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National Program Planning for 1994-1996
Hawaii State Ethics Commission Welcomes its Newest Member
Marion Saunders Honored
Nominations for Officers & Directors for 1994
Council Town Meeting "Land Use Planning..." (Astrid Monson)
Competition for Water: Citizens' Roles and the Public Trust
Vote Count

National Program Planning for 1994-1996

The League's national program planning process makes an important point in each biennium -- the time when we take stock of the League's program in relation to the political and policy setting in which we operate. The League's goal is to make an impact on public policy, and program planning focuses member attention on the key issues the entire organization wishes to address.

The 75th anniversary theme, "The League of Women Voters: A Voice for Citizens, A Force for Change," clearly expresses what our National Program is all about. Convention '94 in June is the opportunity for members to debate and adopt the National Program. Delegates will be asked to approve a group of Issues for Emphasis to implement the National Program over the coming biennium.

Issues for Emphasis are the convention's recommendations to the incoming national board about where the delegates wish the League to focus its resources in the coming two years. Since one of the strengths of the League of Women Voters is the multi-issue nature of our organization, the Board is proposing for our consideration Issues for Emphasis that are interrelated and that encompass a number of issues that cross over traditional League categories.

On the following pages of this Voter are brief descriptions of nine potential Issues for Emphasis suggested by the national board. Each description identifies the probable legislative impact the League can make, the need for citizen outreach, and an estimate of how productive the League network can be. Read them carefully and select three of which you give the highest priority; then call the office with your choices.

What You Need to Know

This is an opportunity to share a little of the Program Planning Committee's brainstorming and the national board's thinking. First and foremost, the challenge is to adopt a National Program and Issues for Emphasis that will make the most effective use of the financial and people resources of the League. We also want to identify those issues that interest League members and provide opportunity for the organization to make a difference.

Questions you and your members should consider include:

  • Are your members interested in this issue?

  • Does it have national impact?

  • Would this issue have an impact in your community?

  • Is this the crucial time for this issue?

  • Do political realities permit effective action?

  • Does the League have a unique role to play on this issue? Will this increase the League's influence, credibility, visibility and membership?

  • What is the impact on the workload of the entire organization?

Nine Potential Issues for Emphasis

In this section are brief descriptions of nine issues, in alphabetical order, suggested by the national board from which to choose as possible Issues for Emphasis in the next biennium. Each description identifies the probable legislative impact the League can make, the need for citizen education on the issue, funding possibilities for educational outreach, and an estimate of how productive the national office-and the state and local League network-can be. The analyses are based on continuity with past priorities and LWVUS experience on the issues.

Crisis in the Cities

A steady decline in our nation's economy has created a crisis in American cities, threatening the basic foundation of urban life. In the wake of this decline, cities are faced with budget deficits, decaying mass transit systems and growing violence. The League's position on urban policy cites federal strategies that enhance the economic base of cities, including assistance programs and incentives to encourage private` reinvestment in distressed cities. This issue also addresses equal access to quality education, jobs and housing; urban transportation as it relates to urban economic development; environmental concerns; and protection from violence through gun control.

Impact: This issue has strong potential to attract a diverse membership because these concerns affect many diverse communities and require the combined efforts of local, state and national levels of government. Emphasis on urban policy would involve redirecting national resources to achieve the degree of expertise expected of the League. Fundraising potential may be limited.

Early Intervention for Children at Risk

This issue focus pulls together a number of current LWVUS positions, including Child Care, Equality of Opportunity, Meeting Basic Human Needs and Health Care. Plans could include a concurrence on such issues as child abuse, based on work done by a number of state Leagues. Nationally, there is a rising perception that the needs of children must be given a higher priority on our public policy agenda, and growing evidence that early intervention is an essential and effective investment in the future. The League could pursue both citizen education and advocacy on such issues as access to quality day-care and preschool programs, teen pregnancy prevention programs, access to health care, and nutrition programs for women, infants and children.

Impact: This broad issue focus could attract a younger, more diverse membership to the League and bring a high potential for legislative action. Nationally, other organizations, especially the Children's Defense Fund and Planned Parenthood, have long been considered the leaders on these issues, which could affect the potential for visibility and outside funding. This issue could include a concurrence with positions reached by state Leagues. This issue would require a redirection of national resources.

Federal Deficit and Economic Adjustment

The economy is a major concern of voters today. The United States and its citizens are wrestling with a long-term recession and an emerging world economy that is very different from the world economy of the Cold War era. The League has a history of work on budget issues, from social policy programs to defense spending. With the federal deficit and economic adjustment as a priority for 1994-96, the League could take a comprehensive, overarching approach to the issues related to repositioning the United States for a post-Cold War economy, with a focus on reducing the federal deficit, shifting funds from defense spending to social programs and the challenges of converting U.S. industries from military-based to civilian-based operations.

Impact: While a number of League positions address the economy, the complexity and the comprehensive nature of the issue would require a redirection of national office resources. There currently is an active League grassroots network working on the issue. There is potential for fundraising for related educational activities and, given the concerns of the public on the economy, there is potential for membership recruitment from a diverse population.

Health Care

Health care is one of the most significant policy issues facing the United States in the 1990s. The 1992 election made it clear that the American people are unhappy with the current status of our health care system-costs are spiraling out of control and too many people are without adequate health care coverage. The Clinton administration has devoted considerable attention to reform of the health care system and has submitted a proposal for reform, beginning the legislative process and debate. After two-and-a-half years of study, the national board announced the League's final health care policy position in April 1993.

Impact: With our position in place and a membership that is well informed about this complex policy issue, the League is positioned to take action. Because the momentum is building due to our previous work on health care, the impact on national resources would be low, and the potential for legislative action, increased media attention and raising funds for citizen education activities is high. The potential to reach a more diverse population and attract new members is good.

International Democracy

An effective advocate for peace, arms control and international cooperation during the Cold War years, the League is finding a comparable role in the post-Cold War era. In the 1990s, American foreign policy is shifting from containment to supporting democratic institutions and human rights. Central to the foreign policy debate is how the United States and international institutions such as the UN can encourage legitimate and effective approaches to conflict resolution and respect for human rights. Current League positions, however, focus on economics, demilitarization and relationships with developing countries, without addressing democratization. Focusing on these issues directly addresses the League's goal to empower citizens to build better communities worldwide.

Impact: The national staff has considerable expertise and experience working on foreign policy and international democracy. The media attention and promotion of the LWVEF's current Emerging Democracy projects have led to increased interest among funders and organizations in collaborating with the League on international issues. But developing any new positions would require redirection of national resources. Membership growth potential would be moderate. If adopted in this form, this issue would require a new study to update the League's international relations positions developed in response to cold war foreign policy and to include positions regarding democracy and human rights.

International Environment and Economic Development

Recently there has been renewed interest in the impact of free trade on the U.S. economy, global environment, sustainable development and international labor. The most visible issues emerging in this area-the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and treaties on biodiversity, global warming and rainforest protection-are primarily the responsibility of the executive branch. Because the League's strong position in support of free trade restricts its ability to aggressively advocate for environmental protection measures in trade agreements, this issue would require new study and a reevaluation of the League's trade position.

Impact: The League's advocacy work would focus on regulation and this issue also has real potential for citizen education. However, national staff expertise is limited, and most local Leagues have not focused on trade issues for many years. This issue would necessitate a redirection of national resources. Government or private funders might be willing to support research and education initiatives on these issues. Opportunity for visibility is limited, as the LWVUS is not a strong voice in this field. However,

Leagues may attract new members concerned with how local economic and social issues relate to the national and international policy debate, but the potential to diversify the League is limited. If adopted in this form, this issue would require a new study to update the League's trade position.

Opening Government to Citizens

At the heart of the League's historic mission is a commitment to work for open and responsive government and toward the informed and active participation of all citizens. This mission continues to be a necessary and important focus of League activity. The League's leading role in the multi-year process leading to the passage of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 reflected its commitment to its mission. The task now is to ensure that the promise of the Motor Voter Act is realized. States and communities will look to the League for support and advice as they devise new laws and procedures to carry out the law. This topic also would include work for campaign finance reform, lobby reform and open meetings.

Impact: Because the League has considerable expertise on these issues and a proven track record with funders and the media, the potential for outside fundraising and visibility are good. The League of Women Voters is the major player lobbying on this issue and can expect continued opportunities for legislative action on both national and state levels. There is a real potential for diversity and membership gains as people turn to the League for balance and expertise on this issue.

Waste Management and Pollution Prevention

This area covers a broad range of topics, including but not limited to, water and air quality and hazardous, solid and nuclear waste management. It has high political relevance in the national arena, and action also is occurring at state and local levels. Although League positions on these topics were cast in the 1970s and their language emphasizes pollution control rather than pollution prevention, the positions do include support for source reduction and pollution prevention measures. Thus the League is free to support the pollution prevention measures emphasized by most new environmental protection legislation. Major national legislation on this issue that will be timely in 1994-96 includes the reauthorization of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and others.

Impact: Since the national office has considerable experience and expertise related to these three legislative proposals, the impact on national resources would be limited. Similarly, local and state Leagues are and have been active on these issues for years. Recent and current projects of the LWVEF (focusing on groundwater, solid waste, nuclear waste) have provided materials and training to League members. Funding is available for citizen education from government, corporate and foundation sources. And because placement of waste management facilities, as well as other environmental concerns, can affect all communities, this issue brings potential for media attention and membership gains from a more diverse population.

Women's Economic Equity

It has become increasingly clear over the past decade that in order for women to attain true equality, it will be necessary to achieve economic parity. In the workplace, lack of pay equity, sexual harassment, and the "glass ceiling" all work to prevent women from attaining economic equality. Other issues that affect women's economic lives include reproductive choice, child care, child support, welfare reform and health care. There are a number of legislative initiatives before Congress aimed at achieving economic equity for women, including pay equity legislation, funding for programs for displaced homemakers, child support enforcement and access to reproductive choice for all women. The League's Equal Rights Amendment position supports work on gender-based discrimination through action to bring laws into compliance with the goals of the ERA.

Impact: This focus could attract new members because it is timely and attractive to many women who are juggling careers and families and because it affects a diverse population. This issue would require a redirecting of national office resources, but there is some expertise at the national level. Potential for fundraising on these issues is limited. A number of other organizations are working on individual issues; the LWVUS approach would be to focus its work on each of these issues as it contributes to the economic future of women in America.


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