The Environmental Committee of the League of Women Voters of Schenectady County has one consensus meeting on agricultural issues behind it, and has another scheduled for April 10th. The April meeting will consider some "hot button" issues like subsidies, financing, and regulation. This should be of interest to many League members. New York State has a stake in a sustainable agricultural system that is equitable to farmers and to consumers who value healthy food. The League has been fortunate to have had four panel discussions looking at the complexity of farming today. It also has looked at the issue of poverty in Schenectady County and access to nutritional food. The consensus meetings broaden some of the discussion and grapple with difficult issues.
April 8th is Equal Pay Day. The League supports equal pay for comparable job titles of comparable worth. The New York State Assembly has passed a number of bills dealing with pay equity but the New York Senate has not followed with comparable bills. On Equal Pay Day, the State Senate will not be in session. Inequities continue to exist in jobs that are dominated by females or minorities. In 1987, the State of New York made comparable worth adjustments and reclassified job titles as a result of a job equity study. However, New York State never mandated comparable worth adjustments as did Minnesota where there is equity in the public sector workforce.
The National LWV is asking League members to support the proposed federal carbon pollution standards for power plants. Go on the national website to see how you can support this goal. In another important arena at the national level, League members need to talk up and contact Senators and Congressional Representatives to support a Voting Rights Act "fix", a bi-partisan piece of legislation. The U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby versus Holder struck down a provision of the Voters Rights Act which protected voters against discrimination at the polls. Since then, a number of states have introduced legislation that they claim will prevent fraud-- for which there is little evidence-- but the effect is to suppress voter registration and turnout. The Sensenbrenner bill seeks to better protect all voters against discrimination at the ballot box and ensures Americans of their guaranteed right to vote. An equal right to vote, the LWVUS said, is not about who wins or loses or the political advantage of one party, it is about a fundamental right of citizens.
A reminder to each of us: check the Schenectady, New York State, and United States League of Women Voters websites for the latest in advocacy, upcoming programs, blogs, and more.
Joan Elliott, Lead
During the last month we have realized just how important our local League work is, as we did program planning, scheduled consensus meetings, and took part in a New York State League advocacy training day.
We reviewed the LWVUS positions and gave our feedback to the National League, commenting on needed changes and additions, so the LWVUS can plan its work for the next two years. Once the national positions are developed, Leagues can use these positions to lobby their elected officials.
At the program planning meeting we discussed several issues. Does the National League's position on Natural Resources allow us to address the issue of equitable distribution of water resources as portions of our nation and world suffer extreme drought, mega storms, and great floods? Related to this is the question of whether the National League can aggressively address climate change or whether there needs to be a more specific position on this topic. Gun control was discussed and we wondered if regulations covering safe storage of weapons in the home were needed, and if so, was this a state or national issue? We decided that it is important that wellness and prevention be stressed in reform of our health care system. We also decided that farm subsidies needed further exploration. We will be giving this feedback to the LWVUS as the National Board develops its recommendations for the upcoming June National Convention. It is at this convention that the LWVUS establishes its priorities and which issues need to be studied or updated in order to develop new advocacy positions.
We decided that the widening disparity of wealth in the country, access to good health care, immigration, equitable education, climate change, and voting rights are important issues facing the country.
In March and April, the Environment Committee will be holding two consensus meetings so that we can discuss and vote on elements of a position under consideration dealing with agricultural issues such as genetically modified seed, pesticide and fertilizer use, agricultural water contamination, and more. This is the result of a study chosen at the last National Convention held in 2012.
We also considered our local program in our February meeting. Much of this work is carried out by our committees: Education, Environment, Health, Judicial, Observer Corps, and Working Group on Girls. There is interest in exploring the topic of local tax abatement and other local tax issues.
In June, we plan to send delegates to the National Convention in Dallas, Texas to represent us and vote on the National program. It is exciting to participate in a convention, to hear about what other states and Leagues are doing, and see how the larger organization works.
Carol Furman, Lead
Other issues, such as Health Care Defense and Budget/Taxes may be acted on as opportunities arise for League action, if they do not interfere with action on an LWVUS priority, and it appears the LWVUS can make an impact.
The Board considered many issues and the responses from League members suggesting Legislative Priorities. The decisions were based on what issues are likely to come before the 113th Congress, the opportunities to make an impact, program decisions made by members at the last Convention, member interest, and resources available to manage these priorities effectively. The Board reviews these priorities throughout the year, making changes if necessary.