2016 LWVSPA Planning Meeting
The 2016 LWVSPA Planning Meeting, held Wednesday, February 24, was a big success. LWVSPA members showed up in force to support a variety of groups and committees for 2016-2017.
Be sure to attend the Annual Meeting and Luncheon on April 9th at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. Sign up for one or more of the following programs:
- Voter Services: The Voter Services Chair is Raechel Garafalo. Voter Services is an educational committee with a tremendous scope of activity and responsibility for the integrity of its content and its nonpartisan posture. Voter Services is at the core of the League’s Mission, to engage people in democracy, and to do so in a nonpartisan way. Our non-partisan posture is a critical aspect of Voter Services. The committee conducts candidate forums, registers voters, publishes an online voter guide, and educates the citizenry about proposed amendments and the voting process. The committee is already in full swing with municipal elections, and preparing for the larger election cycle. This is a critical time as we approach the appointments for the FL State Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and entertain the opportunity to place Amendments on the Ballot, making this election cycle even more important. The committee is also engaged as a participant in the National Study of Open Primaries. If the LWVUS adopts a position on Open Primaries, it may form the basis for education and advocacy in the future through the development of a Program or working group, apart from the educational work of Voter Services.
- Closing the Gap in Health Care Coverage: The Healthcare Chair is Julie Kessel. Our League became involved in the Advocacy campaign to get the Florida government to expand Medicaid as provided for in the ACA three years ago. Last year, we supported the state and other efforts through advocacy, letter campaigns, and making legislative contacts. The efforts of our League and those of the state and other coalitions met with substantial resistance from the House, in spite of a bill being offered in the Senate. The FL legislature has rejected $51B in taxpayer dollars paid by FL residents, and nearly 1 million Floridians remain uninsured, 80% of whom are working people. This year, the League has partnered with Florida Chain and has secured significant funds to launch an educational campaign across the state. The goal of the Program is to educate the citizenry, public officials, and health care administrations about the human impact for those uninsured, and the financial consequences to the FL economy. This year is critical because businesses with more than 100 employees will be penalized to the tune of 300M if their employees are not covered; and individuals are being penalized for not getting coverage; and our hospitals will lose their $1B funding for uncompensated care when the LIP funds are withdrawn by the Feds. The effect of all of this is to add substantial cost to health care premiums, push people into bankruptcy and personal crises if they become sick, and comprise smaller businesses by not having an optimally healthy workforce; and cost small but larger businesses a lot of money which may lead to some economic stability in our community. Our educational campaign will lay the groundwork for specific advocacy actions in 2017, either through bills in the legislature or for consideration of a constitutional amendment to insure coverage to all Floridians.
- Advocacy: This committee will be led by Marty Shapiro. Advocacy is that part of the League mission that accomplishes its goals through the expression of its position on issues. It often involves education but is principally focused on changing an outcome in alignment with the position of the League, through the political process. The Advocacy Committee will focus on relevant bills working their way through the FL legislature as well as local initiatives being moved through municipal and county government (City Council and County Commission). They will also work to develop positive relationships through open lines of communication and exchange of ideas on issues relevant to the League with public officials at the local, county, state and US level. The committee is supported by the State Advocacy Committee and by the work of document preparation of the State lobbyist, Debbie Harris Rumberger. Once annually, the League rallies in Tallahassee to be updated by legislators on their work, share accomplishments, and meet in person with legislators during session. This year the League met with the Sec. of State to be briefed on preparations for the upcoming local and national elections, celebrated its long fought battle to enact Fair Districts, was honored by and honored Legislators who supported that work, and was pleasantly surprised with the defeat of the Open Carry Bill.
- Immigration: This Committee and Program is co-chaired by Karen Coale, who is also co-chair to the State League’s Immigration Committee, and Kay Lahdenpera. This activity is based on a LWVUS position crafted 7 years ago. In 2009, Immigration was proposed as a Program for the local League. It moved to working group status based on a lack of state focus and advocacy objectives in order to monitor state legislative issues, and increase awareness to the general membership. In the last year, Immigration was identified as a 2nd tier State priority, but the introduction of punitive immigration bills (totally as many as 16) in the FL legislature has prompted the working group to engage in advocacy in order to mount a defeat of those bills. As a result of the shift in priorities, the group has developed a Program, where the focus will include both education and advocacy. Most recently, the working group hosted a very well attended educational panel seminar at USFSP Student Center where the topic was Human Trafficking. This year they will take up a speakers bureau focus for education, and legislative based advocacy.
- International Relations: The IR working group meets monthly and is jointly run by North and South Pinellas Leagues. It has strong participation and has been in existence for many years. The group sponsors monthly meetings on topics of interest to its membership in the area of IR. The group chooses topics from a publication called Great Decisions as well as other topics of interests. Once annually it offers a General Meeting with a special speaker on one of the subjects from the Great Decisions This year’s annual topic featured Nadya Khalife, a Middle East North Africa researcher in the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch. Ms. Khalife has researched numerous human rights and development issues in her native Lebanon and in the region. Her past work also includes human rights work in the Great Lakes region of Africa and on U.S. government sponsored abuses post 9/11.
- Recycling in St Pete: This working group is led by Karen Coale and Kathy Mossing. What started in 2012 when the League commissioned the Kessler Report and the subsequent League-led community advocacy campaign to bring UCR to St Pete has evolved into an educational program focused on supporting the city’s implementation and expansion through its branded coalition, The Peoples Trash. UCR is consistent with the local Issues document (aka Yearbook) that endorses environmental stewardship and recycling. UCR passed in 2014 under a newly-elected city council and mayoral regime, and was implemented in January of 2015 coincident with a change in city staff leadership. In July of 2015, the city responded to the concerns of the citizens and initiated alley pick up in Kenwood and parts of the old NE. The first year of the program saw substantial uptake, with participation and and tonnage per household exceeding expectations. The goal of the League through its leadership in the coalition is to ensure that the city metrics continue to ensure accountability and to encourage expansion of the program to multiunit households, hospitality and tourism establishments, and businesses. Challenges to the program include saturation of the processing plant capacity, potentially limiting the opportunity for the program to grow.
- Gun Safety: Tina Spangler will serve as the coordinator of this workgroup. This issue was initially to be proposed as a Program for the 2016/17 League year. However, Campus and Open Carry were unexpectedly defeated in the Senate Judiciary this session, thanks to Senator Diaz de la Portilla, and we celebrate that victory. Given that the advocacy focus of this issue is now more quiescent, this issue is now proposed as a working group. In spite of the defeat, we expect the introduction of new dangerous gun-related bills in the legislature in the next session. The LWVF and many local Leagues have been advocating in collation with University Leaders, Law Enforcement, Municipalities, and The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus. These bills would have allowed permit holders ages 21 and up to carry concealed firearms on all public college and university campuses. Our state League is finalizing a PowerPoint presentation that is available to our Leagues statewide. It educates about Florida’s preemption laws on guns, gun show loopholes, concealed carry permitting process, need for universal background checks in FL, and child access to guns (advocate locking up one’s loaded gun when there is a minor in the home–a Florida law). This Program would continue to educate the citizenry, monitor the introduction of any new dangerous gun-related bills, continue to build a coalition of gun safety advocates both in and out of the LWVF, and ready the group to move to advocacy and full Program status if new bills are introduced. An additional consideration for this working group will be to communicate with our State Committee to determine the feasibility of engaging a legislator to introduce a bill that promotes gun safety, reframing the conversation, and shifting the burden of defeating the “safety” bill to opposition legislators on the floor of the House or Senate.
- Education: Jim Jackson will serve as the leader of this workgroup. The LWVSPA and County has a position on ensuring the availability and quality of public education in our County. Pinellas County Elementary Schools in the St. Petersburg Area have been identified as having five (5) of the lowest performing schools in the state, based on student scores on statewide testing. Question remains as to what is driving the low academic achievement in these schools, despite Pinellas County School District adding focus, staff, support services, and increased funding to improve these schools. An adversarial relationship between community groups and the school district may be aggravating other root causes for the failed performance. It will be critical for community partners to establish open lines of communication and common goals in order to drive effective solutions to address the problem and provide innovative and effective solutions. A focus for the workgroup will be to learn what it can about the work that has been done to identify and address the issues. It will monitor local updates on failure schools in Pinellas County, including student performance data and initiatives by the school district to address the program; it will serve as an educational source for timely information local forums and events; it will engage in community survey, discussion, and deliberation in order to determine if it will be able to offer recommendations for further actions. The workgroup will engage with community leaders, school board, and public officials to pursue its purpose, and will offer at least one educational forum type activity for the general membership.
- Sustainability: Jane Harper will serve as the leader of this workgroup. Scope, content, and goals to be determined.