The Alabama Voter
Summer 2010 Edition
Published July 19, 2010
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.