League of Women Voters of NYS


January 2016  

From the President
  Do you wonder what state board meetings are like? Because New York is a very large state, they are challenging to hold and several times a year we meet by phone, as we did this January.  Some of us who can fairly easily get there were in the office with staff members Laura Bierman and Kate Jankowski - me (from Mid-Hudson), treasurer Judy Middelkoop (Schenectady), and Anne Burton (Rensselaer). Six others came in by phone.
     I called the Education Fund meeting to order first. We were eager to hear Kate report on how the year-end fundraising had gone, particularly since the board had agreed to match up to $8000 in gifts, and the news was great. We not only surpassed the match amount but year-end online giving was up over 65%, with the number of donors up by 47%. It is so gratifying to know that so many people "get" what we do at the state level and are so generous in supporting us. And as board members it was so good to see that our own contributions truly had helped inspire other gifts. What a morale boost! And to all who contributed, THANK YOU from all of us!
     Other Ed Fund business included a review of the finances, an update from Laura on the continuing high interest reported by local leagues in Students Inside Albany, and a reminder that we will be having a study later this year on Legislative Procedures. In the regional calls and other communications with local leagues we will remind them to put study and consensus meetings on their fall and early 2017 schedules.
     I adjourned the Ed Fund meeting and called the LWV meeting to order. Aimee Allaud, our specialist on election issues, had been waiting patiently on the line to report on interaction with election commissioners from all around the state when they were in Albany for the annual Election Commissioners Association conference. While we can't attend their meetings, we had a table displaying our voter service materials (new commissioners loved First Vote!) and we attended a lunch where we could interact even more effectively.
     Board member Carol Mellor then reported on the responses to the Raise the Age concurrence. No league opposed the statements presented (though many sent comments, which we discussed), and enough leagues from different sized leagues in different parts of the states had participated, so the concurrence met the requirements and we now have a new position. Laura reported that it will be included in the Legislative Agenda booklets which will be printed soon.
    We also discussed Lobby Day which will be held on May 10th this year. Laura reported difficulty in finding a room for a group as large as ours during a busy week, but since our phone meeting, the problem has been solved. Judie Gorenstein reported on a few more voter service surveys that had come in since our December meeting. We are always eager to hear what local leagues are doing and thinking.
     At some point, our legislative director, Barbara Bartoletti, bustled in from a variety of media interviews to fill us in on what she saw at the Governor's State of the State the day before. As always Barbara is great fun and interesting to hear, but she's reported to you elsewhere so I'll resist the temptation to say more.
    Money matters also occupied our time as we agreed to sign a new contract with our current auditors and then approved our 2016 Budget Committee:  Nancy Rosenthal (SW Nassau) as chair with Dorothy Borgus (Rochester), Maggie Moehringer (Albany), and (from the board) Anne Burton and Judy Middelkoop. I also serve ex officio. The Committee can't begin its work until after January 31 when the membership numbers are finalized in the database.
     Our board secretary, Kay Sharp (Tompkins), had to resign to tend to her mother in California and we missed her. The board approved asking Jane Park (Broome/Tioga) to fill out Kay's term and she has since graciously and enthusiastically accepted.  Welcome, Jane!
     We then had a lively discussion about the regional meetings that will be held in March and April in four places around the state. The Membership Committee has been talking to all local leagues about their aspirations, and we were eager to apply all that we've been hearing to our planning. When the meeting went past the scheduled two hours, we adjourned the official meeting, said good-bye to those on the phone, and those of us in the office continued our efforts to make the regional meetings as useful and appealing as possible.
     We got a lot done, but we missed seeing the faces of those on the phone. Happily we'll meet in March and May in person and for a longer time.  And meanwhile much committee work continues!

Dare Thompson, President
League of Women Voters of NYS
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Presidential Primaries - Who Can Vote?
Can People Vote in the Presidential Primary?
There has been much confusion about the rules for people to vote in the presidential primary which will be held on April 19 in NYS. People CANNOT change their party affiliation now and vote in the primary of their new affiliation this April. Anyone who is registering FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A COUNTY may vote in the presidential primary; they must register in person by March 25 or by mail (and be received by the county BOE) by March 30. Anyone who has not registered in their county, moved to new county or moved into NYS from out-of-state, may register in their county and vote in the primary. People with questions can contact their own county board of elections. A calendar with all the deadlines and dates is posted on our website and available here.
Sally Robinson, robintwins@gmail.com
The state League is already very active in the Capitol every day, meeting with legislators, presenting testimony and submitting memoranda. Visit the state website every day to see what new action has been taken. Also, watch for updates on Capitol Beat, a blog written by Barbara Bartoletti, LWVNYS Legislative Director, and Jennifer Wilson, LWVNYS Director of Policy and Program, on "happenings" at the state Capitol; it's updated every week, usually on Thursday. The link is on the state website and here: http://www.lwvny-capitolbeat.blogspot.com
Update on Legislative Procedures Position
Delegates at the state League convention in June approved an update of our position on Legislative Procedures, dating back to 1997.  (current position: http://lwvny.org/advocacy/impact/issues/2013/LEGISLATIVE-PROCEDURES.pdf)
With the Raise the Age Concurrence behind us, we are moving to plan for this update.  It will be focused on two aspects of the position in particular, although it might consider other parts: the statement in favor of a part-time legislature, and the ambiguous reference to length of terms.
Suzanne Stassevich of the New York City League has agreed to chair the committee.  It is not too late to contact Katrina McEwan at the League office (katrina@lwvny.org or 518-465-4162) if you are interested in volunteering to be part of the committee.

State of the State: Barbara Bartoletti, bbheck1@yahoo.com, and Jennifer Wilson, Jennifer@lwvny.org
The legislative session has finally started and the League attended the Governor's State of the State address on January 13th. It was quite an exciting event that started with a confrontation between Assemblyman Charles Barron and Governor Cuomo over children in poverty and the Campaign for Fiscal Equity which after 15 years has remained unfunded. The Assemblyman shouted at the Governor as he began his speech forcing Majority Leader Assemblyman Morelle to escort Mr. Barron out of the Convention Center.

After the hoopla had died down the Governor laid out an ambitious plan that included ethics reforms that would close the LLC loophole, make legislators subject to FOIL requests, force public servants convicted of a felony to forfeit their pension, and cap the outside income of legislators. He proposed voting reforms such as instituting automatic voter registration when New Yorkers apply for a driver's license and early voting. He also touched upon several social issues including 12-week paid family leave, a $15 minimum wage, and more funding for breast cancer prevention measures. Although we were excited about some of the Governor's proposals, we were disappointed that once again he has included in his State of the State and budget the Education Investment Tax Credit. This tax credit would give a 75% return on investment for donating to private parochial or charter school. We will continue to oppose this measure which deprives public dollars for public education.

The League will be monitoring and advocating for our positions throughout the legislative session and we will be posting weekly blog updates on the Capitol Beat which can be viewed online at this address: http://lwvny-capitolbeat.blogspot.com/

Election Law Reform: Aimee Allaud, 85aimee@nycap.rr.com and Jennifer Wilson, Jennifer@lwvny.org
NYS Elections Commissioners Association Conference (NYSECA)
On January 12th the League participated in the annual NYSECA Conference at the Hilton Hotel in Albany. Our Elections Specialist, Aimee Allaud, and I staffed a table which featured our First Vote booklets, Legislative Agenda, "Your Right to Vote" pamphlets, November's testimony to the Assembly Elections Committee which can be found here, and our joint policy statement on voting reforms which can be found here.

We were joined at the table by representatives from Citizen's Union, Common Cause, and the Brennan Center for Justice. Several Commissioners approached the table and praised the Local Leagues in their counties; others took our materials before heading off to the workshops. The most popular materials were the League's "Your Right to Vote" pamphlets. Many County Board of Election staff said the most common questions about voting they get are from those who are currently homeless and those who have been formerly incarcerated. Our materials were very well received.

Aimee and I had the chance to sit in on several of the workshops throughout the day, especially interesting was the report of the ECA Legislative Committee. The Legislative committee presented to the whole body for a vote the proposed list of legislative priorities for 2016. These priorities included closing schools on Election Day, conducting an information and technology survey of the counties, and allowing county board offices to operate on different working hours than the county itself. In total there were 13 priorities to be voted on, 12 passed easily but a proposal to allow counties to utilize electronic poll books was heavily contested by republican Commissioners. The proposal passed with 57 commissioners voting in the affirmative and 39 opposing. County boards are concerned about costs associated with electronic poll books without help from the State and believe that endorsing electronic poll books is the "slippery slope" to endorsing early voting. There is no unanimity on early voting among the ECA members; support is divided, in general along party lines (Dems-yes, Reps-no).

Transportation, Gladys Gifford, schuford@earthlink.net
Legislators in my area, Western New York, continue to support the DeFrancisco/Brennan bill S5967/A8242, introduced in June, 2015. I encourage all of our leagues to urge support for this bill when visiting and contacting NYS legislators. A reminder: this bill offers a steady and increasing stream of revenue for the capital needs of transit and transportation infrastructure for upstate and suburban downstate transportation investment. The source of this revenue is a small percentage of the NYS personal income tax, and has no impact on the personal income tax rate. Rather, a small portion of the existing tax revenues would be redistributed to the transportation systems all across the state, for use in transit and transportation agencies. This bill will be considered as part of the budget negotiations. To view the legislation, go to:http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A08242&term=2015

As in prior years, the main action for transportation funding will occur in the budget negotiations. The process includes several hearings in January, including one on transportation. I have submitted testimony which is posted on the state website.

Several League members have raised concerns about how rulings by the NYS Department of Health (NYSDOH) have impacted rural transit systems. Senator O'Mara and Assemblyman Brindisi introduced bill S5794/A8202, to be implemented when passed. This bill would continue state transition funding to help rural transit systems impacted by Medicaid revenue loss, and would require the NYSDOH to implement administrative measures to increase use of public transit by Medicaid clients. Note: this bill is not part of the budget negotiations; it can be passed and signed at any time.
To view the legislation, go to: http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?term=2015&bn=S05794
Health Care: Madeline Zevon, madeline.zevon@gmail.com
The Health Care Committee continues its advocacy for the single payer bill, New York Health, A.5062(Gottfried)/S.3525(Perkins). In the last session of the Assembly the bill passed by 92-52. We are now working on passage in the State Senate, which will be an uphill battle. The Affordable Care Act allows states to innovate in 2017 as long as they meet certain criteria: 1) The new plan must cover as many people as the ACA 2) it cannot cost more in total health care dollars 3) it must offer the same level of benefit that the ACA mandates. The New York Health Act should easily satisfy these requirements, so we are optimistic that we will get the necessary federal waivers to implement it should we get it passed and signed into law.

To that end we are pursuing various forms of grass-root activities. One such effort involves screenings of the new documentary, Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point, followed by a panel discussion and Q and A. The Westchester LWV will be hosting an event on Jan. 24th with Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Dr. Elizabeth Rosenthal of Physicians for a National Health Program. A similar event was hosted in the Albany area on Dec. 20th, the League in Saratoga will show FixIt on Feb. 29th and the Syracuse Metro LWV plans a showing in late January or early February. The Health Care Committee is urging the presentation of as many of these educational events as possible. Please let me know if there are any more League sponsored showings around the state.

Another grass root effort involves passage of Legislative Resolutions. Thus far resolutions were passed in the Ithaca Common Council, the Towns of Caroline and Ulysses and the Sullivan and Tompkins County Legislatures. We're hopeful that our efforts in Westchester and Suffolk County will also gain resolutions in support of the New York Health bill.

A recent economic study of the bill shows that NYS would save 45 billion dollars ($2,200 per person) in the first year after the enactment of this bill even though 100% of our population would be covered with a more comprehensive plan and no co-pays, deductibles or premiums.

Savings would be made because of the elimination of huge insurance company administrative costs and profits, and for the costly time and paperwork health care providers spend for dealing with insurance companies. Additionally, the law provides that the state can negotiate with drug companies to lower the cost of pharmaceuticals. Coverage would be funded through a graduated income tax similar to the way we pay for Medicare. Link to economic study here:

The New York Health bill will no doubt draw businesses to New York because employers would not be responsible to provide insurance for their employees. Counties would benefit because currently 40% of county real estate taxes goes to pay for Medicaid and Medicaid and Medicare would be folded into the single-payer bill.

Many members of our Committee plan to attend the League lobby day on May 10th. Please let me know if you are interested in joining us.

Women's Issues: Barb Thomas, barb.lwv@nycap.rr.com
The Women's Equality Agenda (WEA) Laws passed in the last legislative session took effect this January 19th. As the Governor said, "From helping to ensure equal pay for equal work, to strengthening protections for victims of domestic violence and banning discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace, these laws are improving the lives of millions of women across the state." Thanks to all of you who worked so hard to make these laws a reality. Still to come - but not likely this year- is a law to put the protections of Roe v. Wade into NYS law.

Paid Family Leave Insurance (PFLI)
PFLI advocates were excited that Governor Cuomo included a very moving personal story about the need for Family Leave in his State of the State and budget message. He has outlined a plan calling for 12 weeks of PFLI. Advocates (including LWV) will be trying to bring his proposed benefit level up to 2/3 of the average weekly wage - as in the bill the Assembly passed last year.

Don't forget to mail in any signed Paid Family Leave petitions! The LWVNY office will be copying them so both the Governor's Office and the relevant Senator know that there is significant support for this issue. It is not too late to sign up for the Feb 2nd PFLI Advocacy Day in Albany (register here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/14YdItjIJMPO3SBYGPJRuXRtF9VM2qX5W9mNE0pT2e2M/viewform) Be sure to wear your LWV button.

Equal Pay for Comparable Worth
Ending the centuries of discrimination against women that has resulted in undervaluing the jobs our society has assigned to women - jobs like child care, nursing, care of the infirm and elderly, cooking - is an area that still needs work. What does it say about our priorities that we are willing to pay more to the person who shovels our snow than to the person who takes care of our kids? Supporting a minimum wage of $15 (which we can and should all do under our Living Wage position) will help low wage workers but won't get at the fundamental bias that plays out in the job market. Stay tuned.

Judicial Issues: Helga Schroeter, helgasasquith@verizon.net
We noted with great sadness that former Chief Judge Judith Kaye has passed away at the age of 77. She was the first female Chief Judge of New York, serving for 14 years with great distinction. Her compassionate and creative approach will be greatly missed. She was particularly passionate about issues of the Family Court, promoting ways to move children out of foster care into permanent loving homes. She also created and promoted "specialty courts" to deal more constructively with drug addiction, mental health and domestic violence situations which have created more positive results in the criminal and civil justice systems. Judge Kaye will be sorely missed, and we wish for the incumbent leadership to follow her course.
Carol Mellor, carolmellor140@gmail.com
Raise the Age Concurrence - A New League Position
Last spring, in response to the request from our Judicial Specialist, we began to look into whether or not our current positions supported advocacy in favor of reforms to the juvenile justice system.  It was determined that our positions did not cover this subject, and that, in light of current attempts to achieve such reform, under the banner of the "Raise the Age" movement, we might want to take action on this.  We found that the LWV of Ohio had undertaken several studies and adopted positions which seemed to be comprehensive and applicable to our state.  At the convention in 2015 the delegates voted to present a concurrence study to the members, and the members have reached consensus to concur with portions of the Ohio position.
The concurrence was considered by 25 local leagues and they all came to consensus in favor of the concurrence. At its meeting held on January 17, 2016 the Board of Directors adopted the following new position. 
  1. Children under the age of 18 are not adults and their treatment within the juvenile   justice and criminal court system should relate to their stage of development.
  2. Children should not be held in adult incarceration facilities.
  3. Rehabilitation is the purpose of the juvenile justice system.
  4. The legal rights of children should be protected.
Thanks to all local Leagues who participate in this concurrence. This provides a new position on which the League will be taking action during this current legislative session.

Judie Gorenstein, Judiel728@aol.com
Voter Services Survey Results
As of Jan 18, 2016, I have received 29 completed voter service survey. I wish to thank the LWVs of Albany, Bedford/Lewisboro/NoSalem, Broome/Tioga, Buffalo, Chautuaqua, Cortland, E. Nassau, Geneva, Hamptons, Harrison, Huntington, Larchmont, Mid Hudson, New Rochelle, North Country, Port Washington, Rensselear, Rochester, Rye-Rye Brook-Port Chester, Saratoga, Scarsdale, Schenectady, Shelter Island, Smithtown, Sommers, Tompkins, Utica/Rome, Wayne County and White Plains for completing the survey.  If your League did complete the survey and I have not received it, please email it again.  If your League did not, I encourage you to do so in order that we have a complete data base. Of those that I have, 22 Leagues indicated they collect voter registration forms and either deliver or mail them to the BOE. No Leagues collected the information and followed up with persons who registered. In fact several Leagues indicated their boards were definitely against doing this. LWVUS is encouraging the follow up as studies have shown that new voters need to be reminded to turn out and vote. Laura and I will be looking to see if there are ways to do follow up that are not intrusive or time consuming and will let you know.
LWVNY wants to help any Leagues struggling with voter registration drives, turn out vote efforts, and running debates.  We were pleased that of the surveys returned, only four Leagues indicated they did not have some written policy on debates/ meet the candidates night.   Two Leagues did send in very comprehensive policies.  Thank you! 
With early and three primaries in NY, it is extremely important for us to engage and educate voters. Members from Leagues in Suffolk County are working with other community groups to look for ways to increase turnout. LWV of Huntington has contacted high schools to present Vote 18 in schools. One change we made in the presentation is we eliminate half the class when it is time for them to vote which exemplifies how many of the young do not vote. We found this effective.  As our local Leagues prepare to register, educate, and turn out voters to the polls, it is important that we share our ideas and learn from one another. Contact Judiel728@aol.com or Laura@lwvny.org with any programs or ideas your League is doing to encourage turnout now.       

Dare Thompson, darethompson@gmail.com
Is Your League as Good as Your Favorite Small Business?
Sometimes it helps to look at what we do through a different lens.  Here are some tips aimed at small businesses from consultant Rhonda Abrams that I saw in the newspaper. I chuckled at how much they apply to local leagues. (My comments are in italics.)
Go small to grow big.  "What's the one sure way to fail in small business? Try to sell to everyone." How often in the League do we try to serve "the general public" - ALL of it - and then get discouraged?  How do we target our efforts?  This is a very hard question but one we really need to ask.

Make sure the dog will eat the dog food.  "...No matter how good your ideas appear to be...make certain that you have a product or service that customers really want."  Who are our League "customers" and what do they want?  It's another tough but important question to ask.

You can't reach a goal you haven't set.  Abrams points out that your plan doesn't have to be elaborate. "It's the planning, not the plan, that matters."  We can't be too busy to neglect this step.

People don't read. "It's a fast and cluttered world out there. Keep things short and snappy and use lots of photos." 

People do business with other people.  "All of us prefer to do business with people we like and trust... Get to know your customers; find out about their businesses and families. Let them get to know you. Small businesses can compete with the big guys by building strong customer relationships."  As long as you don't get clubby or exclusive, it is really healthy to care about and enjoy one another! 
The Health Committee of LWV of Schenectady County has facilitated three meetings of a Falls Prevention Workgroup made up of area organizations that provide services to seniors as part of a collaboration with Schenectady Coalition For a Healthy Community. Work towards the goal of reducing falls among seniors that results in injury and death is being encouraged and supported by the NYS Department of Health.
Congratulations to Sarah Womer, of LWV of Mid-Hudson, who is featured on page 33 of the current (January) Hudson Valley magazine. It's in a section called "People to Watch, 9 Movers and Shakers". Her story is called "Talkin' Trash" with sub-headline "This Beacon resident takes on waste over the long haul," The article can be read online at www.hvmag.com/Hudson-Valley-Magazine/January-2016/People-to-Watch/Sarah-Womer/

LWV of New Castle hosted a public forum in advance of their concurrence meeting on Raise the Age. Speakers included Lisa Freeman of the Legal Aid Society of New York and Allison Lake of the Westchester Children's Association. The event was live streamed and the video can be viewed here.
The LWV of Buffalo/Niagara was represented at 29 naturalization ceremonies by 58 volunteers in 2015. Gladys Gifford and Alvin Schuster attended the ceremonies at the U.S. Courthouse in November as well as the year's last ceremony in December. Josette Cunningham and Joyce Bol represented the League at a ceremony earlier in December.

Despite the blinding snow, about forty hardy LWV of Chautauqua members, concerned citizens, and local officials attended the meeting at the White Inn on January 13 on the transport of crude oil by rail through their County. The speakers, Jordan Nicholson, on behalf of Senator Schumer and Charlie Bowman of the Environmental Task Force of the WNY Peace Center presented an alarming picture of the dangers facing us.
In true League cooperation, the LWV of Saratoga County presented their powerpoint presentation and led the consensus meeting on Money in Politics for LWV of Albany, after organizing the same event for their own members. What a great way to use the expertise in one League to help our another!
The LWV of Huntington held its fourth program on the issue modern day slavery.  They showed the documentary "Chosen" to dispel many of the perceptions of who may be chosen to be trafficked.  It can certainly take place in our neighborhoods and in our schools, to our relatives and friends. This documentary is appropriate for even teenagers to see.  It was followed by a discussion and question and answer period with our panel of experts on this topic: Stacey A. Skorupa, Senior Assistant District Attorney, Special Investigations Bureau; Feride Castillom Co-founder of Empowerment Collaborative of Long Island; Mathew Okerblom, Activist who presented at last year's program and  board member of LIAT; and a Human Trafficking Victim.

LWV of Rye, Rye Brook and Port Chester hosted a Fireside Afternoon of History on "Franklin Delano Roosevelt: The Invisible Core of Greatness."  The discussion was led by lecturer and historian David L. Auerbach.

LWV of Smithtown resumed its Community Conversations with a luncheon with Legislator Leslie Kennedy of the 12th Legislative District. For the past 3 decades she has held various positions in the private sector and in local government (including working for her husband Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy. Jr. when he held the 12th LD seat).    

LWV of Tompkins County recently held a meeting on the Affordable Care Act: Continuing Impressions Of The Affordable Healthcare Act In Tompkins County. Speakers included Cassandra Aikman: Health Access Programs Coordinator at the Health Planning Council in Tompkins County; and Sarah Jane Blake: Outreach Counselor at the New York State Wide Senior Action Council, Inc. and Certified Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program Counselor.

LWV of East Nassau had a book discussion in January on "My Beloved World" by Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor. LWV of Brookhaven also has a book club that was discussing Robert Reich's "Saving Capitalism," which helps explain the changes in the United States that supported the growth of unregulated campaign finance. 
As a co-sponsor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Observances, LWV of Saratoga County helped organize the Official Observance of MLK Day at the Saratoga Springs Public Library with a thought provoking performance by the Meta Theatre Company, a key-note talk by Karen Gaffney, the Arbor Hill Starlites stepping team, and short dramatic vignettes by SHYfT (Saratoga's Humanitarian Youth for Trans-formation). Garland Nelson (of Soul Session) will be the MC and lead the musical program.  

Women's Suffrage Centennial News
The first annual Right to Run 19K and 5K will take place on Saturday, May 7, 2016 - a national fundraiser to benefit the National Women's Hall of Fame. The 19K distance is a nod to the 19th amendment - a perfect distance to run in Seneca Falls, NY - the birthplace of women's rights. The course is picturesque, and both distances run through the village and countryside, ending at the historic Seneca Knitting Mill on the Cayuga-Seneca River - under renovation to become the future home of the Hall as The Center for Great Women. Kathrine Switzer -  the first woman to run officially in the Boston Marathon and a leader in making the women's marathon an official event in the Olympic Games - is our national Spokesperson and will be here for the event. It is not too early to plan to be here for the inaugural event. Registration for both the 19K and 5K is open now: https://runsignup.com/Race/NY/SenecaFalls/RighttoRun19K5K
League of Women Voters of New York State
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