New York Needs A “People’s Constitutional Convention” To End Government Dysfunction And Enact Reform Measures
Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
August 14, 2009
Last week, I announced my intention to introduce a bill calling for a “People’s Constitutional Convention” in New York State. A Constitutional Convention comprised of citizen legislators is our best opportunity to change the way our state does business and ensure that in the future New York is run more efficiently and effectively. Since I made this announcement, my office has received numerous calls in support of the initiative, making it clear to me that the people of New York are frustrated by the years of government dysfunction, bitter partisanship and egregious waste of taxpayer dollars for which Albany has become known. Every 20 years, the question “shall there be a Convention to revise the Constitution and amend the same?” is put before the voters of New York State. The Legislature also may submit this question to the electorate at any other time it deems necessary. Constitutional Conventions have been called in New York in 1777, 1801, 1821, 1846, 1867, 1894, 1915, 1938 and 1967. The question was last placed before the voters – and defeated – in 1997. My legislation allows for the question of convening a Constitutional Convention to be put on the ballot on Election Day 2010, when all 212 state legislators and four statewide offices are up for election or re-election. If a majority of the electors decide in favor of a Convention, the delegates would be chosen at the next general election. At that time, the people would elect three delegates from each senatorial district and 15 delegates-at-large. My bill also stipulates that state elected officials, policy makers and registered lobbyists not serve as delegates. It’s time the people’s voices were heard. In order to truly be a People’s Constitutional Convention, this should be a non-partisan event, representative of the diverse demography and geography of our state. It’s my hope that a Constitutional Convention would impose constitutional limits on taxes and spending and make government reform a reality that New Yorkers can rely on. I’d also like the delegates to consider matters like non-partisan redistricting reform, state budget reform, debt reform, a ban on backdoor borrowing and new procedures for filling vacancies of Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller and U.S. Senator. Any proposed Constitution or Constitutional Amendment resulting from the convention must be submitted to the voters at an election held six or more weeks after adjournment of the convention. If approved, the changes would go into effect on the first day of January following such approval. I’m calling on my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to pass this bill so it can appear on next year’s ballot. If the voters approve it, New York will hold its first Constitutional Convention in over 30 years. It’s high time the people had a chance to restore the system in Albany to a government in which we all can take pride. As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at email@example.com.