Making Democracy Work

President's Report

Messages from your LWV President

President's Letter April 2019

We had a good turnout (and great food) at the program planning potluck on February 13th. Among fourteen attendees, six were new members.

With the convention for the State League coming up in June 2019, one of our tasks was to review the State League positions to determine whether our local League wanted to make any changes. We decided to ask the State League whether one page ballot design was covered under the existing position on improved ballot design--we're still waiting for a response.

The group felt support for adequate financing of opioid abuse education and treatment should be added to the position on Health Care to address the opioid abuse crisis. And we thought there should be a study on cash bail reform. I later discovered that the current State position on Alternatives to Incarceration includes cash bail reform so a study isn't necessary.

We also discussed Local Program Objectives which are the issues in which our local League is specifically interested. We added improved mental health crisis intervention as part our objectives on Justice and the Law.

The meeting was also a good opportunity to brainstorm ideas for programs that would be of interest to our members and the general public for the coming year. People at the meeting were interested in the political history of Schenectady County. Don Ackerman is writing a book on this topic and is a potential speaker. Julie Tighe, President of the League of Conservation Voters, was suggested as a speaker on recycling, particularly single stream recycling. We also plan to ask the Department of Social Services Commissioner to talk about the current state of public assistance.

Members were also interested in programs on cash bail reform, the use of the Great Flats Aquifer by corporations for bottled water and how to involve young people in the political process. We're still looking for potential speakers on these topics, so if you have any suggestions, please contact me:

Cheryl Nechamen.

President's Letter, March 2019

Good news came to New York State with the new legislative session. Far-reaching voter reforms have either been signed into law or are awaiting the Governor's signature. Early voting will take place for the first time in New York, with voting taking place 10 days before Election Day. The law takes effect immediately and will apply to the 2019 general election.

State and federal primaries have finally been combined into one primary, the fourth Tuesday in June. This should result in cost savings and hopefully, higher voter turnout. This law will take effect in June 2019. Another law that has been enacted allows 16 and 17 year olds to preregister to vote. Although the law takes effect immediately, we won't see the impact until January 2020, when current 17 year olds will be old enough to actually vote.

Two laws have been passed by the State Legislature and, as of this writing, are awaiting the Governor's signature. Statewide voter registration transfer would compile a statewide voter list which would allow a voter's registration to follow them when they move. The second law would close the so-called LLC loophole. Limited liability corporations would be required to disclose the identity of the owners of the LLC when they make a political contribution.

Same day voter registration, which would permit voters to register and vote on Election Day, and no- excuse absentee voting, which would allow absentee voting without needing to cite a reason for voting by mail, both require a constitutional amendment in order to take effect. That process requires that a bill be passed by two consecutive legislatures (they've been passed by the current legislature and will need to be passed again when the next legislature is seated after the 2020 election) and is then submitted for a voter referendum in the following year, i.e. 2021. Therefore, the bills would not take effect until 2022.

The League has been supporting these voting reforms for years, but it's too early to rest on our laurels. League members will be busy with advocacy efforts to make sure follow-up legislation to implement these reforms is passed, along with funding so that the financial burden does not land on county governments.

Cheryl Nechamen

President's Letter January/February 2019

President's Letter

How do we decide who gets to come to the U.S., who gets to stay and how will they be treated while they're here? The League is sponsoring a forum to discuss these very issues on January 10 at 6 PM in the McChesney Room of the Schenectady County Public Library, entitled "Immigrants in America: How Do We Decide?"

Sarah Rogerson, Professor at Albany Law School, will talk about her experiences providing legal help to undocumented migrants as part of the Detention Outreach Project at the Albany County Jail. Victoria Martinez, Union College Professor, will describe the mini-term projects she runs with Union students at the U.S./Mexico border and Isabelle Paine Thacker will talk about her work with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) and with The Legal Project.

It's relatively easy to enter the U.S. The limiting factor is really how long a person is allowed to stay. Student visas, tourist visas and temporary work visas permit people to stay for short periods of time. The big exception of course is the travel ban barring people from certain countries from coming here even for a short stay. While discussion on illegal immigration tends to center on people who never had legal permission to enter the U.S., a sizable percentage of undocumented workers entered legally and simply overstayed their visas.

Legal permanent resident status, the coveted "green card", allows immigrants to stay here permanently with the potential opportunity for U.S. citizenship. There are a number of avenues to become a legal permanent resident, including winning the "green card lottery", reuniting with a family member who has attained U.S. citizenship and being granted refugee status.

The other focus of discussion on immigration is whether immigration policy should favor high- or low-skilled workers. But whatever the case may be, the very fact that an immigrant is willing to uproot themselves from friends and family to start a new life in the U.S. means that they're ambitious risk-takers that are bound to be an asset to this country.

Cheryl Nechamen

Letter supporting the work of the SCCC

The following letter was sent by LWV President Cheryl Nechamen on behalf of the League and in support of the work of SCCC.

Jennifer Miller, Director of Community College Support SUNY System Administration Office of Community Colleges and the Educational Pipeline SUNY Plaza, 353 Broadway Albany, NY 12204 Dear Ms. Miller: The League of Women Voters of Schenectady County enthusiastically supports Schenectady County Community College's application to the SUNY Community College Community Schools (CCCS) grant. Schenectady County Community College (SCCC), in collaboration with an array of public, private and nonprofit partners, seeks to support high need students, and to build a network of accessible, on-campus, non-academic resources essential to successfully retaining and graduating these students.

The proposed SCCC Community Schools initiative, DESTINATION: SUCCESS, integrates college resources and community based services for students and their families through a centralized location on the College's campus. SCCC's DESTINATION: SUCCESS is aimed at increasing student retention rates of high-needs students by directly connecting them to multiple community resources available to support them through life's non-academic challenges. On-campus support will help students to navigate and address such issues as employment, food, housing, finances, childcare, primary care and mental health services, legal support, transportation, and other day-to-day needs than can negatively impact student success.

The League of Women Voters will partner with SCCC to develop and implement this important initiative. The League will hold voter registration drives on campus to increase the number of new voters. During the voter registration drives, pamphlets will be available that help students who may have felony convictions, disabilities or who are homeless which will enable them to exercise their right to vote.

The League distributes information on candidates and issues during election campaigns. In addition, the League has a long history of holding educational programs on local, state and national issues that will help students to become active and informed participants in our country.

The proposed DESTINATION: SUCCESS initiative is designed to improve SCCC's retention and graduation rates by significantly scaling up the College's ongoing efforts to provide support to its diverse and ever-changing student population. Providing on-campus access to crucial services will give SCCC students the support they need. This, in turn, will further strengthen student's families, our larger community, and our region. We enthusiastically support the College's application for SUNY Community Schools grant funding.

Sincerely,

Cheryl Nechamen

President

League of Women Voters of Schenectady County