Tag Archives: constitutional convention

Think About It

8 Dec

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Having Fun Storming the Castle

29 Jul
When you try your best but you dont succeed

When you try your best but you don't succeed

If there’s one thing that most people can agree on, it’s that New York State government is an ineffective disaster of a horror show.

There may soon be something we can all do about it.  The state’s current constitution was adopted and passed by referendum in 1938.  Changing it isn’t that hard and is already built-in to the document.

Under Article 19 of the New York State Constitution,

§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.)

I guess we blew it in 1997.

But the legislature, to the extent it’s not completely tone-deaf, could propose this for vote in November of this year.

And then what?

I believe that a nonpartisan, statewide movement needs to be formed under the leadership of someone who has credibility on the issue and knows what they’re talking about.  Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi comes to mind.  We all know who’s going to oppose this.  What we need to do is come up with a list of five or ten reforms that all New Yorkers can agree on.

Nonpartisan redistricting? Unicameral, nonpartisan legislature?  Stringent rules on lobbying, and aggressive enforcement thereof?  Medicaid reform? Implementation of Brennan Center proposals for legislative procedural reform?  Some autonomy for New York City?

If a simple platform could be agreed-upon, and wasn’t infused with partisan nonsense, I think that this could have a shot.  Even against the special interests.  Like I said: well-organized, good messaging, with grassroots support.  The wild card would be funding.  Enough funding to help combat the millions of dollars that the usual suspects will spend to kill this.

But comprehensive and fundamental constitutional reform is probably the best chance this state (outside the tri-state area) has to become even remotely competitive again.

NB: Also see Harding’s post here