On Nov. 7, voters will be faced with a question on the ballot on whether to hold a constitutional convention in New York State. The opportunity comes automatically every 20 years.
While reformers are eager for an opportunity to make fundamental changes to state government, others are much less enthusiastic. State House Reporter Zack Fink filed the following report.
At Manhattan office of NY Constitution.org, people are spearheading an effort to urge state voters in November to vote yes on the question of whether to hold a constitutional convention.
"We have an incredible opportunity to make us proud of Albany," said Bill Samuels of NY Constitution.org. "Anyone out there who is happy with how Albany is serving our voters, something is wrong."
Reformers like Samuels acknowledge they will likely be outspent by those who are opposed to holding a convention. And many believe at this point at least, they are also losing the public relations battle in their efforts to convince people that a convention makes sense.
"The constitution is the document that sets forth our fundamental rights, and to put that entire document on the chopping block, as it were, is really playing with fire," said Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
On Tuesday, State Assembly Democrats held an off-session fall conference to discuss the convention, commonly referred to as "Con Con."
"I believe that most legislators believe as I do, that there is a vehicle to change the constitution, and that is through the legislature," State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said.
The fact that Democratic lawmakers are against "Con Con" is curious because many city representatives lament that the state has way too much say over the city's fate. It is a power imbalance set forth in the state constitution that could be changed with a convention.
"The home rule provision is totally outdated," Samuels said. "For Albany to make decisions on how we control our schools or plastic bottles — it's got to be reviewed."
But those urging a no vote on "Con Con" warn that Albany is not to be trusted to make the right changes.
"When you put the entire state constitution up for grabs in a state constitutional convention, it is an invitation to the horse trading that is like Albany par excellence," Lieberman said.
The ballot question of whether to hold a constitutional convention will appear alongside two other questions. The first is related to land preservation in the Adirondacks and the Catskills; the second would strip elected officials of their public pensions if they are convicted of a corruption.