The last New York State Constitutional Convention was held in 1967. Since then, New Yorkers have twice voted against having another constitutional convention, in 1977 and in 1997. In 2017, New York voters again will have an opportunity to decide on whether there should be a State Constitutional Convention, commonly called a Con-Con.
Proponents contend it is necessary to produce needed reforms. They point to the state’s corruption, among other issues, that could be addressed via a convention.
Opponents say a convention would be costly and dominated by the same interests that now control Albany. Some also say a convention would serve as an open invitation for powerful special interests to wreak havoc on the state.
This week’s Rochester Business Journal Snap Poll asked readers how they would vote on this issue. Respondents say they would vote for holding a convention by more than a 2-to-1 margin.
The New York Times explains: “nonprofit groups interested in issues including campaign finance reform, redistricting, term limits and the legalization of marijuana have come out in favor of a convention. They argue that the state Legislature is unlikely to take up these thorny, politically treacherous topics. At the same time, unions like the United Federation of Teachers and state legislative leaders have argued against a convention, saying it could repeal hallowed protections.”
More than 430 participated in this week’s poll, conducted on July 18 and 19.
Would you vote for or against holding a New York State Constitutional Convention?
NYS is badly in need of reform measures and a serious look at servicing the request of the people rather than the requests of our bought and paid for senators and representatives in the NYS legislature. Let the people decide which things to change in the NYS convention. And let them create laws to remove some of the very special interests that they fear will influence this Con-Con. Corruption should be the number one issue addressed here.
—Lee Drake, CEO, OS-Cubed Inc.
After 50 years, it is essential to update the state constitution to reflect changes in our society. As a lawyer, it is important to reform and unify the judiciary. Good governance demands that we make the effort.
Con-Con is a rare opportunity to make needed changes. To keep what we have and expect different results, that’s been well defined!
—Joseph Lancaster, Cogenic Mechanical
Nothing in New York happens without the consent of the teachers union. If they are opposed to the chance of a convention in this 20-year cycle, then don’t expect to see one even if it proves widely popular among the general electorate.
It is the only way to bypass the state Assembly and Senate to change the constitution in favor of the people. We do need term limits and ending gerrymandering.
—Sergio Ruffolo, JR Language Translation Services Inc.
This is an opportunity for N.Y. voters to do what the elected officials will not do: change the way state government runs. It affords the chance to deal with gerrymandering, election finance and perhaps even an open primary system.
I agree with the statement above: “…a convention would be costly and dominated by the same interests that now control Albany.” Just another reason why people are moving OUT of New York.
—Vinny Dallo, Kappan Financial
A waste of time and money. If amendments are needed, go through the proper channels. Don’t waste millions of taxpayer money to give politicians a free vacation.
The legislators seem to be inoculated by the special interests, so let’s have a convention to see if the people can be heard.
—Keith Robinson, Diamond Packaging
I trust that advocates for progressive reforms will produce votes for sufficient young and progressive delegates who will vote to amend to include protections against gerrymandering, a woman’s right to choose, protection of labor unions, so I do not fear a CC. If I’m wrong about that, heaven help us.
We do not need a constitutional convention to amend the NYS Constitution. Since adopted in 1894 it has been amended over 200 times, the large majority of which has been done by the Legislature. In contrast, there has never been a U.S. Constitutional Convention and it has only been amended 27 times. It is way too expensive to hold an event of that size; the cost would be staggering and there are no guarantees that anything of any substance will come of it. Additionally, there are no guarantees as to who will be elected as delegates to that constitution, so there is a very strong possibility that we will simple make bad matters worse! In this current political environment it is hard to imagine a worse idea than this.
Why would N.Y. spend $300 million on a process that can be accomplished under existing procedures? Constitutional changes have been made over the years, so we know it can work. A convention would double-pay the elected delegates, most of whom are already drawing salaries as elected officials.
—Tom Gillett, NYSUT
I think we need to modify the state constitution to include term limits for the state Assembly, Senate, and governor.
In addition to the immense costs of having the convention, we really can’t trust anything that the state government undertakes. Who knows what could come out of it? There certainly won’t be any reforms made that will help us right the many wrongs that we deal with on a daily basis. It will be another opportunity for the NYC crowd to extend its domination over us.
I have no sympathy for the teachers’ union. It is possible that special interests will descend like filthy locusts on a Con-Con. But the corruption is out of hand, so I’m in favor. Could things get worse?
I recognize that it could open a Pandora’s Box. BUT the issues of campaign finance reform and redistricting are major issues in this state and this country, and clearly our politicians are unlikely to address these issues.
We desperately need term limits, both state and federal levels!
— Tom Shea, Thomas P Shea Agency Inc.
Albany is so corrupt it is long overdue!
Our government structure needs to be torn down and rebuilt. Corruption and contentment are rampant. Only after a drastic measure will we ever see true “hope and change” and “make America great again.”
(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email [email protected].