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LWVNJ April 2014 Advocacy Update

Respectfully submitted by Nancy Hedinger, Vice President of Programs and Advocacy 

Education
The Education Committee is continuing its work on the Charter School Update Consensus, shooting for June 1 to have consensus materials ready for local Leagues with a November 15 deadline for returns. Please leave time on your calendars for a consensus meeting in the early fall. 

Fiscal Policy 
  • Sandy Matsen represented LWVNJ a meeting of the Better Choices Campaign to discuss the proposed 2015 Budget. 
  • Members of the committee have met and are working on a draft of LWVNJ comments on the 2015 Budget. 
  • The Fiscal Policy Committee is looking for new members. If any of your members are interested in this area, please contact me at hedingern@gmail.com. 
Government
  • On January 30, LWVNJ testified at the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee meeting on S.536, a bill which requires availability of early voting for certain elections; makes appropriation. The bill was voted out of committee. The Assembly bill (A.2230) has been referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee. 
  • There has been no movement on proposed amendments to the Open Public Records Act (S.2511/A.3713) or the Open Public Meetings Act (S.2511/A.3713). 
  • Staff attended the ELEC public hearing on gubernatorial public financing. 
Natural Resources
  • LWVNJ weighed in at the Senate Energy and Environment Committee hearing (3/17) in support of S.1041, Prohibits treatment, discharge, disposal, application to roadway, or storage of wastewater, wastewater solids, sludge, drill cuttings or other byproducts from natural gas exploration or production using hydraulic fracturing. The bill was voted out of committee. The Assembly bill, A.2108, has been referred to the Environment and Solid Waste Committee. (A similar bill has been introduced in the CT Legislature). 
  • Also on 3/17, a Resolution, (SCR84) which amends Constitution to dedicate 6% of Corporation Business Tax revenues from FY2016 to FY2045 for open space, farmland, and historic preservation; ends dedication of 4% of Corporation Business Tax revenues for environmental programs; dedicates natural resource damages and environmental fine revenue to underground storage tank programs and State-funded hazardous discharge cleanups. was voted out of committee. If this resolution passes, it will require voter approval. While the League recognizes the need for a stable source of open space funding, we cannot support a constitutional dedication of taxes for this purpose. Our 2015 Budget comments will speak to the need for new revenue sources for this and other pressing needs in our state. 
  • LWVNJ has joined the New Jersey for Renewable Energy and Efficiency Coalition (NJ FREE), a group working to help transition New Jersey to a 80% renewable electricity by 2050. We attended a meeting of stakeholder groups arranged by Senator Smith (Chair of the Senate and Environment and Energy Committee and chief sponsor of the draft NJ Renewable Energy Transition Act). A write up of the meeting can be found at the following NJ Spotlight link: http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/14/03/draft-bill-sets-aggressive-goals-for-renewable-energy-power-consumption. We will be attending a follow-up meeting scheduled for early May. 
  • LWVNJ signed on to a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regarding a request from researchers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in collaboration with the National Science Foundation (NSF), to study seafloor sediments 15 miles off the Barnegat Bay. As part of the research, seismic air gun arrays will be used to shoot blasts of compressed air into the seabed (a technique used to locate buried oil and gas) to better understand historical changes in sea level from 60 million years ago. The letter requests a 60-day extension of the public comment period (to allow time to evaluate an environmental impact assessment) and a public hearing in New Jersey, preferably in the vicinity of the Barnegat Bay. For Clean Ocean Action’s informed understanding of the proposed project, you can refer to their action alert at the following link: http://cleanoceanaction.blogspot.com/2014/03/action-alert-stop-seismic-testing-off.html
  • We testified before the Senate Energy and Environment Committee in favor of S151, which clarifies the intent of P.L.2007, c.340 regarding NJ’s required participation in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. You may have read where, recently, Environment New Jersey and the Natural Resources Defense Council took the state to court over the administration’s decision to pull New Jersey out of the ten state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). An appellate panel ruled that the DEP failed to follow the law when it dropped regulations drafted to help us comply with the RGGI program without going through a formal rule making procedure and public hearings. If passed and signed by the Governor, S.151/A.1763) would make New Jersey’s participation in RGGI mandatory. An NJ Spotlight article about the court decision can be found at : http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/14/03/25/three-judge-appellate-panel-faults-state-dep-for-abolishing-rules-on-greenhouse-gases/
  • The Natural Resources Committee is looking for a League member who might be willing to do some research on Coastal positions in other state leagues. Neither LWVNJ nor LWVUS has a position on the coast and we are hoping we can adopt a position at our 2015 Convention by concurring with another state league. We have already begun collecting sample positions from coastal states. If you or anyone you know are interested in this short term research “project” , please contact me. 
Women and Family Issues
  • As you know, members of the Women and Family Issues Committee who put together the Human Trafficking Study and Consensus will be representing LWVNJ at the LWVUS Convention in June. They have scheduled a caucus meeting and will be lobbying the Board and other state Leagues to adopt a national position on Human Trafficking, by concurring with the newly adopted LWVNJ position. Stay tuned! 
  • On February 26th, our Executive Director, Kerry Butch, and members of local leagues attended a Rutgers Institute for Women’s Leadership event where Gloria Steinem spoke on “Media, More Real than Reality”. After mentioning that she was from the League of Women Voters when she asked Ms. Steinem and attendees how we engage young people in the political process, Kerry received a rousing ovation from the audience as well as an invitation to attend a meeting of the Rutgers University Coalition Against Sexual Assault. 
  • On April 1st, Toni Zimmer, Kerry Butch and I attended a meeting of the Rutgers University Coalition Against Sexual Assault. We spoke with students about the League mission and ways in which we can work together. It was exciting to be with a room full of politically engaged young people. We hope to maintain a relationship with this group. 
  • The Women and Family Issues Committee will be looking into priorities for the coming year at a teleconference meeting on April 19th. If any of your members are interested in joining the committee, please have them contact Melissa Smith, WFI Committee Chair at msmithnj@gmail.com.