The Alabama Voter
Summer 2010 Edition
Published July 19, 2010
Read here online or download the print edition.
Our first speaker, Auburn Professor Dr. Rene’ McEldowney, provided an excellent workshop entitled “Fact of Fiction: Key Issues in Health Care Reform,” during which she described the US as the “Country of the Status Quo,” leading to fear of change in the health care arena. This presentation provided important information for use in the current LWVAL study on health care reform. After providing a historical overview, she made the following points regarding the new federal health care act, cautioning that much needs to be worked out for the details:
1. Low income individuals whose annual income of 133% of the poverty level will qualify for Medicaid.
2. There are mandates for employer contributions and for individuals to have health care. The largest group that is currently uninsured is the 19-35 year old age group.
3. There will be some sort of insurance exchange for the self-employed or small businesses that will offer regulated plans to everyone without another source of coverage. For individuals, income will be considered, and there will be no lifetime maximums.
4. Children can remain on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26, even if they are not in school, but premiums will surely rise.
Some changes have to be implemented six months after passage, which will be this fall. Other regulations won't go into effect until 2014 and some changes will not be phased in until 2017.
For all plans there will be some sort of insurance rate regulation, but, again, the particulars need to be worked out. Changes to be considered include streamlined paperwork (ha!), prohibiting gender discrimination, denial on the basis of preexisting conditions, etc. Medicare, whose overhead is about 3%, was touted as the model to adopt. Currently private insurance administrative costs can be as high as 33%.
There also needs to be improved quality control. An estimated 90,000 lives are lost annually to medical error. Another needed reform is further reliance on primary care. Ours is a national of expensive specialists. The bill says more money should go to primary care. In addition, preventative measures should require no co-pay.
Another trend is evidence-based medical practices. Also, the bill addresses the “donut hole” in current plans, with a $250 rebate this year to those who are eligible.
One down side to these changes is reduced privacy issues, especially with the way paperwork will be handled.
Finally, Dr. McEldowney noted that Alabama was the last state to adopt Medicaid. As Dr. Wayne Flynt noted, Alabama takes pride in being “poor but proud.” Currently Alabama pays $1 and the federal contribution is $3 but 1/3 of the general fund budget does to Medicaid. Alabama also needs to reduce the number of uninsured that remain in Alabama and lower uncompensated care for hospitals and providers.
by Laura Hill, Director
” CHARTER SCHOOLS – THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY”
was the title of the presentation given by Lynne Patrick, Ed.D, Instructional Leadership Program Coordinator/Associate Professor/Clinical Supervisor at Auburn University. Patrick’s professional experience includes serving as director of the Renaissance Advantage Charter School—an urban K-6 school in West Philadelphia.
The first charter law was passed in Minnesota in 1991. Today 40 states and the District of Columbia have implemented charter schools in some form. On average 300 to 400 new charters open each year. Nationwide, three percent of students attend a charter school. The data on these students show:
• 62% of charter students are non-white (vs. 47% in traditional public schools)
• 48% of charter students quality for free and reduced price lunch (vs. 45% in traditional public schools)
• 56% in cities, 25% in suburbs, 6% in towns, and 14% in rural areas
Patrick also addressed some of the myths surrounding charter schools. First, charters are open to all students who want to attend; if more students enroll than there are seats available, schools must conduct lotteries to fill seats. They cannot teach religion, charge tuition, or have admission requirements. And they must meet state standards, take state tests, and participate in state accountability systems.
Researchers have looked at common practices of five highly effective charter schools. These practices included autonomy for teachers, hiring teachers from non-traditional sources, schools deciding what will be taught in the classrooms and how.
As for the ugly side of charter schools, she mentioned instances of mismanagement of funds, missed opportunities to apply for federal grants (facilities funding), and poorly managed faculty/staff resulting in not meeting goals and loss of charter.
Source: Free to Lead: Autonomy in Highly Successful Charter Schools. Issue Brief by Joe Ableidinger and Bryan C. Hassel of Public Interest. Published by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. www.publiccharters.org
contributed by Mary Lynn Bates, First Vice-President
“Women won the vote, they weren’t “given” it.
-- Robert Cooney, Jr.
“Women’s suffrage is an excellent example of how you can change the whole country without killing people."
-- Robert Cooney, Jr.
The League should “continue to get in trouble, continue to get in the way [in the cause of justice]."
-- John Lewis
"There are three classes of people, those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and the overwhelming majority who have no idea what is happening. Save a friend from the majority. Bring her to a League of Women Voters Meeting."
-- Ruth S. Shur
“…these women know what they are talking about.”
-- Former NATO General re LWV delegation to NATO
”When everyone’s lost interest because it’s not fun anymore, we’re there.”
-- Former LWV President
"A good election process is one when “no eligible voter is disenfranchised because of the process.”
-- Commissioner Gracia Hillman, U.S. Election Assistance Commission
“The League of Women Voters will not be a party to the hoodwinking of the American people.”
-- Former LWV President re Presidential Candidate Debate procedures.
"State legislators voting on the 19th Amendment thought if it passed, the 'world as they knew it would end.' Thank God it did.”
-- Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Sec. of Health and Human Services
“Harry, I have always counted on you to do the right thing.”
-- Kathleen Sebelius quoting TN legislator Harry Burn’s mother’s message just before Harry changed his position and cast the deciding vote ratifying the 19th Amendment.
by Charlotte Ward, LWVAL Co-President
I attended my first LWVUS convention as a new local league president in 1962, in Pittsburgh. It was wonderful! I got to participate in an unexpected way. The caucus that was urging a reluctant National Board to step up to the civil rights question needed a spokesperson with a southern accent, and I gladly provided it. The result was the adoption of our “Human Resources” study that allowed us to speak out for keeping schools open and the desegregation of public facilities, among other important things.
This National Board was also somewhat reluctant to jump into a current fight, for preserving government functions and property from privatization. The recommended item, a study of the role of the federal government in education, is important, because the National League has never had a position on education. (I got a chuckle out of this, too – as a high school senior in 1945 I once drew the topic of federal aid to education out of the hat in an extemporaneous speaking competition!) But the League has tackled two studies at once many times before. Cost was a serious consideration, but someone figured that if everyone who voted to adopt the privatization study chipped in $30, we’d have the needed $10,000 for the first year’s study. They had collected $3000 by Tuesday morning. Like many others, I didn’t have my checkbook, but the check is going to be in the mail.
Resolutions are another avenue of expressing the League’s positions on issues of importance. They must, of course, be in line with League positions, but they can be used to emphasize aspects that are especially timely. See our run-down of all the resolutions adopted elsewhere in the VOTER.
National conventions require stamina. Friday’s sessions went from 1:00 to 10:00 PM (we did go out for supper). Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, caucuses, plenary sessions, networking opportunities, and workshops were scheduled from 7:30 AM to about 10:00 PM. Convention ended with Tuesday’s plenary session, 8:30 until noon, in which final budgets and board nominations are adopted. Rarely is a decision taken by a routine vote. There are pros and cons to be argued, points of order, voice, standing, and, if it’s too close to call, card votes: you turn in a green card for “yes” and a red card for “no.” These take a while to count.
Highlights of the plenary sessions and banquet were the speakers, about which more in this VOTER, and the roll call of states. Each state president has one minute to report/brag, and we heard a total of 45 minutes of remarkable achievements. Six states were not represented, mostly because of costs. Nearly every state and local league is running on a very tight budget.
I think we all came home “on a high” about possibilities – and about what we, a small state league, are already doing. I hope you will all join you conventioneers in making those possibilities realities.
by Mary Lynn Bates, First Vice-President
Some things that surprised me at the 2010 LWV Convention...
Bylaws changes: Discussion on the proposal to adopt a two year budget to be approved at Convention dominated an information meeting because one League had strong concerns about a change to which the Bylaws Committee did not anticipate any opposition. In the formal debate on the bylaws, the major discussion was whether Leagues should be able to contact their Congressional delegation on national issues without LWV approval. Many delegates had concerns about LWV’s support of the new health care legislation and perceived abandonment of the single payer position but the majority recognized that League must speak with one voice on national issues to avoid confusion and be effective.
Immigration caucus: The degree to which Leagues can make a difference by educating their communities to combat misunderstanding about immigration issues, prejudice, discrimination and an increasing problem with law enforcement. Immigrant communities are afraid to report crimes for fear of overzealous law enforcement and immigration enforcement. Practical advice about how Leagues can help and a DVD that can be the basis of a League community program was available.
United Nations: LWV’s retiring lead U.N. observer, Doris Schapira, has been extraordinarily influential in working for the rights of women, and particularly the girl child, in the U.N. and in facilitating the collaboration of NGOs through meetings and committees at the U.N. She also arranged for the League to be a part of global climate change discussions. In 1944, the League trained 5,000 volunteers to advocate across the country for a United Nations organization in order to insure Congressional support for the United Nations when it was established the next year. Shockingly, when the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women was established, a “woman” was defined as a female between the ages of 18 and 49….child bearing years…and League advocates have worked for years for recognition of the needs and rights of girls. Only the United States and Somalia have not ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. The effort to address the needs of older women is a major focus of the League’s other full time observer who co-chairs a subcommittee on the subject. Our “observers” at the U.N. do much more than observe.
Advocacy workshop: The League’s efforts to pass health care reform included running targeted television advertising in the district of a key swing vote congressman at a critical time and using its Washington Lobby Corps of 19 trained League volunteers to make frequent visits to Congressional offices. Being a Lobby Corps member is physically as well as intellectually demanding with members spending whole days walking long halls, going from five minute appointment to five minute appointment and listening and memorizing to report back what they learn. We also heard our chief lobbyist’s analysis of the Disclose Bill and the problem presented by the NRA’s opposition. He got a message about the proposed compromise to handle that issue while talking with us.
International Election Observers: The international election observers discussed were not observers of elections in third world countries and emerging democracies but observers from international organizations wanting to observe the conduct of elections in the U.S. Such observation has been strongly resisted by U.S. state and local election officials, many of whom have a great deal of autonomy under state law in running elections . Leagues have been successful in improving local election procedures and practices by auditing the process before, during and after election day and reporting problems and suggesting solutions to local election officials.
Gulf Oil Catastrophe Resolution: It was Wisconsin, rather than any Gulf state, that offered a resolution on the Gulf Oil disaster but it focused on the question of who would pay for the damage, not on committing government resources to limit and mitigate the immediate damage to the environment and economy. While our amendment calling on the Federal government to respond quickly and vigorously to the current emergency easily passed, there was more interest in a resolution calling for broad changes in the regulation of mining and drilling. Generally I believe that it is better not to adopt resolutions at Convention calling for action that has not been through the study and consensus process, but I offered an amendment to the pending “BP” resolution because it was evident that it would pass and I did not think the League should go on record on the issue focused solely on who will pay for the damage when the more critical immediate issue is getting the resources and authority to try to stop the damage that once it happens may not be reversible no matter how much money BP spends
by Charlotte Ward, LWVAL Co-President
As we are very aware in Alabama, education has, throughout this nation’s history, been considered a state concern, if it was the concern of government at all. We may need to be reminded that the idea of free public education for all is not all that old. In our region, in particular, public education arrived in many communities only late in the nineteenth century. A look at the LWVAL education positions will show that in 1960 we were still working to get the state to provide textbooks beyond sixth grade and to add kindergartens to the public schools.
Anyone who has lived more than one state is aware that standards and curriculum vary widely from state to state. National programs such as “No Child Left Behind” have tried to bring some uniformity in basic standards. A few non-governmental groups, some with public funding, have attempted to suggest curriculum standards (a list of topics that should be included at various grade levels in science, for example; I have served as a reviewer for some of these) but efforts to create a national curriculum have been mightily resisted by many states. The results of state control over curriculum can sometimes be bizarre, as recent events in Texas demonstrate.
With current federal efforts such as “Race to the Top” as well as NCLB, it is time for the League as a national organization dedicated to encouraging informed voting, to look at education as a national issue. We may decide the current state-centered system is best, or we may decide to support radical changes, but at present we have no voice at all, because we haven’t studied the topic. I hope we are all looking forward to getting – or perhaps influencing - the National Board’s guidelines, so that we can work toward correcting this void in the League’s ability to act.
by Scarlett Gaddy, Second Vice-President
Sunday afternoon's panel discussion was wonderful! The eight past LWVUS Presidents since 1964 (Lucy Benson, Ruth Hinerfeld, Dorothy Rydings, Nancy Newman, Susan Lederman, Becky Cain, Carolyn Jenkins, and Kay Maxwell) shared an overview of their experiences as President and answered questions. Each former President shared personal stories from her tenure as President and then answered questions about League. What have been the LWV's most significant accomplishments/strengths? (Identified by Past Presidents)
from Martha Collier's notes
After helping plan the initial meeting of Leaguers from the southeastern states to discuss our common environmental issues, Joyce Lanning was unable to attend. Most of the Alabama delegates did attend the caucus on Sunday, June 13. Here is Martha Collier’s report on the session.
Delegates from fourteen southeastern states caucused early on a Sunday morning to determine common issues such as water quality and quantity, climate change, coal (mining and burning), mountaintop removal, nuclear waste, off-shore drilling, incinerators, landfills, and other problems stemming from waste shipped in from beyond the region. Related issues such as pockets of poverty, air quality, were mentioned. Energy production was cited as the common factor in nearly all the issues mentioned.
Debra Butler of the Mobile LWV concisely summarized the issue by pointing out that we tend to focus on the end product, the life style we want to maintain, instead of the more important matter of the life we live day by day. Her remarks were followed by a round of applause from the assembly. Debra was then asked by the chair to spearhead the writing of a letter stating the League’s environmental positions by the end of August. This letter would be sent to legislators, EPA officials, and other pertinent people and agencies.
The League has a long-standing Natural Resources position promoting an environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest, including air and water quality. LWVUS positions also support environmentally sound policies that reduce energy growth rates, emphasize conservation, and encourage the use of renewable resources. These positions offer a strong basis for both national and state action on environmental issues.
by Kathy Byrd, LWVAL Co-President
Federal Role in Education
There were several caucuses related to promoting the adoption of the LWVUS study of the federal role in education; I attended three. The key issues were discussed, distilled, refined, and both Scarlett and I spoke on the floor in support of the adoption of this study. It passed overwhelmingly
The key points of the discussions can be distilled to a few key ideas:
from Martha Collier's notes
On Saturday evening the Atlanta/Fulton County LWV held a dessert bar fundraiser featuring a one woman show by Kate Campbell Stevenson that recounted the history of the woman suffrage movement. Actor/singer Stevenson portrayed women from Abigail Adams through Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Eleanor Roosevelt (among others) who were important in women’s struggle to get the vote and use it. Changing costume, make-up, and props in mid-performance required remarkable “sleight –of-hand’ as she told the story of the historical women with “can-do” attitudes that inspire us all.
Martha Collier attended the event and was enchanted by it. To find out how to schedule Ms. Stevenson for a performance in your community, contact the Atlanta/Fulton County League.
One way of calling attention to concerns of immediate significance is for the Delegates assembled in national convention to adopt resolutions. One of special interest to the Alabama delegation related to the Gulf oil gusher. It was introduced by the Dane County, WI, League. Mary Lynn Bates added a strong amendment, and the amended resolution passed unanimously. It will be the basis of a public statement by the LWVUS, which may have appeared by the time this VOTER reaches you. Its content in full is as follows:
Motion to move the Emergency Resolution of Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: Therefore, we request that the LWVUS highlight the need for those responsible for the oil spill to be held accountable. Further, the LWVUS demands that our government hold those responsible for the environmental disaster accountable for the clean-up. The LWVUS further urges the legislative and executive branches of the federal government to immediately take all necessary steps to maximize to the extent practicable the ability and efforts of all relevant federal agencies and departments to take action, and to work with the U.S. coastal states and communities most directly and immediately affected, to respond creatively, efficiently and effectively to the environmental, health and economic crisis created by the oil flowing from the out of control BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico and by the efforts to contain and disperse it.
Resolved that the LWVUS support lifting the travel restrictions for Americans going to Cuba.
-- LWV Florida
Resolved that we, representatives at the 2010 National Convention of the League of Women Voters, call upon the Board to use the resources of the League to support and lobby for significant strengthening of appropriate regulation, oversight, inspection, and penalties associated with the development of fossil fuel resources. This strengthening should include elimination from national legislation of the exemptions for drilling and mining, as well as additional legislation requiring the federal agencies to regulate drilling and mining in a manner consistent with the preservation of a healthy environment. We also call on the Board to communicate with the President and the Congress putting them on notice that Leagues across the country are deeply concerned about this issue.
-- LWV of Tompkins County, NY.
Resolved that the League of Women Voters call upon the Senate to change its rules to limit the use of the filibuster.
-- LWV of Kalamazoo Area, MI.
Addition of the principle of TRANSPARENCY to the SARA Resolution, as adopted by the LWVC Biennial Convention on May 17, 2009. Revised to include the following Principles: Security; Accuracy; Recountability; Accessibility; and Transparency.
-- LWV of Monterey Peninsula, CA.
Resolved that we, the representatives of local and state Leagues assembled at the 2010 LWLVUS Convention, call upon the LWVUS Board to advocate strongly for bills that legislate for improved Medicare for all.
-- LWV of Bloomington-Monroe, IN.
The League of Women Voters of the United States supports equal rights for all under state and federal law. LWVUS supports legislation to equalize the legal rights, obligations, and benefits available to same-gender couples with those available to heterosexual couples. LWVUS supports legislation to permit same-gender couples to marry under civil law. The League believes that the civil status of marriage is already clearly distinguished from the religious institution of marriage and that religious rights will be preserved.
-- LWV of Saratoga County, NY.
Both concurrences sparked considerable debate. One concern about the equality of marriage statement was the last sentence, but the accepted explanation was that the LWV supports civil unions and believes the right of any religious group to refuse to perform ceremonies in violation of its beliefs must be preserved. There was some question as to whether the National Popular Vote movement was an attempt to sidestep the Constitution or to weaken the League’s long-time effort to abolish the Electoral College. It was finally agreed that the NPV plan, which is to give all electoral votes of the states in the NPV Compact to the winner of the national popular vote, would be an interim measure in force until the Electoral College is abolished, and that the Constitution only establishes the Electoral College, leaving to the states to determine how their electoral votes are to be counted.
We support the use of the National Popular Vote Compact as one acceptable way to achieve the goal of the direct popular vote for election of the president until the abolition of the Electoral College is accomplished
-- LWV of Arizona.
In addition to the eight past presidents, four other speakers entranced the convention attendees. First was representative John Lewis, civil rights hero and long-time Congressman from Atlanta. This last survivor of the leaders of the march on Washington that culminated in MLK’s famous speech told of growing up in rural Alabama, and of the importance of “getting in the way” when things are going the wrong way. He commended the LWV for a tradition of doing just that.
Columnist and former Bush advisor Leslie Sanchez, referring to her new book, You’ve Come a Long Way, Maybe, reminded us that the work begun by our suffragist forebears is not yet done.
Banquet speaker Robert Cooney, Jr., reminded us of our history on the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment with fascinating pictures and stories from his book, Winning the Vote; the Triumph of the Woman Suffrage Movement.
At the last plenary session, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius thanked the League for our efforts on behalf of health care, and reminded us that there is still much to be done. Her speech in full can be read on the LWVUS website.
Ding! The door opens. Ding! Another round of voting. Ding! The door opens. Ding! Yet another caucus/workshop or gathering. Exhausted yet? I was. This is the reflection of my time at the 45th National League of Women Voters Convention. As we celebrated the 90 years that had passed, and looked forward to see where we were going (with lots of parallel roads), I made some new friendships, renewed others, and strengthened yet others. The elevators in the hotel were sort of symbolic of the way I experienced the time there. It seemed that each encounter was seemingly as random, and yet controlled as elevator doors opening and shutting, only to open again, with a new vista.
As I reflect on all that I encountered, it is almost overwhelming. Over 800 people gathered to ensure democracy works at all levels, locally (like here in Mobile), at the state level (like Alabama) and at the national level with all of the pomp and circumstance, complete with pro and con microphones, time keepers, numbered red no cards and matching green yes cards, and minutes from previous sessions to be read. Some of the voice votes were so close ballots were called for. This was the role of the cards: you were to hand in the green if you agreed/supported or the red if you were opposed/against the motion on the floor. While this happened, the doors to the hall were locked! No one in or out until the ballots were collected. They were opened while the ballots were counted and reported. The motions were projected onto large screens at the front of the room, read carefully and discussed in great detail. This of course happened after extensive caucus meetings and materials posted on the website. Very complicated at first glance. The roll call of states was also intriguing. Each state present was asked to share about a minute with the assembly. Some ran through their place in the history of suffrage or milestones, others told what they had been up to.
Interspersed with all of this formality, there were workshops where folks shared either best practices (like the workshop I attended, in my role as Nominating Chair in Mobile, on how to grow leadership) or resources such as the Treasury for Treasurers. LWVUS staff and Board members were either in attendance or leading these sessions. Some of the caucus meetings I attended included an impromptu one hosted by the state of Florida on lifting the travel embargo to Cuba (subsequently allowed on the floor and favorably voted on as an item for LWVUS to work on) to an overview by the Climate Change Task Force of their new toolkit (on the LWVUS website – see link – great stuff!). Some of the ideas I heard about included a poll worker outreach effort (in Iowa) where they reached out to 18-25 year olds, recruiting them to work the polls, and participating in the education of the workers, helping to further broaden the area knowledge of democracy. Another was a program Ready to Run and Running to Win. Both focus on helping people, particularly women, have information to prepare them to consider submitting their name as a candidate for office, or at least for a position on a Board or Commission. Tucson, AZ, shared a lot of this information.
Ding! The door opens again – this time for us to pack up and go home for another 2 years, until Ding! The door opens in Washington DC in 2012 – make your plans now, rest up, get your pencils sharpened and your wits sharper! It will be a wild ride!
After 34 years as a League member, I attended my first national convention this month in Atlanta, and it met all of my expectations. We were offered interesting, timely caucuses beginning at 7:30 up until a general session or organized LWVUS workshop at 9:00, then offered more state or local caucus meetings from 8-10 p.m. at the conclusion of other LWVUS sessions. The convention was full of enthusiastic, well-informed, and engaged League members who were eager to share their research and experiences in caucuses and workshops. Not surprisingly, League delegates also were happy to share plenty of strong opinions at “pro” and “con” microphones on the convention floor. We also had the opportunity to browse through exhibits and wares markets and get some great LWV-themed buttons, posters, and note cards to support other Leagues’ fundraising efforts. I think my favorite part of the convention, however, was the panel discussion of former LWVUS national presidents going back to the 1960s. They each provided a summary of the highlights of their tenure and we were reminded how much the LWV has been a part of key national and international policy development and legislation during the past five decades.