Voting ‘Yes’ On A Constitutional Convention

From all of the press reports and lawn signs I have been seeing, I may be the only person in Chautauqua County voting in favor of having a Constitutional Convention.

The leaders of both the Democratic and Republican majorities in the state legislature are against it. The Governor is quietly opposed (or seems to be.) The public employee unions are opposed. Most of the lobbyists in Albany are opposed.

Upstate thinks it will be over-powered by downstate. Downstate worries that Upstate will try and secede from the State. Environmentalists are opposed because they think that bad things could happen. Business interests are worried that environmentalists will cause havoc and shut down industry.

In my view, the organized voice to vote “No” on having a Constitutional Convention by most of the entrenched interests in Albany… is probably a good reason to vote “Yes.” A “No” vote is essentially a vote to keep doing business the same old way. The kind of structural reforms that are needed to address the dysfunction and bad habits of state government will not be addressed by those who would be affected by them. The only way that citizens of the State can be assured that reforms will be made is by voting to amend the Constitution.

The vote coming up in November is just the beginning of a process. If approved by voters, a Constitutional Convention would be convened in 2018. Any recommended changes by such a Convention are required to be submitted to the voters in 2019 for approval. The Convention itself does not have the power to amend the Constitution.

In my view, Constitutional changes are the only way to address the governance problems in Albany. For example, do you think that the Governor would ever support limiting the terms of his/her service to 2 terms (8 years) similar to our Federal Constitution? Do you think that the Speaker of the Assembly or Majority Leader of the State Senate would ever propose limiting their tenure as leader to 10 years, as has been done in some other states?

The problems (and criminal indictments) that come from keeping the same people at the top jobs in perpetuity in Albany can only be changed if voters change the State’s Constitution.

I am not surprised that the entrenched interests in Albany want to stay “entrenched” and want you to vote “No” on the November 7th ballot.

Though it may be futile in a low turnout election as predicted for this year and defeat seems likely … I am still going to cast a “Yes” vote to have a Constitutional Convention. The only way we are going to clean up Albany is to put limits on the current power structure. Hoping that the legislature and Governor will solve this problem is not a solution. They will never vote to limit their power and authority. I know, I was there once.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident and former member of the New York state Assembly.