Making Democracy Work

Local Media Columns

Local Media Columns

Local Media Columns

Times Beacon Record newspapers

TimesBeaconRecord newspapers: The Village Times Herald, The Port Times Record, The Village Beacon Record, The Times of Middle County, The Times of Smithtown and The Times of Huntington-Northport now publish a monthly League of Women Voters of Suffolk County column in their Arts & Lifestyles section.

A Step Forward to Achieve Pay Equity in Suffolk County

The January 17 TBR Media column appears below:

A Step Forward to Achieve Pay Equity in Suffolk County- What Next?
by Lisa Scott

Somewhat quietly in late 2018, the Suffolk County Legislature and County Executive Bellone added an important tool to the fight for pay equity: The Restricting Information on Salaries and Earnings (RISE) Act. The League commends the entire Legislature and the County Executive for taking this action- it's fair, it's sound economics, it can reduce the need to pay for additional social support for working families. And it's good for Suffolk County's citizens. It shows that our County's Legislators and Executive can work to reclaim their place as innovative, socially responsible elected officials while operating with foresight in a fiscally prudent manner.

Why should pay equity be a concern for us all? Race and gender are significant factors in what women earn for doing the exact same jobs as men. In April 2018, The NYS Dept. of Labor reported that Suffolk County women in general earn just 78.1 cents for every dollar a man earns. Comparably, black women are paid about 64 cents for every white male dollar and the pay gap of Latina women is about 55 cents to a white man's salary dollar. Equal Pay Day in April reflects how long AFTER the end of the year a woman has to work before she takes home the same amount of earnings as a man in the prior year- Thus, over 15 months of work for a woman to earn what a comparable man earned in 12 months!

Pay inequality isn't just a women's issue; it is a family issue. Recent research has found that 42 percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 are their families' primary or sole breadwinners. Wage discrimination can impair their ability to buy homes and pay for a college education and limits their total lifetime earnings, thereby reducing their retirement savings and benefits.

Gender pay inequity and low wages put the burden of meeting the expenses of employees squarely on the backs of local taxpayers, who make up the difference in the costs of living with social safety net programs. The pay gap not only hurts women and their families, but it also hurts the communities they support. That means local businesses are hurt through lost sales, as are local schools and governments that depend on sales tax and property tax dollars to fund the programs and the infrastructure those communities need to exist. In New York State, social service costs are paid directly by country governments who then must wait for state and federal reimbursement.

If pay equity makes good economic sense for our communities, how does the RISE act work towards this goal? The bill, which takes effect on June 30, 2019 was initially created to restrict employers from using salary and benefits history when establishing salary and benefits for new employees. The legislature explained that utilizing this information in decision making perpetuates wage discrimination and the wage gap experienced by women, racial and ethnic minorities, and employees returning to the workforce after an extended period away.

Gov. Cuomo recently signed an "equal pay for work of equal value bill" which directs the president of the civil service commission to study and publish a report evaluating public employers' wage disparities related to the job titles segregated by the gender, race and/or national origin of the employees in the title. Once completed, the study will be delivered to the Governor and the leaders of the legislature, and the data from the study will be used to address pay inequities in the state's workforce. "New York State has to be a leader on this issue + a model of reform," the bill's sponsor, Assembly member Barbara Lifton said. "By getting our own house in order and ensuring that our public employees are being paid fairly for the work that they are doing, we are sending the wider message that wage disparities cannot be tolerated in a society that prides itself on treating everyone fairly."

The NYS Legislature is only in session until June. We must advocate now to strengthen our equal pay laws so that women have the tools they need to fight back against pay discrimination.

The League's work on pay equity stemmed from member concern over the feminization of poverty in the 1980's. Additional sources for pay equity information and advocacy include AAUW, PowHerNY, National Women's Law Center and the Center for American Progress.

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit or call 631-862-6860.

View the above article on the TimesBeaconRecord Media website here

Act Now to Protect Suffolk Ocean Waters

The December 6 TBR Media column appears below:

Making Democracy Work: Act Now to Protect Suffolk's Ocean Waters
by Nancy Marr

On January 4 of this year, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that the Federal Government is developing a five-year plan to lease ocean lands in federal offshore areas all along our shorelines, including two leases on the North Atlantic region of the Outer Continental Shelf to companies that would drill for gas and oil. (Each state along the Atlantic coast owns the waters three nautical miles from the shore at mean low tide; they have jurisdiction to decide whether or not to lease their territory for oil and gas.)

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has been considering the many possible effects of off-shore drilling compared with the estimated potential of the gas and oil drilling. Research by BOEM will consider a wide range of issues: physical considerations, biological considerations, social, economic and cultural considerations, and alternatives and mitigation measures. BOEM estimates that, at current national consumption rates, the support of undiscovered economically recoverable offshore oil and gas in the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf Coast of Florida would only meet domestic oil demand for two years and gas demand for just over one year.

Opposition has been growing.

  • Both Republican and Democratic Governors in every state where offshore drilling doesn't already exist (except Maine) have expressed opposition to opening their coastlines to the oil and gas industry. In case efforts to exempt their states are unsuccessful, lawmakers in California, New York and New Jersey are pushing legislation that would make new offshore drilling in federal waters as difficult as possible.
  • Opposition to the plan has been expressed by at least 130 organizations along the Eastern seaboard, including groups that support conservation, wildlife, clean water and political action.
  • The risk of oil spills, which could destroy the environment for a wide area, as it has in the Gulf, is a major cause of opposition.
  • Seismic air guns that fire intense blasts of compressed air every 10-12 seconds 24 hours a day for months on end will disrupt and displace marine life, including whales which rely on sound to find food and mates, and many fish and shellfish species, including those of commercial importance.
  • Drilling and processing infrastructure along the shoreline and in nearby areas will limit tourist and recreational activities.
  • Tourism, with fishing and other industries that depend on clean, oil-free water and beaches, supports nearly 320,000 jobs, which could be lost, with $5.6 billion from the tourism economy of Long Island.
  • The fossil fuel industries create five times fewer jobs than is created by the clean energy sector.
  • This proposal will slow our nation's progress toward solving the climate change problem. The Fourth National Climate Assessment, mandated by Congress and released in November 2018, concluded that coastal communities and the ecosystems that support them are increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change.

Although opposition was expressed at many public hearings, it is likely that the Interior Department intends to carry out its off-shore drilling plan. The League urges towns and villages that will be affected by drilling to pass memorializing resolutions to submit to the Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and their local elected officials. Riverhead, Southold, Shelter Island and Southampton Towns in Suffolk County have already done so. (See a sample resolution at 1st CD Rep. Lee Zeldin has opposed the drilling plan at local meetings. Individuals should write, call or email him (30 Oak Street, Patchogue, NY 11772; 631 289-1097; to express their concerns about the need to protect our local economies and the environment. Write to N.Y.S. Governor Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and your New York State Senators and Assemblypersons (visit for full contact details).

A revised plan, with a new period of public comment, may be released this month. If implemented, it will affect all of us. We can protest, as individuals. We should each also contact our town and village governments to ask them to adopt memorializing resolutions in opposition to the drilling in order to protect our oceans, our fishing industry, our tourism, and our quality of life. Specific requests for action by many constituents are always more effective with elected officials... Act now!

Nancy Marr is first vice president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit or call 631-862-6860.

View the above article on the TimesBeaconRecord Media website here

Voter Turnout Success and Goals for 2019

The November 15 TBR Media column appears below:

Making Democracy Work: Voter Turnout Success and Goals for 2019
by Lisa Scott

In New York State, we've truly had a landmark election. We had record breaking rates of voter participation statewide with nearly 50% of voters turning out to vote.

Nationwide, In the face of suppression attempts, long lines, broken machines and partisan gerrymandering, voters turned out in huge numbers. They demanded better from our leaders. More women were elected to office than ever before including the first Muslim and Native American women, the first black woman from New England, the first Latina women from Texas--all elected to Congress. Voting rights were expanded, with redistricting reforms and expanded registration passed in at least six states.

We are so proud of young voters who showed up increasing the national youth turnout by roughly 50% over 2014. Early estimates signaled this could be the highest turnout for 18-29 year-olds since 18 year-olds were first granted the right to vote in 1971. Their votes helped to elect one of the most diverse slates of federal candidates, decided thousands of elections up and down the ballot and impacted progressive ballot measures across the country. By 2020, young people will comprise nearly 40% of voters including nearly 9 million who turn 18 between now and the 2020 election. The League will continue and expand its programs to engage, educate and encourage youth to register and vote; they are our future.

In New York State strong voter turnout also highlighted the vulnerabilities and problems with our NY election laws. Separate primaries - federal offices held in June and state and local held in September - resulted in ballots not being certified until 3 weeks before election day and a significant delay in absentee ballots being mailed out. This resulted in confusion, mistrust, and voters feeling disenfranchised. Yet there were increased absentee ballots submitted, indicating the importance of early voting options to our fellow NYS voters. Not having early voting also created long lines and extra problems on Election Day for voters, poll workers and the BOE.

The good news is that there is a way to solve these problems as early as next year. Early voting in NYS does not require a constitutional amendment but can be achieved through legislation in Albany. It will require electronic poll books which have been used successfully in pilot projects in two NYS counties; the technology exists and is already being used in many states. Consolidating primaries does not need a constitutional amendment but needs agreement among lawmakers of both parties. Establishing only one primary date, earlier than September, would save NYS considerable money which could offset the cost of early voting. Consolidated primaries would also end the problem of delayed mailing of absentee ballots.

Now that the election is behind us, it's time to look ahead. The NYS Senate will now have a majority of Democrat members, many of whom have voiced support for League voting reform efforts in the past. The NYS Assembly passes voting reforms each year. We feel confident that we will finally see passage of early voting and other voting reforms in New York State during the January-June 2019 legislative session, with approval by the Governor (and including funding in his budget).

The League will also continue our work registering more new voters, providing more nonpartisan information on candidates, hosting more debates and forums and advocating for legislation on critical issues, in our effort to create a more perfect democracy so that ALL Americans enjoy the same liberties and freedoms. Our democracy is truly strongest when everyone participates and has their voice heard. Yesterday, voters made huge steps toward full participation. But we still have so far to go.

With your help and participation, the League can make a difference in your communities, Suffolk County, New York State and the nation. Call or email us to find out how you can get involved.

Lisa Scott is President of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit, email or call 631-862-6860.

View the above article on the TimesBeaconRecord Media website here

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