Thursday, August 20, 2009

Is it time for a NY state constitutional convention?

From City Journal:

New Yorkers are no strangers to the expense of multi-jurisdictional bodies or a stalemated state legislature, either. Policy reforms suggested in New York so far include increasing the governor’s power in budget negotiations; mandating spending caps and a legislative super-majority for tax increases; instituting term limits; and enacting non-partisan redistricting. Other changes might include addressing the state’s chronic inability to renegotiate pension obligations in the event of insolvency.

But in the Empire State, the process of organizing a constitutional convention is far more circuitous than in California, because New York doesn’t have a direct ballot-initiative process. Before voters can even weigh in on the idea, the state legislature must first vote on whether to put the question of a constitutional convention to voters. The whole process would likely take until 2012 to be implemented, at earliest—and that’s assuming state legislative leaders don’t succeed in stonewalling until a review is required by state law in 2017.

From the NY Times:

There are more New Yorkers unemployed than at any time in 33 years, and the poverty rate is rising. Our combined state and local tax burden is the highest in the nation after New Jersey. Our business tax climate is rated the second worst in the country. And in the face of the worst recession in a quarter-century, the State Legislature decided to increase spending by 9 percent while increasing taxes and fees by $8 billion. No wonder a recent poll showed that more than 20 percent of New Yorkers are thinking of leaving the state in search of lower taxes and fewer government mandates.

Over the course of New York’s history, our state has held seven constitutional conventions, one as recently as 1967. Calling another convention would be an extraordinary step, but it is a necessary and effective way to overcome the challenges we face. It would be an opportunity for Republicans, Democrats and independents to come together, take a long hard look at our problems and then propose real, lasting solutions.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Let's recall a similar question Thomas Jefferson asked in a 1787 letter to William Smith: "[W]hat country can preserve its liberties, if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?" We in New York can act on Jefferson's warning. We can demand a constitutional convention.

There are two ways to amend the New York constitution. First, state legislators may identify problems with the political system and propose changes to the people. Second, if politicians benefit from the system's imperfections (as now) and are unlikely to change it, the constitution provides that every 20 years the people can propose necessary revisions. This is where a convention comes in.

Our next chance to have one will be in 2017. That date is frustratingly far off given the spectacle in Albany. But it is within the legislature's power to gain back an iota of respect. It should admit its failure and give the voters the chance to protect themselves against further governmental breakdown.

From CBS 2:

A new proposal for a constitutional convention to let New Yorkers rewrite the state government they love to hate would remove influence by special interests and politicians.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb of Canandaigua is proposing a citizens constitution that would specifically bar politicians and registered lobbyists from being delegates. His bill would have to win approval in the Senate and Assembly and then go to the voters. Voters would decide whether to hold the first convention in more than three decades.

Most of us think the legislature stinks. So let's do something about it.


Missing Foundation said...

Two ideas:

1. election reform - cutting off developer donations and newspaper ads. Make the election season 2 weeks like in the UK.

2. Tony Avella, call for a NYC convention - ask the public for suggestions, and build your platform on it.

Anonymous said...

how can we have an effective constitutional convention, when we the voters cant even vote for a candidate of our choice. even that privilege has been taken away. big party politics will continue to rule.