Yes, New York State (Still) Needs A “People’s Constitutional Convention”
In the wake of our historic 2011 Legislative Session’s many accomplishments – we successfully closed a $10 billion budget deficit without tax hikes or new borrowing, began the process of shrinking the size and cost of state government, enacted a property tax cap and ethics reform, renewed New York’s power plant siting law and made the Power for Jobs program permanent – it would be easy to assume state government is fixed. Easy, but, nonetheless, wrong.
JOB OF TRANSFORMING STATE GOVERNMENT IS INCOMPLETE
I was proud to play a critical role in making the 2011 Session a success, leading on each of these issues and advancing specific public policies to solve New York’s problems. However, with our economy and citizens still hurting, we cannot afford to simply rest on our laurels and “wish” New York’s problems away. The people elected us to do a job – make New York State a more affordable place to live, work, raise a family and start a business – and that job is unfinished.
State government is still too big, too costly and too unresponsive to the needs of job creators and taxpayers. Our long-term structural debt is a crushing burden that will be passed down to the next generation of New Yorkers. Voters are still denied the opportunity to have their voices fully heard by Albany. In short, despite the successes of the past Session, fundamental fiscal and governmental reforms remain stuck in Albany’s legislative limbo. We need to fix that.
TO FIX THE PROBLEMS, FIX THE STRUCTURE
The answer to making these reforms a reality is moving beyond merely focusing on partisan politics or personalities, and instead examining the broken structure (and institution) of state government that allows common sense reforms to fall by the wayside, year after year, session after session. A “People’s Constitutional Convention” could fix this by writing critical reforms into the supreme law of New York, that being our State Constitution.
“PEOPLE’S CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION” COULD BE A GAME CHANGER
For nearly two years, I have traveled statewide, speaking to thousands of taxpayers, business and civic leaders during 24 Town Hall meetings, publicly making the case for a People’s Constitutional Convention. I believe this reform is the “game changer” New York truly needs so long-talked about reforms can finally happen.
READ ALL ABOUT IT: MY POLICY ESSAY ON THE PEOPLE’S CONVENTION
In light of my efforts, the Albany Government Law Review asked me to submit a policy essay outlining my reasons for advocating a People’s Constitutional Convention and describe how such a reform effort could help transform state government for the better. I am proud to report that my policy essay, titled “New York’s Last, Best Hope for Real Reform: The Case for Convening a State Constitutional Convention,” has been published and prominently featured in the current edition of the Albany Government Law Review and is available on-line at their “Fireplace Blog,”.
My essay provides a historical context of previous State Constitutional Conventions, addresses specific criticisms of past Constitutional Conventions, and describes how the current effort includes changes such as preventing elected officials, lobbyists or political party bosses from serving in a People’s Constitutional Convention.
POSITIVE CHANGES THAT A PEOPLE’S CONVENTION COULD DELIVER
A People’s Constitutional Convention could deliver the following real changes that are needed to fix our (still) broken state government:
- Initiative and Referendum;
- Debt reform;
- State spending cap;
- Pension reform;
- Independent, non-partisan redistricting;
- Unfunded mandate relief for local governments and school districts;
- Term limits; and
- Succession plan for statewide offices.
The key point to keep in mind is that the final decision on each of these reforms would be up to the people, making it truly a People’s Convention.
FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT FOR A BETTER NEW YORK
In addition to writing my essay, holding two dozen public Town Hall meetings and introducing non-partisan legislation (Assembly Bill A.1262, the “People’s Convention to Reform New York Act”), I also launched an on-line petition – www.reformny.org – to enlist New Yorkers fed up with Albany’s broken status quo to take their government back. So far, nearly 2,500 people have added their names to the on-line petition and 50 local communities, business and civic groups have expressed their support for convening a People’s Convention.
It is my hope these steps will make the case that one successful Legislative Session by itself is not enough to solve New York’s problems. A People’s Constitutional Convention remains our state’s best hope for real change. Let’s make it happen!
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.