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League of Women Voters of New York State 56th Biennial Convention June 6-7th, 2015

Helga Schroeter, Joan Elliott, Judy Middelkoop and Carol Furman of the Schenectady County LWV attended the State Convention on June 6-7th. A number of significant events occurred including the re-election of our member, Judy Middelkoop, as Treasurer of LWVNYS.

Our Schenectady LWV was awarded Recognition of Outstanding Accomplishment for Voter Service specifically for the regional collaborative project with other local Leagues which informed our residents about the VOTE411 web site with candidate information by advertising this on CDTA bus signs. We also received a stipend of $150 for participating in a grant program to inform citizens of organ donation options at the time of registration to vote.

The Convention is always interesting and gives a first- hand view of how League positions are developed. Local Leagues hold program planning meetings during the winter and send recommendations for study, updates and concurrences to the State League. The State Board reviews these and recommendations from specialists, and then recommends studies or other program options. At the Convention there is an opportunity to approve these recommendations or to further pursue suggestions which were made but not recommended by the Board.

The Convention delegates approved an update of our position on Legislative Procedures, which dates back to 1997. According to the Convention Toolkit, "This position is critical to our core mission as a State good government group. Much of the corruption scandals involving the State Legislature involve the outside income of Legislators and banning or limiting that income is a very important issue in ethics reform. The National Conference of State Legislatures considers New York as one of only 3 full-time State Legislatures, according to their criteria. Our current position in favor of a part-time Legislature warrants reexamination in this context since it constrains our approach to the outside income issue. Also, the recent term limits study demonstrated that many local Leagues are interested in the length of legislative terms."

The delegates also approved a concurrence on raising the minimum age from 16 to 18 as consideration of "adult" in the criminal justice system. According to the Convention Toolkit, "New York continues to be the only state other than North Carolina that prosecutes ALL youth as adults when they turn 16 years of age. Further, New York allows children as young as 7 years old to be arrested and charged with acts of juvenile delinquency.

The recent research has shown:

  • As the cognitive skills of adolescents are developing, adolescents' behavior is often impulsive and adolescents lack the ability to focus on the consequences of their behavior;
  • Because the adolescent brain is still developing, the character, personality traits and behavior of adolescents are highly receptive to change; adolescents respond well to interventions, learn to make responsible choices, and are likely to grow out of negative or delinquent behavior.

In April of 2014, Governor Cuomo appointed a Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice to make recommendations on reforms to improve youth outcomes while increasing community safety. These recommendations are based on the premise that the age of criminal responsibility should be raised and that young persons accused of criminal behavior should be treated differently than adult offenders.

Governor Cuomo included a comprehensive legislative package designed to re-frame the way young people are treated by our criminal justice system in his budget package. The Legislature approved the allocation of funds to implement the principles of the proposals, but the details were left to be determined. Thus, the details of the legislative proposals, collectively referred to as Raise the Age will be reconsidered during the regular legislative session.

LWVNYS has been asked to participate in the Raise the Age campaign. Although much of the philosophical underpinnings of the proposal are consistent with the goals of our positions on Alternatives to Incarceration and Alternatives to Bail, and, indeed, many of the legislative changes can be supported under those positions, other aspects of the proposed laws do not fall under those positions. Consequently we are proposing a concurrence with portions of the LWV Ohio's position on juvenile justice, thereby enabling us to support aspects of the Raise the Age proposal that do not fall under our current positions.

Broadly speaking, the proposals which address opportunities for diversion from criminal court, expanded bail opportunities and diversion from detention or confined placement are consistent with our present positions. The portions of the proposal which provide for expanded eligibility for youthful offender treatment are arguably covered by the proposal since youth offender treatment generally leads to treatment rather than incarceration. The other proposals, which delve more particularly into the accusatory and procedural treatment of young persons accused of crime are not covered by our present positions."

We will be increasing the portion of your dues that we pay to the NYS League by $2. We anticipated this change last year when we increased our dues. The NYS League has had a cash flow problem and reduced donations resulting in the need to increase their income.

Also interesting at the Convention was a panel discussion of a NYS Constitutional Convention presented by John Fasso, former Assembly minority leader and eight time NYS Assemblyman, and Richard Brodsky, a fourteen term NYS Assemblyman. As in the past, the Convention was stimulating and provided an opportunity to exchange ideas with other Leagues and to be impressed by the work of so many interesting people!

Submitted by Carol Furman

League Promotes Organ Donation as It Registers Voters

The League of Women Voters of New York State is undertaking a new project starting in July that asks local Leagues to register organ donors when they register voters.

The voter registration form has a space in which an individual can designate that s/he would like to donate her/his organs and tissues. That information is sent to the New York State Department of Health to be entered in an organ donor registry. Currently about 10 to 12 per cent of New Yorkers renewing their drivers' licenses agree to be organ donors and about 10 to 15 per cent of New Yorkers registering to vote do so. New York is the only state with a voter registration form that allows organ donor registry.

The League is cooperating with the New York Alliance for Donation which has received a grant to increase the number of organs available for transplant. Local Leagues participating in the project will receive Voters Guides free of cost and will receive small grants for voter registration drive expenses. Basically, the League member conducting voter registration will ask: "Did you know you are able to save lives by enrolling as an organ, eye, and tissue donor on your voter registration form?" The local League will add to its collection of local voter registration data the number who complete the organ donor registration section.

In New York State, there are more than 10,000 individuals waiting for organ donations and more than 500 individuals will die each year while waiting for a transplant. New York State has the third highest need for donations in the country but is 51 of all the states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico in its donor designation as a percentage of the population 18 years and over. New York has a rate of 24 per cent. Montana, Oregon, and Arkansas have the highest percentage of donors.

Organs that can be donated include the heart, pancreas, kidneys, liver, lungs, and intestines. Tissue is needed to replace bone, tendons, and ligaments lost to trauma, cancer and other diseases. Corneas are needed to restore eyesight. Skin grafts help burn victims heal. Heart valves repair cardiac defects and damage.

(It is possible for a living donor to donate a kidney, partial liver, lung or pancreas.) The minimum age for organ donation is 18 years of age and there is no upper age restriction for organ donation.

In a pilot project in New York City with voter registration, the percentage of organ donors was increased to about 50 per cent. It was noted that donors can change their minds about being on the donor registry at any time. All major religions allow organ donations. According to the New York Alliance for Donation, one donor can save the lives of up to eight people through organ donation and enhance the lives of up to 50 more through eye and tissue donation.

Joan Elliott

July 2015 State Voter

The July 2015 State Voter is now available here

Changes in State Positions and Local Program Objectives

The LWV of Schenectady County recommended several changes to State League Positions at the February program planning meeting. We recommended interpreting the Judicial Position of Support of alternatives to incarceration to include raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18. The League also advised updating the Social Policy Position of Support for equality of opportunity, meeting basic needs, child care to add the word affordable to child care and to add living wage to the position.

We also recommended that "standards" be deleted from the Health Services Local Program Objective to Educate our membership and others about long term care standards and develop recommendations for local options. The recommendations for changes to State Positions were sent to the LWVNYS; the change to the Local Program Objective will be voted on at the annual meeting in June.

PUBLIC POLICY POSITIONS LWVNYS [recommended changes in bold italics]

JUDICIAL
Support of a unified state court system with improved provisions for judicial selection.
Support of statewide guidelines for law enforcement at all levels to prevent racial and economic profiling.
Support of measures to improve pretrial procedures in the criminal courts.
Support of measures to promote a fair and efficient jury system.
Support the rights of indigent defendants to representation at public expense.
Support of alternatives to incarceration (reinterpret).
Opposition to the death penalty, with life without parole as the primary alternative.

SOCIAL POLICY
Support for equality of opportunity, meeting basic human needs, affordable child care, living wage.
Support measures to meet the needs for affordable and accessible housing through use of state funds and incentives to localities.

LOCAL PROGRAM OBJECTIVES 2015-2016 [proposed change in bold italics]

Health Services

  • Educate and advocate for national/state/local health care reform that provides quality physical and mental health care for all citizens.
  • Educate our membership and others about long term care standards (delete) and develop recommendations for local options.
  • Encourage and support countywide comprehensive health care planning and access to health care.
  • Summary of Public Policy Positions LWVNYS

    ELECTION LAW
    Support of measures to protect, extend and encourage the use of the franchise, including paperless and Election Day registration, no excuse absentee and in-person early voting. Restore integrity to the election process + specifically support for uniformity in election laws and procedures in their implementation and enforcement; promote measures that ensure the integrity of all ballots.
    Support comprehensive campaign finance reform, including public financing of campaigns.
    Support ballot access and fair campaign practices.
    Opposition to term limits for members of the NYS Legislature.
    Opposition to term limits for NYS statewide elected officials.

    GOVERNMENT
    Support of individual liberties, including reproductive rights, voting rights, gun control.
    Support of improved measures to provide representation for legislative districts in case of a vacancy.
    Support of standards to ensure equitable representation in the State legislature and Congress.
    Support of responsive and responsible legislative processes which increase the role of the individual member and the committee system.
    Support of effective regulation of lobbying and ethics.
    Support of procedural reforms in the constitutional convention process to promote openness and nonpartisanship.
    Support of the consolidation of government/shared services when it promotes effective and efficient operation of government.

    HEALTH CARE
    Support of measures to assure a basic level of quality physical and mental health care, including regulatory incentives to encourage development of cost-effective alternative methods of delivery; funding for health promotion and disease prevention programs; provisions for effective citizen participation in health policy decisions.
    Support of measures that enable individuals to assume responsibility for their own health and to participate in decisions, including extraordinary life-extending procedures.
    Support for uniform eligibility and coverage of basic health care costs through public financing with single payer concept as an acceptable approach to implementing League positions on equitable access and cost containment.

    JUDICIAL
    Support of a unified state court system with improved proŽvisions for judicial selection.
    Support of statewide guidelines for law enforcement at all levels to prevent racial and economic profiling.
    Support of measures to improve pretrial procedures in the criminal courts.
    Support of measures to promote a fair and efficient jury system.
    Support the rights of indigent defendants to representation at public expense.
    Support of alternatives to incarceration.
    Opposition to the death penalty, with life without parole as the primary alternative.

    NATURAL RESOURCES
    Support for protection and management of New York's natural resources in the public interest, including energy conservation and energy options from renewable sources.
    Support for measures to achieve watershed protection including limiting pesticide use and applying Best Management Practices.
    Support for a state-established, intergovernmental system for land resource management.
    Support for a proactive role for New York State in regional land use planning, containing urban sprawl and protecting sensitive areas.
    Support of reconditioning of the New York State Erie/Barge Canal System and its development for recreational uses.

    SOCIAL POLICY
    Support for equality of opportunity, meeting basic human needs, child care.
    Support measures to meet the needs for affordable and accessible housing through use of state funds and incentives to localities.

    STATE FINANCES
    Support reforms for greater equity in education financing (K-12) for both pupils and taxpayers.
    Support raising funds to provide New York's children with a sound basic education through increases in the New York State personal income tax, implemented in a progressive fashion.
    Support for the replacement of the existing local residential property tax relief programs in which relief goes to all with programs based on need, with annual cost of living adjustment.
    Oppose in principle the use of public funds to support non-public schools (K-12).
    Oppose any increase in the maximum number of charter schools without improvements to the Charter School Act.
    Support the funding of public higher education and the existing formula for financing the community system, 1/3 tuition, 1/3 state aid, and 1/3 county support.
    Support a uniform equitable assessment and property tax system.
    Support of measures to provide for openness and accountability in the operation of the New York State public authority system.
    Support of a timely and responsive state budget.

    WOMEN'S ISSUES
    Support of measures that hold marriage to be an economic partnership with a presumption of equality between the spouses.
    Opposition to measures that contain a presumption of joint custody of the children.
    Support for equity in employment laws and practices and equal pay for jobs of comparable worth.
    Support of measures to reduce the incidence and effects of domestic violence.

    2015 NYS Legislative Agenda

    The 2015 Legislative Agenda "Making New York State Work" is now available here

    League of Women Voters of New York State

    Capitol Beat Blog

    The League of Women Voters of NYS is pleased to announce the return of "Capitol Beat." This informative and entertaining column, written by the LWVNYS Legislative Director Barbara Bartoletti will contain legislative updates about League issues, as well as political gossip. We will also outline the budget and of course, will chronicle the always-lively end of session. We have created a blog page for "Capitol Beat" on our League website (go to http://lwvny-capitolbeat.blogspot.com), and we welcome your comments posted on this blog page. We have also linked the Legislative Calendar so you have all the dates of the legislative session. So, check out the blog and continue to watch it for updates - we hope to keep it lively and current. Get all the latest legislative info right on our website and blog!