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Constitutional Convention

Constitutional Convention

  • Defeated on Con Con, Gerald Benjamin Plots His Next Move

    Gerald Benjamin SUNY

    Gerald Benjamin


    “It was a devastating defeat,” said Gerald Benjamin, wounds still fresh from a blowout he had, in his seventies, worked very hard to avoid. “The size of the defeat upset me more than the fact of the defeat,” he added, referring to the overwhelming vote against holding a New York state constitutional convention.

    “I really think that this was a major missed opportunity,” Benjamin said by phone Monday, less than a week after New York voters decided 83 percent to 17 percent not to hold a convention to amend the state’s most powerful

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  • Politics, Money, and the ‘Spirit of the Law:’ Why New York Needs a Constitutional Convention

    vote for a constitutional convention

    (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)


    The federal corruption trial of Norman Seabrook, former head of the correction officers’ union, has introduced new evidence of the contaminating role money plays in politics throughout the state. Jona Rechnitz, a wealthy real estate developer with a taste for power, became a star witness in the case after he got caught in the middle of an alleged deal that allowed Seabrook to get a kickback for investing the union’s pension funds in a risky hedge fund. Rechnitz had also been

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  • Why Tenants Should Vote Against a Constitutional Convention

    seniors affordable housing

    (photo via The Mayor's Office)


    Every 20 years, the New York State Constitution mandates a statewide vote on whether to convene a convention to consider amending it. On Tuesday, Election Day, New Yorkers will vote “yes” or “no.” This measure, question one of three on the back of the ballot, is more important than anything on the front.

    Tenants Political Action Committee debated this question at length, and despite many arguments in favor, we voted unanimously to oppose a “con con” this time around.

    This was not a

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  • New York’s Con Con Ballot is Biased

    (sample ballot excerpt - image via NYC Board of Elections)


    When New Yorkers vote on Nov. 7 on whether to call a state constitutional convention, the question they will see on the ballot is: “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?” This ballot text is the only form of convention related media that every voter will see immediately before voting—and when many voters are most impressionable.

    Unfortunately, this seemingly innocuous question is highly biased because it doesn’t specify whether it refers to the federal or New York state constitution. Close to 100% of

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  • Yes or No? Three Questions on the Back of Your November Ballot

    sample ballot

    (Image via NYC Board of Elections)


    This November, New York voters will have the opportunity to vote “yes” or “no” on three ballot questions, each important in its own way. While the Constitutional Convention -- question number one -- has soaked up most of the ballot initiative press, New Yorkers get to weigh in on questions concerning stripping pensions from corrupt public officials and utilization of some protected forest reserves for essential infrastructure projects.

    As Election Day approaches, familiarize yourself with the three ballot questions, and

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  • What’s The [DATA] Point? 1936

    whats the data point


    What’s The [Data] Point? Episode 16 - 1936, with Gerald Benjamin of SUNY New Paltz  [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

    geraldbOn Election Day, November 7, New Yorkers will be asked whether the state should hold a constitutional convention. It is a quesion that appears on the ballot every 20 years, mandated by the

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  • There Will Be Three Big Questions on Your Ballot in November

    voting election ballot proposals

    Voting (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)


    A state constitutional amendment slightly loosening stringent environmental protections in the Adirondacks and Catskills in certain cases will be on the ballot this fall, the state Board of Elections announced this week.

    The legislation, which has passed through two consecutive sessions of the Legislature in order to make it onto the ballot, allows for select infrastructure projects deemed necessary for the safety and economic vitality of nearby areas to be installed without a

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  • Delegate Election Date Should Sway Progressive Con Con Opponents

    State Senate Chambers New York

    (photo: JvL via Flickr)


    My union member father recently asked me how New Yorkers on the left can possibly want a state constitutional convention, for which a referendum will be on the ballot this November. After all, the roster of opponents includes organized labor, environmental groups, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and the vast majority of New York’s elected Democrats.

    These progressives have reasonable

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  • What’s a Constitutional Convention Cost? We Can’t Afford to Not Hold One

    capitol via nyscapitolvisit

    the Capitol, via @NYSCapitolVisit 


    When asked what a state constitutional convention might cost if called by voters in 2017, I said at a State Bar Association panel event that I had applied the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI inflator to what I then thought was the 1967 convention’s cost and got $47

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  • Reform Will Only Happen Through a State Constitutional Convention

    Cuomo Silver Skelos ethics reform

    (photo: The Governor's Office)


    Albany ended the legislative session without any government ethics reform and without any voting reform. Although there have been fewer arrests for corruption this session than last, no legislator should take this as a sign of improvement. And New York State voters should accept the truth that the Legislature itself will never seriously vote against its members’ self-interest to make progress on ethics or electoral reform.

    The only opportunity for New Yorkers for real reform is on the ballot on November

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  • 10 Bold or Bizarre Proposals for a New York Constitutional Convention

    voting constitutional convention


    When New York voters head to the polls on November 7, Election Day, printed on their ballots will be the question, “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?”

    A "yes" vote would trigger a state constitutional convention process that could lead to major changes to the New York constitution.

    While the first New York Constitution dates back to 1777, the version used today was adopted in 1894, with significant modifications made following the 1938 constitutional convention. Of those in support of a

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  • As Legislative Leaders Warn of Con Con Dangers, Good Government Groups Come Out in Favor

    assembly chamber via wikicommons

    The Assembly (photo: wikicommons)


    While legislative leaders are declaring opposition to a New York State constitutional convention, government reform organizations are trending in the other direction, with some who were wary of the idea in previous years coming out in support or considering doing so.

    Leading up to the November 7 vote on whether to hold a convention, the debate is shaping up around fear of what could be taken away versus hope that the public can take a shot at democratic reform.

    Republican Senate

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  • A Constitutional Right to Healthy Schools?

    museum school 25

    (Photo: @NYSEDNEWS)


    When voting Nov. 7, 2017 on whether to call a state constitutional convention, New Yorkers should consider enhancing social welfare rights

    New York’s Constitution mandates that every 20 years New Yorkers be asked via a statewide ballot referendum whether they want to call a state constitutional convention. The next such referendum is on the ballot on November 7. If passed, the

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  • Needed: Fresh Eyes to Improve New York’s Constitution (Part II)

    excelsior image for snider column


    This is part two of a two-part series entitled Needed: Fresh Eyes to Improve New York’s Constitution. Read part one: New York’s Mandarin Constitutional Culture.

    Implementing First Amendment Values in the 21st Century

    Drawing an analogy between Chinese Mandarin culture of the 18th and 19th centuries and New York’s

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  • Needed: Fresh Eyes to Improve New York’s Constitution (Part I)

    constituents poster boards

    (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)


    This is part one of a two-part series entitled Needed: Fresh Eyes to Improve New York’s Constitution. Read part two here.

    New York’s Mandarin Constitutional Culture

    During the last 500 years, a culture of innovation set off the West from the rest of the world, allowing it

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  • As Con Con Debate Heats Up, Heastie Declares Opposition

    Heastie Cuomo

    Speaker Heastie, right, & Gov. Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)


    While it will be several months before the airwaves are flooded with special interest-backed ad campaigns warning of the potential “dangers” of a constitutional convention, in Albany, legislative leaders are beginning to speak out on the issue.

    On Saturday, February 18, at Black and Latino Caucus weekend, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, had one message for labor union leaders: make sure your members vote “no” on the upcoming ballot question. This November, New Yorkers will

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  • On Your November Ballot: Stripping Pensions from Corrupt Politicians

    silver skelos cuomo sampson

    Sheldon Silver & others in 2011 (photo: The Governor's Office)


    This November, New York voters will get to decide whether state officials who are convicted of public corruption can be stripped of their pensions.

    A government ethics reform bill, jointly passed by the state Legislature Monday for a second time, amends the state constitution and allows the state to reduce or revoke the pension of a public officer that has been convicted of a crime related to his or her official duties.

    Under the measure, a public officer convicted of a crime

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  • Constitutional Convention Absent from Cuomo’s 2017 Agenda

    cuomo budget address cameras

    Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office)


    Though he has expressed support in the past for a “yes” vote for a constitutional convention on this year’s ballot, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s newly revealed 2017 agenda and 2017-2018 budget provide no indication that such support continues.

    Last year, Cuomo backed a constitutional convention in his lone State of the State speech, which was combined with a budget presentation, and he included $1 million in his spending proposal for a preparatory commission. Yet, this year, the issue is notably absent from Cuomo’s

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  • New York Needs a Political Primer on the State Constitutional Convention Referendum

    boe poll workers and voting booths 1

    (photo via NYC Board of Elections)


    The following essay is a slightly edited version of J.H. Snider’s introduction to a Fall 2016 symposium, “The Politics of State Constitutional Reform,” published by the Law & Courts Section of the American Political Science Association. The symposium provides a summary of notable presentations at a short course,

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  • The Best Delegate Election Process for a New York Constitutional Convention

    state assembly chamber albany

    NYS Assembly chamber (photo: MattWade on flickr)


    On November 7, 2017, New Yorkers will be asked to vote on whether to call a state constitutional convention. When this question was last on the ballot in 1997 (it’s required to be on the ballot once every 20 years), the most publicized argument not to call a convention was that the convention delegate election process would be dominated by the same interests that dominate New York’s Legislature.

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  • Could Trump & Sanders Populism Fuel Constitutional Convention Approval?

    bernie hat handshakes 1

    Senator Bernie Sanders (photo: @BernieSanders)


    With the 2016 presidential election over, can the populist fervor surrounding the candidacies of Senator Bernie Sanders and President-elect Donald Trump be harnessed into a new kind of revolution on a state level here in New York?

    A year from now, next Election Day, New Yorkers will have the chance to vote on a referendum to call a Constitutional Convention, an opportunity to rewrite state laws that comes around once every 20 years. Proponents of the convention — at this point mostly academics

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  • For a Better Judicial Nominating Process, Support a Constitutional Convention

    judicial swearing in de blasio judges

    Mayor de Blasio swears in judges (photo: Ed Reed, Mayor's Office)


    We need to change the New York State Constitution to curb corruption in our government, we simply cannot wait for our elected officials to make those changes for us.

    Finding examples of corruption and self-serving behavior among our politicians in New York City and State is not difficult. It is part of all three branches of government - the legislative, executive, and judicial. In fact, New York has a judicial nominating process that has been condemned by

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  • Cuomo Appears to Give Up on Legislature Closing LLC Loophole

    cuomo budget mujica

    Gov. Cuomo & his budget director, Robert Mujica (photo: The Governor's Office)


    Gov. Andrew Cuomo appears to have given up on the state Legislature taking action to close the notorious LLC loophole, which allows wealthy donors to subvert campaign finance laws by creating multiple limited liability corporations that can each give more than $60,000 to a candidate’s campaign.

    According to The New York Times, Cuomo said this weekend that it would be up to the public to close the loophole through a constitutional convention.

    In

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  • A Post-Budget Test of the Governor’s Commitment to a Constitutional Convention

    cuomo desk legislation signing

    Cuomo signs legislation (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)


    In terms of the state’s nearly $150 billion budget, $1 million isn’t a lot of money. But for reform advocates the $1 million Gov. Andrew Cuomo had committed in his executive budget plan for a commission to prepare for a constitutional convention was both functionally and symbolically crucial to their belief that the governor and the Legislature would actually commit to reforming state government - or at least giving “the people” an opportunity to do so.

    The funding

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  • New York's Coming ConCon Battle

    crowd

    (photo via The Governor's Office on flickr)


    New York's Constitution mandates that every 20 years New Yorkers be granted the opportunity to vote on whether to call a state constitutional convention. This referendum is next on the ballot on Nov. 7, 2017.

    The unique democratic function of this referendum is to provide New Yorkers with a mechanism to bypass the Legislature's gatekeeping power over constitutional reform, which is a problem when the Legislature has an institutional conflict of interest with the people. Such a conflict occurs when the Legislature controls the

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