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LWVNJ January 2015 Advocacy Update

PROGRAMS

Education
Answers to the Consensus Questions for the Charter School Study have been submitted by nineteen Leagues, representing 67% of our membership. The Education Committee will be evaluating the results and recommending a position update to the Board.

Government
The Government Committee will have its second organizational meeting on January 10th at 1:00. We are expecting several League members and hope to have a robust discussion of possible program committee priorities. 

Immigration
The Advocacy Team is reviewing a letter drafted by the Immigration Committee to be submitted to LWVUS Advocacy Chair, Chris Carson, asking LWVUS to continue to pursue comprehensive immigration reform. Recognizing that a single bill is unlikely, the committee recommends that LWVUS be “prepared to review any new, lesser scale immigration bills and support those that are in line with our national position.” One bill the committee recommended we support repeals the “three and ten-year bars” which currently require undocumented immigrants to return to their homelands for three years, if here for less than a year, or ten years, if here for more than a year, before becoming eligible for legal status by, for instance, gaining an employment visa or marrying a citizen. The Advocacy Team will meet prior to 1/12/15 to discuss whether to submit the recommendations to LWVUS.

Natural Resources
We joined with a number of coalition partners in signing a letter 12/5/14 to the Maritime Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Port Ambrose LNG deepwater port. The letter asked for a 90-day comment period and at least three hearings in each adjacent state, i.e. New York and New Jersey. The letter stated that considering the applicant has had well over one year to review and address the over 200 data gaps identified during scoping, the public deserves sufficient time to review the new data and findings. Other issues raised included the timing of the release and public hearings (over the holidays and early January) and the fact that there is broad public interest over a large geographic area. One hearing in each state (not even in the affected areas) is not in the public interest and discourages meaningful public participation. Unfortunately, on 12/12, we were informed that there would be only two hearings -one in Jamaica, Queens on 1/7 (the date of the State of the State) and one in Eatontown, NJ on 1/8. Neither location is in the areas most affected by Port Ambrose. Our coalition partner, Clean Ocean Action, has asked us to testify (on the process) at the Eatontown hearing.

LWVNJ and LWV Delaware submitted a letter to US Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the PSE&G Nuclear site located on Artificial Island in Salem NJ (Salem 4). We stated that the report was “inadequate to properly assess the potential environmental impacts of constructing and operating a new nuclear power plant at the site and that additional information, potentially involving new research, needs to be provided and evaluated” We also indicated our agreement with an analysis prepared by the Delaware Riverkeeper. 

We have gotten requests from local Leagues to weigh in on the Pilgrim Pipeline, an oil pipeline that will take Baaken crude from North Dakota to the Bayway refinery in Linden. The pipeline is slated to go through the Highlands and other ecologically fragile areas in the state. Since this is a multi-state issue, we will need guidance from National if NR decides to make this a priority issue and submits a request for action from the Board.

Women and Family Issues
We have been working with the NJ Time to Care Coalition on Earned Sick and Safe Days legislation (A2354/S785). This bill allows workers to have access to modest minimum number of sick days and the ability to use them for illness (to the worker or a family member) as well as for safety or recovery from a domestic violence situation. A2354 was voted out of committee on 12/15. It remains in the Labor Committee in the Senate. The coalition anticipates the bill will move in early 32015.

The committee will be meeting on January 8 (by teleconference). They have been in touch with the Young People’s Network to learn about their priorities and to encourage them to join the committee. 

Advocacy
We held another successful “Meet and Greet” on December 11th. Despite it being a very busy day in the Legislature, several coalition partners and some legislators stopped by. One legislator, Senator Peter Barnes, suggested the League sponsor debates on specific issues of our choosing between legislators from different districts with opposing viewpoints. He offered to suggest pairings of members with equivalent experience levels. 


Hopefully, next year, more Board members and legislators will be able to join us. Interest among legislators seems to be growing with each year.

Respectfully submitted,
Nancy Hedinger, VPAdvocacy and Programs