The New York State Constitutional Convention

Constitutional Convention: Landslide defeat shows labor union strength

Jon Campbell

“. . . Bruce Gyory, a political consultant and adjunct political science professor at the University at Albany, said convention opponents had an easier argument to make in trying to sway the public.

“It’s much easier to play to people’s concerns that not much will change and a lot of money will be wasted in the process,” Gyory said.

“I’m not taking a side, but that’s where people were. And then there was a lot more money and organizational support on the opponents’ side rather than the proponents’ side, though some of the proponents I think are some of the finest minds in the state.”

The labor unions backing New Yorkers Against Corruption, the group that led the anti-convention campaign, far outspentSUPPORTERS  of a convention.

The money of the 1% has once again controlled the American public’s opinion by convincing those who knew nothing about a constitutional convention to vote “no” instead of educating them to the process and the possibility of forming a more humanitarian New York.

New York voters nix constitutional convention, vote to reform pensions

By

New York voters did the conventional thing Tuesday, voting down a referendum calling for a state constitutional convention, just as they did 20 years ago and 20 years before that.

The latest proposal to redraw state government through a constitutional convention failed by a wide margin. With 77 percent of precincts reporting, the measure trailed, 28.3 percent to 71.7 percent against.

The people have once again fallen prey to the power of the money of the 1%.  

 

Here you will find the facts, function, and future of the New York State Constitutional Convention and why it is important that we, the people, take advantage of this rare opportunity.

*The suggested amendments are my own and do not reflect popular opinion or desire.

*Should anyone have suggestions for an amendment to our State Constitution, feel free to send them via the Contact section of this website.

The New York State Constitution

[Elector: a person who has the right to vote in an election.]

ARTICLE XIX of the New York State Constitution
AMENDMENTS TO CONSTITUTION

[Future constitutional conventions; how called; election of delegates; compensation; quorum; submission of amendments; officers; employees; rules; vacancies]
§2. At the general election to be held in the year nineteen hundred fifty-seven, and every twentieth year thereafter, and also at such times as the legislature may by law provide, the question “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?” shall be submitted to and decided by the electors of the state; and in case a majority of the electors voting thereon shall decide in favor of a convention for such purpose, the electors of every senate district of the state, as then organized, shall elect three delegates at the next ensuing general election, and the electors of the state voting at the same election shall elect fifteen delegates-at-large.

The delegates so elected shall convene at the capitol on the first Tuesday of April next ensuing after their election, and shall continue their session until the business of such convention shall have been completed.

Every delegate shall receive for his or her services the same compensation as shall then be annually payable to the members of the assembly and be reimbursed for actual traveling expenses, while the convention is in session, to the extent that a member of the assembly would then be entitled thereto in the case of a session of the legislature.

A majority of the convention shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, and no amendment to the constitution shall be submitted for approval to the electors as hereinafter provided, unless by the assent of a majority of all the delegates elected to the convention, the ayes and noes being entered on the journal to be kept.

The convention shall have the power to appoint such officers, employees and assistants as it may deem necessary, and fix their compensation and to provide for the printing of its documents, journal, proceedings and other expenses of said convention.

The convention shall determine the rules of its own proceedings, choose its own officers, and be the judge of the election, returns and qualifications of its members. In case of a vacancy, by death, resignation or other cause, of any district  delegate elected to the convention, such vacancy shall be filled by a vote of the remaining delegates representing the district in which such vacancy occurs.

If such vacancy occurs in the office of a delegate-at-large, such vacancy shall be filled by a vote of the remaining delegates-at-large.

Any proposed constitution or constitutional amendment which shall have been adopted by such convention, shall be submitted to a vote of the electors of the state at the time and in the manner provided by such convention, at an election which shall be held not less than six weeks after the adjournment of such convention.

Upon the approval of such constitution or constitutional amendments, in the manner provided in the last preceding section, such constitution or constitutional amendment, shall go into effect on the first day of January next after such approval. (Formerly §2 of Art. 14. Renumbered and amended by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938; further amended by vote of the people November 6, 2001.)

Flowchart of the Constitutional Convention Process

New York's Constitutional Convention Process

 Constitutional Convention Milestones

Constitutional Convention Milestones

The constitutional convention debate: A guide to what’s true, and what’s not

By BILL MAHONEY

Is a convention being pushed by Albany insiders?

Of New York’s five legislative leaders, six statewide elected officials, and the heads of the state’s five largest political parties, only Assembly Republican leader Brian Kolb has been working to support a convention. Most have come out in clear opposition to one. And most of the money that has been spent on the debate has originated from government workers, with public employee unions spending millions in opposition.

On the other side of the equation, none of Albany’s top-spending interest groups has expressed any interest in a convention. A few supporters, such as the New York State Bar Association and the League of Women Voters, employ lobbyists, but they don’t spend anywhere near as much doing so as the unions that oppose the vote.

Will a convention be dominated by legislators?

It’s worth revisiting New York’s last convention, which met in 1967, when it was no easier to run for office than it is today. The 186-member body had only 13 sitting state legislators, three current or former congressmen, 22 judges, and 20 holders of other local offices. (Opponents frequently toss around a figure that 80 percent of delegates in 1967 were insiders. That figure factors in people who had been appointed to various temporary government posts at some point in their lives.)

The non-legislators who served on that convention forced it to deal with issues such as independent redistricting that incumbent officeholders had always avoided.

How would a convention operate?

“We don’t know what’s going to happen, and frankly I’m not prepared to rely on the bean counters and prognosticators to tell us what’s going to happen,” said Donna Lieberman, of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

What would the convention do?

At a basic level, the constitution — which is laden with provisions that detail dock improvements made before 1910 and attempt to disenfranchise Catholics — certainly needs cleaning up in order to make it comprehensible to the average voter in the 21st century. And it’s certainly possible that issues like redistricting and early voting could be addressed.

Take the issue of state workers’ pensions. The messaging from many convention opponents contends that government employees could lose their pensions if a convention occurs.

That can’t happen. For one, it’s unlikely that legislators — who opponents say will dominate a convention — will vote to defund their own retirement plans, as a large number of them are part of the pension system themselves. More significantly, pensions are a contractual obligation protected by the federal constitution.

Would a convention be dominated by dark money?

It’s worth noting that for any hypothetical billionaire with evil plans to change New York’s constitution, a convention isn’t necessarily a more realistic path than doing so through standard means. A constitutional amendment can also be passed if it is approved by two separately elected Legislatures and then backed by a referendum, meaning an advocate could get an amendment enacted by winning three separate votes — two in the Legislature and one in the statewide vote. Getting an amendment passed via a convention would also require winning three votes — one on this year’s referendum over whether to hold it, one to elect delegates, and one to ratify or reject the final document.

What will it cost?

Opponents of this year’s vote inflated that already-inflated number and produced an estimate of $350 million.

How implausible is that nine-digit price tag? Consider that the typical cost of maintaining the 213-member Legislature for six months, excluding future pension payments, is roughly $105 million. To hit the $350 million price tag, the 204-member convention would need to duplicate all the payments typically made by lawmakers by opening up district offices, sending out mailers to constituents, and hiring new custodial staff and printing press operators rather than those who are already on the state payroll. Then, a budget approved by the governor and Legislature would need to provide them the funds to triple these expenditures and toss in an extra $30 million for good measure.

Don’t be afraid of a constitutional convention, be wary of why big money doesn’t want one.  Citizens have the opportunity to take back their government, just do it!

Opponents of a Constitutional Convention outspend supporters

By KAREN DEWITT

“A wide variety of groups have spent over $1.3 million dollars to urge voters to vote no on  holding a Constitutional Convention. The opponents have far outspent a smaller number of advocates who urge a “yes” vote on the November ballot.

. . . Opponents have collected around $1.39 million dollars so far, and have spent much of it on social media, lawn signs and bumper stickers.  They’ve even tried to frame the debate, by calling themselves “New Yorkers Against Corruption.”

. . . Supporters of the constitutional convention say they have more faith in New Yorkers’ ability to resist outside special interests and to meet to solve the state’s  problems, including rampant corruption that’s led to a string of indictments, convictions, and prison sentences for elected officials.

The League of Women  Voter’s Jennifer Wilson says despite the opponents’ fears, no existing rights have ever been taken away in any past constitutional convention, so there’s no reason to think it will happen now. In fact, she says many of those same rights were created in past constitutional conventions.

“These are great things that people are so afraid of losing during a convention and they don’t realize that they were put in during a convention,” Wilson said.

The government reform group Citizens Union is also backing the convention. Its Board President, Randy Mastro, points out that voters would ultimately have to approve any changes proposed by a constitutional convention. And he says he doubts a blue state like New York would vote to take away hard won rights.”

Don’t be swayed by the one percent’s million dollar campaign against the constitutional convention.  Fight for your right as a New Yorker to take responsibility for how our government could be, should be run.

Marijuana legalization advocates press for constitutional convention

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Many supporters of the state referendum to convene a constitutional convention are citing as reason the possibilities to diminish incumbent-friendly campaign finance  laws, enact term limits and end gerrymandered districts.

Other advocates are pressing a much different reason to vote yes: legalization of marijuana in New York.

Stymied in their efforts to get the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to go along with their idea, these advocates see a convention of delegates brought together to consider changes to the constitution as a means to loosen marijuana laws.

“In New York, we have this singular opportunity,’’ said Jerome Dewald, a Manhattan resident who is one of the organizers of a marijuana yes vote effort called Restrict & Regulate in New York State. . .

. . . The Buffalo News reported last week that the one anti-Proposal 1 group,FUNDED  almost exclusively by an array of labor unions, has raised $1.5 million for its campaign to stop the convention. Four main groups backing the convention question have brought in under $400,000.

Union executives aren’t afraid of the rank and file losing their pensions, they are afraid of losing their control over the Legislature and the right to collect union dues from individuals who do not want to belong to a union.

Do what is best for all New Yorkers, especially our children, say “Yes” to a constitutional convention.

End political party corruption and begin an excellent system of education for our children.

 

Strangest of bedfellows ally to stop state constitutional convention

By Tom Precious

” Just look at the jockeying over whether New York should hold a convention  to consider changes to the state Constitution. Groups that could seldom stand to be in the same room with one another are working together to defeat the question known as Proposal One that goes to voters in four weeks. . .

“You see no establishment people for it,’’ said Samuels, a former advisor to Mario Cuomo.

There are groups – such as Citizens Union, the New York Bar Association and the League of Women Voters – behind the convention proposal.  Donors to the pro-convention group include several Democratic and Republican activists, constitutional scholars like Canisius College emeritus professor of political science Peter Galie, former Lt. Gov. Stan Lundine, and former Court of Appeals Judge Victoria Graffeo.

But Davis, a leader in the “yes” votge campaign, acknowledged serious opposition.

“We’re going to be seriously outspent,” he said.

To make up for that, backers are focusing heavily on social media, statewide forums and free  media via newspaper stories and editorials.

Both sides do agree on one thing: the electorate, especially after the 2016 presidential election, can be unpredictable. That’s making opponents work far harder than they did 20 years ago when they last defeated a convention ballot question.

“We are at a time in this country when you cannot take anything for granted,’’ said the AFL-CIO’s Cilento.

Supporters are hoping Proposal One will  attract voters who might not know much about the issue but will read the ballot question and see a “yes” vote as an opportunity to fix problems in Albany.

“The biggest difference from 20 years ago is that there are a couple of issues that have led people to say ‘enough is enough and we’ve got to fix Albany,’ and the head of that list, of course, is corruption,’’ Davis said.”

It is important to note that, “You see no establishment people for it” because they want to maintain the status quo, corruption, big money lobbying, unlimited terms, and the waste of taxpayer dollars that support party politics not the people.

Vote “Yes” change the established system so that it works for the people, not against us.

 

Dark money shows up in constitutional convention debate

By BILL MAHONEY

“There’s clear evidence that much more money has been spent than has been identified in campaign finance  reports, and that most of this undisclosed spending has gone to benefit the convention’s opponents

ALBANY — Activists who believe the state should hold a constitutional convention are outspending those opposed to the idea, according to campaign filings submitted to the state Board of Elections in recent days.

. . . But the filings tell only a small portion of the story. There’s clear evidence that much more money has been spent than has been identified in campaign finance  reports, and that most of this undisclosed spending has gone to benefit the convention’s opponents.

“For example, black lawn signs have popped up in every corner of the state urging a “no” vote on the convention question. . .

The signs were created by New York State United Teachers. But an accounting  for them doesn’t appear anywhere in records submitted to the Board of Elections.

Other unions have similarly engaged in campaigning that hasn’t been reported. For example, members of the Public Employees Federation have shown up in large numbers at several public forums in recent weeks to present a negative view of what might happen at a convention. At one recent event, a member read off a fact sheet printed from a “NYS Constitutional Convention Vote NO Toolkit” maintained  on PEF’s website. But despite the clear engagement of PEF’s members and leadership, no publicly disclosed transactions by the union’s PAC in recent months suggest that it has been involved in the convention debate.

It is interesting that unions are spending the most money this election season convincing their rank-and-file members to vote “No” for a constitutional convention because their pensions may be at risk, which is highly unlikely.

It could be that unions don’t want a convention because they may loose the right to charge union dues to those who do not want to belong to a union.

Unions want to maintain the status quo not because member pensions are in danger but because their dues collection is in danger along with their lobbying efforts and long term relationships with questionable legislators.

If you are a New Yorker against corruption, the best way to lesson corruption in New York is to vote “Yes” for a constitutional convention.

Rockefeller Institute of Government 

Not the “Same Old Same Old Politics as Usual”:
Why Insiders Won’t Dominate a Constitutional Convention

Peter J. Galie and Christopher Bopst

 

Changes to the Constitution that can create a better New York for all of its citizens

Possible Constitutional Convention Amendments

We can create a new system of education that concentrates on our children’s gifts and talents, not their disabilities, language, color, or socio-economic standing.

We can eliminate the Assembly and become a  unicameral state saving the New York tax payer more than $8 million dollars a year in assembly saleries and per-diem payments.

We can legalize the recreational use of marijuana and pardon all felony first time offenders who are in prison only for selling marijuana breaking a link in the “school to prinson” pipeline chain.

We can initiate term limits for all elected officials ending “pay to play” contracts, insider trading opportunities, lobbying payoffs, and a host of other criminal activities committed by elected officials.

We can limit campaign contributions and funding so that every citizen has an equal opportunity to run for office in local and State elections.

We can put an end to the high taxes and create a more business friendly New York.

We can put an end to the extreme poverty and social inequities that exist in large urban areas of the State.

ARTICLE I BILL OF RIGHTS

Section 9 Paragraph 1

  • 9. 1. No law shall be passed abridging the rights of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government, or any department thereof; nor shall any divorce be granted otherwise than by due judicial proceedings; except as hereinafter provided, no lottery or the sale of lottery tickets, poolselling, bookmaking, or any other kind of gambling, except lotteries operated by the state and the sale of lottery tickets in connection therewith as may be authorized and prescribed by the legislature, the net proceeds of which shall be applied exclusively to or in aid or support of education in this state as the legislature may prescribe, except pari-mutuel betting on horse races as may be prescribed by the legislature and from which the state shall derive a reasonable revenue for the support of government, and except casino gambling at no more than seven facilities as authorized and prescribed by the legislature shall hereafter be authorized or allowed within this state; and the legislature shall pass appropriate laws to prevent offenses against any of the provisions of this section. (Amendment approved by vote of the people November 5, 2013.)

Remove:

[the net proceeds of which shall be applied exclusively to or in aid or support of education in this state as the legislature may prescribe]

Insert:

[the net proceeds of which shall be applied exclusively to education.]

Section 11 Paragraph 1

  • 11. No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws of this state or any subdivision thereof. No person shall, because of race, color, creed or religion, be subjected to any discrimination in his or her civil rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation, or institution, or by the state or any agency or subdivision of the state. (New. Adopted by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938; amended by vote of the people November 6, 2001.)

Add:

No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws of this state or any subdivision thereof. No person shall, because of race, color, creed or religion, or socio-economic status be subjected to any discrimination in his or her civil rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation, or institution, or by the state or any agency or subdivision of the state. (New. Adopted by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938; amended by vote of the people November 6, 2001.)

ARTICLE II SUFFRAGE

[Qualifications of voters] Section 1. Every citizen shall be entitled to vote at every election for all officers elected by the people and upon all questions submitted to the vote of the people provided that such citizen is eighteen years of age or over and shall have been a resident of this state, and of the county, city, or village for thirty days next preceding an election. (Amended by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938; further amended by vote of the people November 2, 1943; November 6, 1945; November 6, 1961; November 8, 1966; November 7, 1995.)

Insert:

Persons convicted of a felony, having served the conditions of their parole shall be, upon release from those conditions immediately be entitled to vote at every election for all officers elected by the people.

[Bi-partisan registration and election boards]

  • 8. All laws creating, regulating or affecting boards or officers charged with the duty of qualifying voters, or of distributing ballots to voters, or of receiving, recording or counting votes at elections, shall secure equal representation of the two political parties which, at the general election next preceding that for which such boards or officers are to serve, cast the highest and the next highest number of votes. All such boards and officers shall be appointed or elected in such manner, and upon the nomination of such representatives of said parties respectively, as the legislature may direct. Existing laws on this subject shall continue until the legislature shall otherwise provide. This section shall not apply to town, or village elections. (Formerly §6. Renumbered and amended by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938; further amended by vote of the people November 7, 1995.)

Amended to read:

[Bi-partisan registration and election boards] §8. All laws creating, regulating or affecting boards or officers charged with the duty of qualifying voters, or of distributing ballots to voters, or of receiving, recording or counting votes at elections, shall secure equal representation of the political parties or non-party registrants which, at the general election next preceding that for which such boards or officers are to serve, cast the highest and the next highest number of votes. All such boards and officers shall be appointed or elected in such manner, and upon the nomination of such representatives of said parties respectively, as the legislature may direct. Existing laws on this subject shall continue until the legislature shall otherwise provide. This section shall not apply to town, or village elections. (Formerly §6. Renumbered and amended by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938; further amended by vote of the people November 7, 1995.)

ARTICLE III LEGISLATURE

[Legislative power]

Section 1. The legislative power of this state shall be vested in the senate and assembly.

Amended to read:

Section 1. The legislative power of this state shall be vested in the senate.

[Number and terms of senators and assemblymen]

  • 2. The senate shall consist of fifty members, except as hereinafter provided. The senators elected in the year one thousand eight hundred and ninety-five shall hold their offices for three years, and their successors shall be chosen for two years. The assembly shall consist of one hundred and fifty members. The assembly members elected in the year one thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight, and their successors, shall be chosen for two years. (Amended by vote of the people November 2, 1937; November 6, 2001.)

Amended to read:

  • 2. The senate shall consist of one hundred fifty members, except as hereinafter provided. The senators elected in the year one thousand eight hundred and ninety-five shall hold their offices for three years, and their successors shall be chosen for two years. [This amendment provides for the abolition of the assembly and the institution of ombudsman authority.]

More suggestions to follow

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