Reform: Should NYS Hold A Constitutional Convention?

Voters Get To Decide In November; Groups Lining up on Both Sides

Dave Debo
June 19, 2017 - 6:10 am

AP Photo


(WBEN)   Should New York State have a convention to re-write the constitution?

For the first time ever,  the State Bar Association voted in favor of the measure this Sunday urging it's members to approve the move, on the ballot in November. 

"We cant depend on the legislature to make the changes that we need. We have institutional problems in this state, and the legislature hasn't touched them," says Buffalo area attorney Christopher Bopst, who has been leading the charge, doing research  and writing several articles with Canisius College Professor Peter Galie, a constitutional scholar. 

Every 20 years, New Yorkers have the chance to vote on whether to hold a constitutional convention  The next vote will be held this November. If the voters approve a convention, delegates will be elected in November 2018, and the convention will open in April 2019.

Bopst says there are several measures that could be brought forward. 

"I think term limits, I think an independent re-districting commission so that voters chose their legislators instead of legislators choosing their voters, unfunded mandate relief- a lot of other states have un-funded mandate provisions. That's a big thing in Western New York," Bopst said, appearing Sunday on WBEN's Hardline program with Dave Debo ( Sunday 10am- 12 noon)

A coalition of groups including the state AFL-CIO,  the state Rifle and Pistol Association, Planned Parenthood and the state Republican and Conservative parties have joined to oppose the measure.

Tom King, president of the state Pistol and Rifle Association,  tells the New York Daily News that such a convention would aim at gun owner rights.

"Politicians and their friends and family members will end up being elected as delegates," King said. "I am sure their first goal will be to attack our rights.”

Labor unions such as NYSUT and CSEA have come out against the measure, arguing that while current pension rights are protected by state and federal law, a constitutional convention could jeopardize the rights of future employees.

But Canisius's Galie, with some research into the last state constitutional convention in 1967 rejects such a Pandora's box argument.

"One of the distinctions we need to make is what is theoretically possible and what is likely. It is theoretically possible that the convention could eliminate the bill of rights. It could enable the governor to be elected to a lifetime term. It could adopt a parliamentary system of government. It could eliminate local government. is it likely to do one of those? Not even remotely."

 From Hardline, the WBEN Politics Program (Sunday 10am- 12noon)

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