Thursday, April 25, 2013

Students, Memos, and Hearings

For those wondering about the lapse in our blogging last week, we were busy chaperoning fifty-five talented, inquisitive, and just generally amazing high school students who came to Albany from across New York State to participate in the League’s Students Inside Albany (SIA) conference.  SIA is an intensive four day training experience that is designed to immerse students in the process by which public policy is proposed, enacted and changed in New York State and educate them as to how they can influence and affect this process. .  The students spent four packed days learning about New York State government, lobbying, voting, the judicial system, and the legislature, where they spent two days shadowing their legislators.  They even got to have a mock debate on the floor of the Assembly, thanks to Assemblymember  Pete Lopez.  Check out LWVNY’s website for photos of the conference.   Big thanks to all of the staff, chaperones, speakers, local leagues, legislators, and students who made this year’s SIA such a wonderful experience!

Last week also saw bill A1046 appear on the agenda of the Assembly Codes Committee, where it passed.  The bill requires that all waste resulting from the exploration, development, extraction and production of crude oil and natural gas that meets the definition of hazardous waste be subject to the same laws regarding generation, transportation, treatment, storage and disposal as other hazardous wastes.  The League put out a memo in strong support of A1046, as we have for the past couple years that the bill has been introduced and passed in the Assembly.  A1046 has moved on to the Ways and Means Committee, where we will track its progress.  The bill’s same-as, S674, is currently sitting in the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, where it has yet to see any action, even though all four members of the IDC are cosponsors of the bill.  Keep a look out for League memos and action alerts should S674 make its way onto the committee’s agenda.
This week, Assemblymember Gottfried’s single payer healthcare bill, A5389, passed in the Assembly Health Committee.  The bill has long floated around the Assembly and hasn’t seen a vote on the floor since 1992, when it was first introduced and passed in the Assembly and died in the Senate.   Nevertheless, the League has continuously advocated for the bill, knowing that a single payer health coverage program would save lives and give all New Yorkers the healthcare many so desperately need.  You can read the League’s most recent memo in support of the legislation here.
Finally, in the mist of the recent increased flurry of dialogue on campaign finance reform, the Senate Republicans have taken aim at public financing of campaigns.  In early May, the Senate Election Law Committee will hold a public hearing on the “abuses of the New York City public financing system.” 

Starting May 1, the IDC will be holding their own public hearings on campaign finance reform throughout the state.  The League, which has applauded the IDC’s comprehensive campaign finance reform proposal, will be testifying at at least one of the IDC’s hearings – check back soon for more info.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

And we thought it would be a slow week...

Political Scandal

With the legislature not in session this week, we weren’t expecting to have much to blog about.  However, as you have probably already heard, New York has once again found itself embroiled in yet another political corruption scandal.  On Tuesday, New York State Senator Malcolm Smith was arrested, along with several other lawmakers, by federal law enforcement in connection to a scheme to bribe Republican officials into letting Smith run as a GOP candidate for mayor of New York City.  The scandal, which included plans to use state money in the scheme, highlights the “pay-to-play” culture that permeates New York politics.  On Wednesday, the League joined with NYPIRG, Citizen Action, and the Sierra Club to hold a press conference outside of the Senate chambers calling upon Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to help end political corruption and restore New Yorker’s faith in their government via passing a comprehensive campaign finance reform package, which would include contribution limits, strong enforcement, an end to "pay-to-play," and a publicly financed small donor matching system.  The press conference was well-attended by the press and Barbara really drove home the need to address the “pay –to-play” culture in Albany and  the point that comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation would make a huge stride towards that end.

And it seems this is the week for corruption, as just today, another five people, including Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, were arrested on bribery charges. Assemblymember Nelson Castro has also resigned as part of a plea bargain for being a "cooperating witness".  He had been indicted in a sealed indictment in 2009 as part of a voter fraud case by the Bronx DA and then became the witness for the US attorney.

The Barbs Talk Women’s Equality
This week the state league also hosted a conference call for league members to provide info and updates and answer questions about the Women’s Equality Agenda & Coalition.  Over 20 league members from across the state called in to listen to Barbara Bartoletti and Pay-Equity Issue Co-Specialist, Barbara Thomas discuss the Women’s Equality Agenda, the League’s role in the coalition, and what local leagues can do and are doing in the regional women’s equality coalitions around the state.  There was a lot of excitement on the call, demonstrating the energy, commitment, and experience local leagues are bringing to their regional coalitions.  Those on the call reported that they have already been scheduling legislative meetings to show their support for the Women’s Equality Agenda (along with the other items in the legislative packet this session – Campaign Finance Reform and Early Voting).  In addition, the Women’s Equality Agenda regional press conferences have kicked off this week and, as the callers reported, will be well-attended by the League.  These calls may become a regular happening, so please join us for the next one!