115 Years Strong – Keeping Up with Advocates for Public Policy
Last month, the New York Junior League’s (NYJL) committee, Advocates for Public Policy (APP), hosted a Volunteer Education and Training event titled “115 Years of Advocacy for Public Policy” with guest speakers Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Special Advisor for Policy and Community Affairs, for New York State Housing and Community Renewal; Donna Dolan, Executive Director of the New York Paid Leave Coalition; and Lauren Chung, a Director At-Large on the NYJL Board of Directors and a former co-chair of APP.
Anne Bahr Thompson, Chair of the 115th Anniversary Planning committee, served as moderator for the evening, leading a discussion about NYJL’s recent efforts and successes in helping to pass the New York Paid Family Leave Act (PFL)(April 2016) and its continuing efforts on behalf of the the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA).
“When the Junior League comes to the Statehouse, elected officials pay attention” said Dolan of the strength of the League’s advocacy power.
APP combined this power power with NYJL community partners the New York Paid Family Leave Coalition and Citizen’s Action to work on the Paid Family Leave (PFL) campaign in support of the strongest, most comprehensive paid family leave plan in the nation. PFL will provide employees 12 weeks of paid family leave – regardless of the employee’s gender, age, or their employer’s size – for life events such as caring for an infant, a family member or to relieve family pressures when someone answers the call of duty for active military service.
Hassel-Thompson spoke of the importance of credibility when discussing legislation with Legislators. “Across the board it’s clear the Junior League has tremendous clout and credibility. Sometimes you don’t use it enough. You don’t want to overdo, but at the same time you want to ensure you are in their face.”
Hassel-Thompson went on to speak about the importance of being persistent, tenacious, and organized. Advocacy is not always a sprint, but a marathon, with many setback and gains along the way. This is particularly true of DVSJA which would allow for judicial discretion during the sentencing of victims of domestic violence who are convicted of crimes directly related to the abuse they suffered. A broad coalition of over 130 domestic violence organizations, women’s groups, crime victims groups and criminal justice organizations and thousands of individuals from across the state are united in support of this legislation. The bill is currently in the Assembly Codes Committee and the Senate Codes Committee.
As a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, the Junior League must remain bipartisan and therefore must seek to support bipartisan legislation. When asked how in a partisan climate, a nonpartisan organization can be more or less helpful, speakers noted the Junior’s League’s strength as a politically neutral voice.
Lauren Chung spoke about how the league’s bipartisan stance allows us to be a neutralizing factor. “We have a lot of credibility [because] we represent every demographic, every party, and all walks of life through our community efforts.”
In discussing Paid Family Leave, Dolan said Legislators thought the Junior League was more credible because of its bipartisan stance.
However, Hassell-Thompson was quick to remind the audience that “it’s not about partisanship, but partisanship [does] come into play.”
This year, APP will head to Albany for its annual meeting with the New York State Public Affairs Committee (NYSPAC) to discuss possible legislation for the coming year.
Stay tuned for more from APP!