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October 23, 2017

New York State Constitutional Convention Vote 2 Weeks away Activities detailed

Two weeks from Tuesday will be a pivotal vote in New York State. The once every twenty year vote that decides whether to open the NYS constitution to unregulated changes that are largely controlled by political insiders.

Given the national political landscape, the debate around New York’s constitutional convention comes at a critical time. On Nov. 7, New Yorkers will vote on Proposition 1, which will ask whether or not New York should hold a Constitutional Convention. In one of the largest consensus movements in our state’s history, New Yorkers from across the political spectrum came together to speak out against the disastrous impacts of a convention. Democrats, Republicans, environmentalists, farmers, unions, conservatives, legal aid organizations – over 150 groups in total — have aligned themselves to educate New Yorkers about how dangerous and wasteful a constitutional convention would be for our state.

A main reason New Yorkers across the political spectrum have banded together to oppose a convention is that they know it would be a field day for powerful lobbyists and the special interest groups they represent. There are no rules around a constitutional convention. Money already exerts too much influence in dysfunctional Albany politics, and that will no doubt be intensify by the unrestrained power of a constitutional convention. The last time we had a constitutional convention in 1967, the whole event was crawling with lobbyists spending big to make sure their clients’ issues were given priority by delegates. Worst of all, at the end of the convention the people had no way to hold delegates accountable. The delegates pocketed taxpayer money and went home, leaving us to pick up the pieces.

These groups may not always agree on a lot, but they have united to defend New York’s Constitution because of the important protections already in place that defend New Yorkers from every walk of life. The constitution contains guarantees for issues such as pensions, children’s education, relief for the poor, environmental protections, women’s rights, labor exploitation, collective bargaining, voting rights and much more. In fact, the New York State Constitution goes far beyond the U.S. Constitution in protecting these rights. Holding a convention would put all of these hard-fought, fundamental rights at risk for revision, compromise and elimination.

A constitutional convention would not only be dangerous to our rights, it would also waste the money of New York taxpayers at an unprecedented scale. The most conservative estimates price a convention at tens of millions of dollars, and, because there would be no set end date, it’s possible for costs to reach well over $160 million. Much of this money would go toward paying the convention’s 204 delegates — who would pocket almost $80,000 a year on top of their current salaries. Historical evidence suggests these delegates would overwhelmingly be made up of political insiders and the people closest to them, including elected officials currently in office. This means Albany establishment politicians could be paid twice for the same work to the tune of almost $160,000 a year in taxpayer money.

The enormous cost of a convention is money that could be better spent going toward services that citizens actually use and need — services like law enforcement, fire departments, public education, mass transit and more. When New York’s massive property taxes are driving lifetime residents from the state, many of our schools are failing, and healthcare is becoming increasingly unaffordable, it’s irresponsible to divert state resources away from the issues that plague New Yorkers every day. Just look at the $35.8 million the state promised to improve the Syracuse airport. Such infrastructure projects are needed to boost upstate New York’s economy, and New York’s money would be much better spent here than on a wasteful convention that would only benefit Albany insiders.

Nobody thinks New York is perfect, but only New York City elites believe that a Constitutional Convention is the right way to make improvements. The normal process for amending the constitution has succeeded over 200 times — in fact, there are two amendments on the ballot for this year alone. That process doesn’t threaten protections New Yorkers rely on and doesn’t add a massive burden to taxpayers.

For all these reasons, the over 150 member groups of New Yorkers Against Corruption, including the NYS Alliance for Retired Americans have united to take a stand against government waste, against threatening our constitutional rights, and against a corrupt process that would certainly harm the hardworking taxpayers of this state. Voting “no” is a vote to protect our voice and our constitutional rights.

Please join our allies in the events highlighted here. These events are largely labor to labor walks in all areas of the state. Contact persons are also highlighted.

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