We Don’t Need A ‘Con-Con’ To Get Things Done In New York

The New York state Constitution (Article 19, 2) requires that every 20 years the following ballot question will be asked: “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?” This question will appear on the ballot on November 7, 2017.

Voters should be aware that the question of whether or not to have a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) will appear on the back of the ballot, not the front.

There are two ways to amend our state constitution: constitutional amendments and a Con-Con. Constitutional amendments have been used nearly 200 times since 1894.

Proposed amendments must be passed by two consecutively elected legislatures and then by the voters. The last time amendments were proposed was in 2013 when voters agreed to allow casino gaming and the sale of specific land in the Adirondacks.

An amendment to raise the mandatory retirement age for judges failed to pass. A Con-Con allows for wider modification including a full rewrite of the constitution. There have been nine Con-Cons but only two (1938 and 1967) in the last 100 years.

Though there was a Con-Con in 1967, the propose changes were voted down by a margin of 72 percent to 27 percent. Proposed Con-Cons in 1977 and 1997 were voted down.

Some refer to a Con-Con as the “People’s Convention” but it is really a “Politicians Convention.” There will be 204 delegates elected if the voters agree to a Con-Con. In 1967, every convention leader was a sitting legislator.

In addition, four out five elected delegates were elected officials. Even though we are already paying them as elected officials, we would have to pay them another salary as a convention delegate. Not only can they double dip on salary, it is the only time they can double dip on retirement, accruing time for both jobs even though they happen simultaneously.

The cost for the Con-Con in 1967 was $47 million dollars. The estimate for Con-Con is between $200 and $300 million. The reason for the large range is that there is no required time line. They can take as long as they want. Voting for a Con-Con is like handing our politicians a blank check.

There are reasons why some people want to change the constitution. The right to a free public education is guaranteed in our constitution (Article 11,å1).

The corporations that owns charter schools would like to eliminate this and expand their profits at the taxpayers’ expense. There are corporations that would also like to get rid of the ‘Forever Wild” protection of land in the Adirondacks and the Catskills.

The right to workers compensation (Article 1, 18) if you are injured on the job is also in our constitution. If big corporations can take away our right to be a member of a union and bargain collectively (Article 1,å17) they can decrease wages and increase their profits.

The fact is any changes that a constitutional convention can suggest can also be proposed by our state senate and assembly through the amendment process. We are already paying them to do a job, why should we pay them double.

Vote NO to a constitutional convention. There are better uses for $300 million dollars.

Roger L. Pacos is a Fredonia resident.