Tags Posts tagged with "The League of Women Voters"

The League of Women Voters

The New York State Capitol building, located in Albany. Photo by formulanone from Wikimedia Commons

By Lisa Scott

Every year the League of Women Voters of New York State provides members with key information on issues of interest to us. The 2024-2025 state budget is currently under debate in the NYS Legislature and local Leagues are asked to lobby our state Senators and Assembly Members on pre-budget issues before late March since the budget deadline is April 1. The non-budget stand-alone bills are considered in committees and on floors during session in late Apr. and the Legislative session ends on June 1.

In 2024 we are concentrating pre-budget on funding for county boards of elections, election reforms, funding for the public campaign finance board, an expansion of the bottle bill, education financing and fair pay for home care. Post-budget, we will focus on LWV priority issues relating to good government, criminal justice reform, rural issues, healthcare, women’s issues, and environmental issues.

Our pre-budget lobbying requests include:

Elections and Good Government: Keeping $114.5M to support the NYS Public Campaign Finance Program and $8.1M to support the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, and add $10M in funds directed to County Boards of Elections, $4.5M to implement the Doctor John L. Flateau Voting and Elections Database and Academic Center of New York Act and $51,000 for a voter list maintenance organization like ERIC.

Environment: include the Bigger Better Bottle Bill (S237/A6353) in their one house budgets as well as in the final budget.

Education Financing: We strongly oppose Governor Hochul’s recent decision to alter the formula that is used to distribute aid to school districts. The changes made in her proposed budget will significantly reduce foundation aid to nearly half of all school districts in the state. The Executive altered both the Consumer Price Index methodology and the policy of reducing aid to no district year to year. As a result, nearly half of school districts will be forced to reduce their 2024-25 school budgets or raise local taxes. They will have no time for planning if the budget is not finalized until the end of March 2024. We are asking that the Governor amend her proposal and reinstate full funding to our schools and that the Senate and Assembly do not include this change in their one house budgets.

Healthcare: We ask that Legislators reject Governor Hochul’s proposal to cut $2.55 an hour from home care workers in the consumer directed personal assistance program (CDPAP) and pass the Fair Pay for Home Care Act (S3189/A8821) in the budget.

Other League lobbying later this spring will focus on:

Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform – Public Campaign Finance Board: The League strongly supports the $114.5M allocated for the Public Campaign Finance Board. This year is the first opportunity for New York to demonstrate a commitment to campaign finance reform and reducing the influence of big money in politics. During the 2022 election, the 200 biggest donors outspent over 200,000 small donors in state races. This groundbreaking state program will ensure that New Yorkers’ voices are heard throughout the political process. The funding for this program included in the Executive Budget will ensure that it can help level the playing field, amplify the voices of small donors, and reduce the impact of wealthy special interest groups in New York. We urge the Legislature to include the full $114.5M in the Senate and Assembly one house budgets.

Funding to County Boards of Election: Elections are often the last item on the list when it comes to county budgets and many county boards operate with limited resources. The League urges the Legislature to seriously consider the cost of new election improvements when introducing their proposed budgets and to consider setting up a yearly fund specifically for implementing election reforms at the local level.

The League was glad to see that funds were specifically allocated for local boards of elections to invest in new electronic pollbooks ($14.7 M), to cover the cost of absentee and early vote by mail ballot postage ($7.7M). However, there are still limited funds available for educating voters, poll worker training, staffing, and the establishment of new sites to comply with current mandates. It is not possible for boards to continue to expand voting access without funds devoted to these measures. We ask that a minimum of an additional $10M in funding be allocated to county boards of elections so that they may make the upgrades necessary and hire the staff necessary to effectively run our elections in 2024. This is consistent with the bipartisan proposal submitted by election commissioners across New York State.

All voters should consider discussing the above issues with your NYS Assembly and Senate representatives. Educate yourself, your voice matters. 

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https//my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county.

METRO photo

By Lisa Scott

The League of Women Voters is nonpartisan; we don’t support or oppose candidates or parties. We have a strong commitment to encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government. We run debates, seek community input on issues, and via the phone and email, serve voters who are looking for information. LWVUS and state and local Leagues run the national Vote411.org voting information website (which encourages candidates to answer questions on issues of importance to their constituents).

Throughout Suffolk County, voters are electing a new County Executive (the incumbent has served three 4-year terms, thus 12 years, which is the term permitted), as well as electing the 18 County Legislators (they serve 2-year terms, also limited to 12  years)

In Suffolk’s 10 Townships, there are a variety of offices on the ballot in 2023 such as Supervisor, Council Members, Receiver of Taxes, Town Clerk, Superintendent of Highways, Assessors and Town Justices and District Court Judges. Each Town has their own rules about term length and (if any) term limits. Village, library and school elections are managed separately —  they do not appear on the General Election ballot.

Candidates represent different points of view on many issues. On a county level, voters should consider water quality, which has significantly deteriorated in recent years. Voters have not been given the opportunity to vote on a ballot referendum involving a proposed .0825% sales tax increase and making state and federal funding available for sewers and septic systems. It was recessed (not moved forward) in August by the majority party of the Suffolk County Legislature. (Stay tuned — there may be a special election for the referendum in 2024. Because it would be a single issue ballot, it would incur significant cost, and voter turnout is generally very poor when only one issue or office is on a ballot). 

Other critical county issues include public safety, opioid and mental health crises, waste disposal, affordable senior and workforce housing, and campaign finance. The last refers to campaign contributions from public service unions or contractors, and elected officials voting on contracts for organizations from which they receive campaign contributions. Each Town also has its own hyperlocal issues as well — check your local media for debates and articles to become familiar with your local concerns, races and candidates.

All Suffolk voters should be sure to turn over the ballot to vote on two New York State proposals for NYS Constitution updates. The wording on the ballot, and an explanation for each is below.

PROPOSAL NUMBER 1: Removal of Small City School Districts From Special Constitutional Debt Limitation

Description of Proposal: The State Constitution limits how much debt a small city (a city with less than 125,000 people) school district, can incur. State law says their debt cannot be greater than five percent of the value of taxable real property; all other school districts’ debt cannot be greater than ten percent. If this Constitutional Amendment passes, small city school districts would be eligible to have the same debt limit as other school districts as determined by state law.

Question as it will appear on the Ballot: The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 4 of the Constitution removes the special constitutional debt limitation now placed on small city school districts, so they will be treated the same as all other school districts. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

PROPOSAL NUMBER 2: Extending Sewage Project Debt Exclusion From Debt Limit

Description of Proposal: The State Constitution limits the debt counties, cities, towns, and villages can incur. This debt limit has an exception to not include debt for sewage treatment and disposal construction projects. The current sewer debt exception expires on January 1, 2024. This amendment extends the sewer debt exception for ten more years until January 1, 2034.

Question as it will appear on the Ballot: The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 5 of the Constitution extends for ten years the authority of counties, cities, towns, and villages to remove from their constitutional debt limits debt for the construction of sewage facilities. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

Vote by Absentee ballot, Early Voting Oct. 28 to Nov. 5, or on Election Day Nov. 7. To register (by Oct. 28), check your registration, apply for an absentee ballot, or find your polling place, visit https://www.elections.ny.gov/. To find out who and what is on your ballot, visit Vote411.org 4 weeks before Election Day.

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https//my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county.

Pixabay photo

By Lisa Scott

Government is a social compact, affecting our lives on many levels. Each of us bears responsibilities including  understanding issues, evaluating and deciding which matter most to us, and acting to influence those that do.

The League of Women Voters has chapters on local, county, state and national levels. We are a unique, multi-issue, nonpartisan, political organization, encouraging informed and active participation in government. We influence public policy through advocacy and education and seek positive solutions to the problems confronting our communities and our country. 

As LWV, we anticipate taking significant action on key issues in the 2023 New York State Legislative Session (which ends in June). These issues include Election Reform, Good Government Reform, Healthcare, Judicial Issues, Natural Resources, State Finances and Education, Equality of Opportunity, Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking, and Rural Issues. Visit our website https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county to see our 2023 Legislative Agenda for more information on these key priorities. Beyond these broad categories, we also are gearing up for immediate advocacy related to needed additional funding in the 2023-2024 NYS budget:

Funding for State and County Boards of Elections: The League urges the Legislature to seriously consider the cost of new election improvements when introducing their proposed budgets and to consider setting up a yearly fund specifically for enhanced election reforms like early voting and absentee voting. It is not possible for boards of election to continue to expand voting access without funds devoted to the expansion of early voting poll sites, poll worker training, staffing, upgrading of old systems, and the establishment of new sites. The State Board of Elections and county Boards of Elections need a serious funding commitment to ensure that these progressive reforms are not unfunded mandates. 

Funding for Election Reform: The passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York was an historic moment in New York. It established rights of actions for denying or abridging the right of any member of a protected class to vote, assisted language-minority groups, required certain subdivisions to receive preclearance for potential violations of the law, and created civil liability for voter intimidation. This year, we expect to see the passage of a database bill that will support this bill. Additional funds should also be provided to counties to ensure compliance with all aspects of the law. 

In 2022, Governor Hochul signed legislation to reduce the 25-day statutory voter registration deadline to 10 days prior to the election. As many voters become engaged in the election close to election day, this legislation will allow for easier and more accessible voter engagement and participation in New York. This legislation allows for one “Golden Day” in which a voter can register to vote and vote on the same day. Since the law went into effect on January 1, 2023, it is essential that funds be appropriated to account for the increase in staff and training that will be essential for county boards to successfully implement this new procedure. 

Funding for Ethics Reforms: The League was glad to see the continued funding of New York’s new ethics body, the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government. We urge the Legislature to include this funding in their budget as continued support for a commission that holds public officials accountable. 

The executive budget has woefully underfunded the matching portion of the new public campaign financing program. This year is the first opportunity for New York to demonstrate a commitment to campaign finance reform and reducing the influence of big money in politics. During last year’s election, the 200 biggest donors outspent over 200,000 small donors in state races. 

The League applauds the Governor for including 14.5M in funding to support the administrative needs of the Public Campaign Finance Board. However, underfunding the matching portion of the program by $75M will not build the trust needed for candidates to opt into the program. Multiple studies done by the State Board of Elections indicate that by 2024 the program would need between $119M and $213M in matching funds to operate the program successfully. 

Fully funding the matching portion of this program would indicate a strong commitment to reform for New York voters and give candidates the confidence to buy into the program. The program will only see success if candidates participate. We urge the legislature to fully fund the requested $114.5 M for this program. 

You too can make your voice heard by becoming more informed, speaking out and contacting your elected officials; and consider joining your local LWV chapter. 

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county or call 631-862-6860.