidelines, but also letters to the candidates, and press releases and templates for PSAs. 
lly Robinson, robintwins@gmail.com

On November 11, the League appeared at a press conference at Foley Square in front of the courthouse where the Silver trial was happening and the Skelos trial would begin to call for comprehensive ethics reform.  Simultaneously the same groups sent a letter to the legislative leaders and the Governor asking for a long list of ethics reforms. Press release and letter are posted on homepage of the state website.
The League testified in Albany before the Assembly Elections Committee on November 18, and in New York City on December 10 before the Assembly Elections Committee Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement.  The Albany testimony emphasized modernizing voter registration and early voting as a means of increasing voter participation and the testimony in NYC, both posted on the website,  covered the same items, but with more emphasis on Election Day operations.
Beth Radow, enradow@gmail.com
Addressing Food Waste's Ripple Effects to the Climate. In 2013, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, 21.1 percent of America's 167 million tons of municipal waste consisted of food. This organic waste decomposes in landfills emitting methane gas which has a global warming potential more than 25 times greater than carbon dioxide. That's a whopping 35.2 million tons of food that could have been used to feed people and livestock or composted to grow a new cycle of food, if handled differently. All that food waste contains significant resources which are also wasted, such as water, fertilizer, paper products, fossil fuel for growing, transportation and storage, and human labor. This food waste/climate change link is so critical America now has a national policy to address it. On Sept. 16, 2015, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the United States' first-ever national food waste reduction goal of 50 percent by 2030. This announcement in the week before the United Nations General Assembly met to discuss sustainable development practices signaled the urgent need to shift how America produces, sells, uses and discards our food.  
On December 7, 2015, Unite States Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced the Food Recovery Act, a comprehensive bill that seeks to address food waste from the farm to table. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/12/14/3731628/food-waste-bill/   While the New York State League cannot take action without coordinating with National, the goals in this bill are worthy of consideration for action taken to reduce food waste in New York.
Closer to home, Beth Radow, who chairs the Committee on Energy, Agriculture and the Environment met on December 15, 2015 with Assemblymember Steve Otis who sits on the New York State Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee.  Assemblymember Otis has been appointed to chair the Legislative Commission on Solid Waste and the Assembly's 10 member Climate Change Task Force. Steve Otis and Beth Radow discussed climate change, the role of food waste management and related topics. The conversation will be ongoing. League members with local or proposed statewide solutions to reduce food waste (whether lending themselves to legislative or otherwise) are encouraged to send them to Beth by e-mail at enradow@gmail.com

Living Wage Committee and 
Paid Family Leave Act
Barb Thomas, barb.lwv@nycap.rr.com
Living Wage Committee
The Living Wage Committee was charged by the LWVNY Convention 2015 to determine what is an appropriate living wage for our state and its localities.
LWVUS has said that Leagues may take action on a living wage under the national position on Meeting Basic Human Needs that includes the statement "People who are unable to work, whose earnings are inadequate or for whom jobs are not available have the right to an income and/or services sufficient to meet their basic needs for food, shelter and access to health care." The position further states that, "one of the goals of social policy should be to promote self-sufficiency for individuals and families." Guidance from LWVUS requires that state and local leagues do the research necessary to determine what an appropriate wage is for their own community.
The committee further defined a living wage using the Buffalo/Niagara concurrence with the LWV Kansas position:  A living wage should provide sufficient income without government assistance, for food, clothing, housing, energy, transportation, health care, education, child care, and a small amount of discretionary income.
The full report from the Committee is attached. With this analysis, the state League can now support the proposed $15 minimum wage. The calculator developed by MIT to determine a living wage is here .
Act now to encourage Governor Cuomo and the NYS Senate to pass the Paid Family Leave Act!
The League supports gender neutral paid family leave from employment to care for a sick child, spouse, or parent. Paid Family Leave can pass in the upcoming legislative session.  
But to get it passed we have to demonstrate public support. 

A press conference was held this week urging the Governor and Legislature to
consider family leave during this spring session. The press release can be viewedhere
To help show your support you can:
  • Download the petition here
  • Gather signatures from your friends, family, co-workers, any adult you run into 
  • Return the petitions to the LWVNY office by snail or email by January 25, 2016.  Even if there are only 2 signatures on a petition send it in by the deadline. 
  • Attend the Paid Family Leave Coalition Lobby Day on February 2 in Albany
  • Write a letter to the editor - personal stories about the need are especially effective
New York Paid Family Leave Lobby Day will be held in Albany on February 2nd. Invite your friends and register here

Money in Politics Materials - Consensus Due by Feb. 1
The final MIP background papers in the series have been posted. Hard, Soft and Dark Money presents ways used by outside groups try to influence elections through hard money, soft money and dark money and Options to Reform Money in Politics covers campaign finance reform strategies that are currently allowable in the wake of Supreme Court decisions. The official MIP Consensus form  is also posted for Leagues to use to report their consensus reports. All these materials can be found on the Money in Politics page. For additional information, please contact Barbara Zia, MIP Committee Chair at MIPCommitteeChair@lwv.org.

Participate in LWVUS Program Planning 2016
Soon Leagues will have an opportunity to offer input for the LWVUS program for the 2016-2018 biennium. This important League process will culminate with adoption of a program of education and action at the LWVUS Convention in Washington, DC, in June 2016. Program planning materials will be posted by mid-December in the Convention section of the League Management website. For additional information or questions contact Program Outreach Committee Chair Barbara Zia at progplan@lwv.org. Plan a meeting or board agenda item to discuss this in your local League and respond to LWVUS requests.
Opportunity to Attend UN Commission on the Status of Women Session
All members are invited to participate in the sixtieth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, to be held from March 14-24, 2016 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The priority theme is "Women's empowerment and its link to sustainable development". We are limited to 20 attendees. Please contact unobserver@lwv.org if you are interested in attending. 
Kate Jankowski, kate@lwvny.org
All local Leagues have been busy with the many studies, concurrences and consensus meetings! We greatly appreciate our members' input on possible new positions on raising the age to 18 years old for young people to be considered adults in the criminal justice system, how to amend the US Constitution, and the impact of money in politics at the national level - none are easy or light issues and we thank you all for the hard work of to consider these issues!

Let's hope all also had time to socialize and enjoy the holiday season with League friends and family! Take a deep breath and find some time to relax because we have a busy agenda starting right away in January!

Peace, Joy and Love to all now and in 2016!

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