Making Democracy Work

League Studies

The League's Study Process

The League's "program" consists of those governmental issues that the League has chosen for concerted study and action, or advocacy, at the national, state or local level. The program process is specified in the bylaws and includes the following steps:

  • Formal adoption (by members at an annual meeting or by state/national convention delegates) of an issue for study.
  • Member study and agreement on broad concepts.
  • Formulation of a position by the appropriate board of directors based on results of the study.
  • Action as directed by the board of directors.
  • Annual or biennial re-adoption of the position.

Local Leagues may work simultaneously on local, state, national program issues but action may be taken only in those areas where there is member understanding and agreement based on the study process.

Local Leagues can act based on positions developed after study at the national or state level. State Leagues may act based on positions they develop from their own studies or from those conducted by the LWVUS.

Studies and Program Adoption

League program arises from the suggestions of members. At every level of the League, the board of directors is responsible for reviewing and discussing these suggestions, formulating them in appropriate language, and recommending all or some of them for adoption.

A local League's "action" or advocacy program is determined by members at its annual meeting; state and national programs are voted upon by delegates at state and national League conventions. In the course of the program adoption discussion, members often give suggestions to the board on scope of inquiry, timing, emphasis and ways to handle the study and/or action phases.

Reaching Member Agreement

Before the League can take action, members must agree in broad terms on what they think about various aspects of the policy issue. The nature of the issue will affect how it is studied and how positions are reached. The board usually selects the method to be used: consensus (where agreement is reached using League responses to specific questions) or concurrence (where agreement or a vote is required on a pre-stated position such as one developed by a different League based on its own study).

The technique most often used in the League for reaching member agreement is consensus by group discussion. It is not a simple majority, nor is it unanimity; rather it is the overall sense of the group as expressed through the exchange of ideas and opinions, whether in a meeting of the full membership or a series of smaller discussion meetings.

Regardless of the method used, it is essential that members have an opportunity to become informed before being asked to make decisions on the issue under consideration. It is through this process that League members become educated on a given issue, and this is what makes subsequent League action on that issue uniquely credible and respected.

During the study phase, the study committee prepares background information, there may be public forums to educate the public and seek input, and members have an opportunity to examine the facts and key pro/con points. They are encouraged to discuss the political realities of action and to contribute ideas for the board to consider when it formulates an action strategy after a position is reached.

If the League has a position on a given issue, action can be taken as appropriate. The issue does not need to be studied each time action is thought to be necessary.

LWVDE Studies

Delaware Price of Carbon (DEPOC) Study

The Delaware Price on Carbon Study summary of findings, with hot links to Delaware Energy, Climate Plans and Current Climate Status; Carbon Pricing + Methods and Results Glossary, and LWVUS Climate Change Position is at DEPOC Summary.

Chad Tolman chairs a group of interested and in some cases, highly qualified, League members and members of the community, with the hope of arriving at a consensus in early 2017. The DEPOC summary with hot links is an excellent introduction to the committee's work.

History. At the LWVUS 2014 Convention, the Delaware League held a caucus titled, Stepping up Our Game in Reducing Carbon Emissions, and led the successful passage by the delegates of the following resolution:

The LWVUS should support a price on carbon emissions that will increase in stages, as part of an overall program to improve energy efficiency and to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, fast enough to avoid serious damage to the climate system.

The LWVDE 2015 Convention authorized a study called the Delaware Price on Carbon (DEPOC) Study. As described in the LWVDE Summer 2015 VOTER, the eight members of the study group include Chad Tolman, Pat Todd, Peggy Schultz, Elizabeth Sifter (DeIPL), Dick Bingham (DNS Advisory Committee), Lance Noel1 (a new PhD from the UD Dept. of Ocean, Earth and Atmosphere), Gary Witt2 (a professor of economics at Syracuse University in NY), and Linda (Diz) Swift (a geologist and member of the LWV of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville, CA). The first virtual meeting (by conference call and GoToMeeting software) of the study group was held in June, 2015.

The Convention 2014 delegates left open the question of whether the price should be set by carbon taxes, as it is in the Canadian province of British Columbia (covering electricity generation, home heating and transportation fuels), or by the auction of emission permits, as it is in the nine states,including Delaware,that are members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which covers only electricity generation, or by some combination of the two.

Chad suggested that the Delaware study address the following issues:  What have other states, provinces and countries done to put a price on carbon, and what have been the results?  What are the pros and cons for Delaware of cap-and-trade vs. a carbon tax or fee?  How should the funds raised in Delaware be used?  What would be the economic effects of the increasing price?  Who are the key people we should contact for advice and support? (e.g., Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) staff, faculty at the University of Delaware, members of the state legislature, Delaware's Congressional delegation, leaders of environmental organizations, leaders of carbon price action in other states and provinces, others?)  What other organizations would we want to collaborate with? (e.g., Delaware Interfaith Power and Light (DeIPL), Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club, Delaware Audubon Society, Delaware Nature Society (DNS), others?) Could the study provide an opportunity to involve young people in working on an important environmental issue?  What should we do to inform and educate members of the League, other environmental organizations, the public, and members of government?

In addition to the Delaware study, a steering committee that includes Chad, Diz Swift (LWVCA), Eleanor Revelle (LWVIL) and Launa Zimmaro (LWVMA) is working to promote carbon pricing by state and local Leagues across the country. Diz has created a Price on Carbon website, which describes what is happening with carbon pricing in the U.S. and around the world, various options for setting the price, and how the funds raised are being used. The website has been endorsed by the LWVUS for use by all state and local Leagues. Eleanor is the Chair of the LWVUS Climate Change Task Force3 and the webmaster for the League's Toolkit for Climate Action, and has added a Putting a Price on Carbon page to the Toolkit. Launa is working actively on carbon pricing with the Massachusetts League.

Background. The earth's climate is changing. We can see this in record-setting temperatures (2015 is setting a new high temperature record), super storms (Sandy and Patricia), biblical rainfall and floods (South Carolina), prolonged droughts accompanied by unprecedented wild fires (California), rapidly melting glaciers around the world (including Glacier National Park), and accelerating sea level rise. Though some people deny that it's happening + including some of our political leaders - the vast majority (97%) of climate scientists agree that:  Earth's climate is changing.  The major cause is human activities + especially the burning of fossil fuels + coal, oil and natural gas, which all contain carbon.  Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) has increased by more than 40%, and is increasing more every year.  The consequences are going to become increasingly expensive and dangerous the longer humanity delays vigorous action to greatly reduce the rates of emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The Economists' Statement on Climate Change in 1997 by 2500 economists, including nine Nobel Laureates, said, "The most efficient approach to slowing climate change is through market-based policies ... such as carbon taxes or the auction of emissions permits." Also see the Carbon Price article in Wikipedia.

According to Phil Cherry, the Director of DNREC's Division of Energy and Climate, transportation fuels account for about 40% of Delaware's CO2 emissions, about 30% comes from electricity generation, while industry and home heating account for most of the rest. Thus, reducing the amount of transportation fuel burned is an important part of what the state needs to do to reduce its total carbon emissions.

Significantly, in the Climate Framework for Delaware report,5 made public by state agencies early in 2015, the authors of Appendix C (titled GHG Mitigation Quantification and Assumptions) indicated that federal Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) Rules for Light and Heavy Duty Vehicles would provide the largest source of carbon emission reductions needed for Delaware to meet the 30% emissions reduction target (relative to 2008) by 2030 that the state agencies recommended. This was in spite of a 2008 report6 that fuel and automobile efficiencies cannot keep up with population growth and an increase in vehicle miles travelled (VMT).

Because RGGI is doing a good job of reducing carbon emissions from electricity generation in the nine members states,7 including Delaware, and emissions will be reduced further by the EPA's Clean Power Plan, it is expected that the focus of our study will be on reducing carbon emissions from transportation fuels. By the fall of 2016 the DEPOC study group will be able to write a report with recommendations for legislation at the state level, and hold consensus meeting with the local Leagues in all three counties. Since the Delaware legislature meets only from January 1 through July 31, our committee hopes to see legislation introduced early in 2017, when Delaware will have a new governor. Since we have a geographically small state, we will also want to explore regional transportation initiatives with nearby states.8

We recently learned that Delaware is part of a regional transportation initiative called the Transportation and Climate Initiative, along with a number of other Mid-Atlantic and North Eastern states and the District of Columbia. We will want to interface our work with it. Submitted by Chad Tolman Dec. 7, 2015

1 Lance has since left the study group to take a post-doctoral position in Denmark. Before going he sent us a paper based on his thesis work titled, A cost benefit analysis of a V2G-capable electric school bus compared to a traditional diesel school bus.

2 Prof. Gary Witt is so busy in his new position that we are looking for someone to replace him.

3 Chad is also a member of the Climate Change Task Force, a committee of the LWVUS.

4 A report prepared for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources titled, Analysis of a Carbon Fee or Tax as a Mechanism to Reduce GHG Emissions in Massachusetts, was issued in December, 2014. At: http://climate-xchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/DOER_Carbon_Fee_Study_12-19-14.pdf

5 The Climate Framework for Delaware report was developed by 12 state agencies in response to Governor Markell's Executive Order (EO) 41: Preparing Delaware for Emerging Climate Impacts and Seizing Economic Opportunities from Reducing Emissions. It was developed by three workgroups dealing with Mitigation, Adaptation and Flood Avoidance. EO 41 is shown in Appendix A.

6 Projected Growth in CO2 Emissions from Cars and Light Trucks Source: Reid Ewing et al., Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change, Washington, D.C.: The Urban Land Institute. 2008. At: http://www.uli.org/ResearchAndPublications/Reports/~/media/Documents/ResearchAndPublications/Reports/GrowingCooler.ashx

7 A study by the Analysis Group of RGGI's second 3-year compliance period (2012-2014) was published earlier in 2015, titled,The Economic Impacts of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative on Nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States. At: http://www.analysisgroup.com/uploadedfiles/content/insights/publishing/analysis_group_rggi_report_july_2015.pdf

8 In addition to a price on carbon, another potential boost for carbon reduction resulting from VMT is legislation introduced in the Delaware legislature in June of this year, SB 130, and supported by the LWVDE. This bill, called the Complete Community Enterprise Districts bill, provides for a denser than normal configuration of homes and businesses in urban core areas, with an emphasis on multiple modes of transportation. Entities that apply for and receive Complete Communities Enterprise District status will receive special consideration by the Delaware Dept. of Transportation (DelDOT) as their projects are implemented. (See Reid Ewing, et al, above, regarding support for denser development, as well as a paper, Regional Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, published by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission http://www.dvrpc.org/energyclimate/inventory.htm)

The Public Education System in Delaware Study

This study was adopted in 2013 by Delegates at the LWVDE Convention, There was a special focus on:

  • financing,
  • charter schools, and
  • transparency and accountability to citizens.

Continuation of this study will be recommended at Convention 2015.

To assist with this timely project, contact Charlotte King, President.

Energy Study

This study, initiated in 2009, revealed that the LWVDE energy issues were generally covered by LWVUS energy positions and only two new areas were not covered: Renewable Energy Portfolio and Transmission and Distribution. Positions for these two new areas were reached by consensus and adopted at the LWVD Board meeting on July 22, 2010. They now help to direct League energy lobbying efforts before the State Legislature.

To reach this consensus, the statewide Energy Committee prepared three papers that were published in The Voter and followed by meetings with formal presentations in each of the three counties. See Part I overall background information, Part II addressing building code standards and energy economic development as components of a renewable energy portfolio, and Part III addressing energy transmission and distribution.

Committee members included Mary Anne Edwards, Lorraine Fleming, Brian Kramer, Lisa Pertzoff, Peggy Schultz, John Sykes, Pat Todd and Chad Tolman.

Climate Change Study

Upon completion of the energy study, a Climate Change Subcommittee of the Energy Committee continued to study an energy plan for Delaware minimizing climate change. A Climate Change position was arrived at by consensus of members reached at meetings in each of the three counties and approved by the Board in March 2011.

Following the State Board's approval of the consensus positions Committee Chair Chad Tolman received support from state leaders in the environmental community to support this consensus in a request to the Governor to establish by Executive Order a carbon dioxide reduction plan and a target for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This request is still pending.

The Subcommittee provided an Energy/Greenhouse Gas Background Information Summary for League members to read prior to the consensus meetings. Supplementary Material for Energy/GHG Consensus was also provided for those interested in more details.

Members of the Subcommittee were John Austin, Chris Bason, Sumner Crosby, Mary Anne Edwards, Steve Hegedus, Peggy Schultz and Chad Tolman, Chair.

Land Use/Transportation Study

The Transportation/Land Use Committee presented its background material at consensus meetings in each county in April 2011. For detailed explanatory information, see Consensus document. Peggy Schultz and Jane Dilley, Co-Chaired this committee.

Shown here is Laura Swiski making a presentation on land use to local League members during the study process.

Property Tax Reassessment Existing League policies call for fairness in tax structures. As a result, the Delegates to the 2009 LWVDE Convention voted to approve a study committee to "determine the impacts of the counties failure to reassess and to develop facts that could provide a basis for elected officials to support reassessment". It was noted in the study proposal that the most recent property reassessment took place in Kent County in 1986. New Castle County last reassessed in 1983 and Sussex County last reassessed in 1974. Ann C. Case was the Principal Author of the report in consultation with LWV Members Susan Marbury, Susan Mathe, Micky McKay, and Bob Taggart. Outside Support and Resources included Edward C. Ratledge and Peter M. Ross.

The study report can be accessed here.

Current LWVUS Studies

At Convention 2014, delegates voted to undertake a three-part study recommended by the national board:

1) A study of the process of amending the U.S. Constitution, including constitutional conventions. A Reading Guide and Discussion Questions are available here.

2) A review and update of the League position on campaign finance in light of forty years of change since the Watergate reforms, in order to enhance member understanding of the new schemes and structures used to influence elections and erode protections against corruption in our political process, and to review possible responses to counter them in the current environment of rapid change. More information including Suggested Readings can be found here.

3) A review of the redistricting process for the U.S. Congress, through the existing redistricting task force, for the purpose of developing action steps. Information about this task force is here.

Environmental Toolkit

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At the LWVUS Convention in 2008, Delaware League members led attendees in convincing the convention to support development of a toolkit that would offer members, local Leagues and the general pubic action plans and resources they can use to help protect our planet. LWVDE member Chad Tolman was one of four League members on the national task force that prepared this Climate Change Toolkit.

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