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NY Voters Weigh In On Whether State Should Hold Constitutional Convention

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Next week, New York voters will decide if the state should hold a constitutional convention, which could pave the way for big changes in how the state operates.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, the question crops up on the ballot every 20 years.

Groups like Citizens Union are calling it a once-in-a-generation shot at needed reform to an outdated constitution.

A 'yes' vote is also urged by the Long Island Herald publisher, as a chance for "we the people" to implement term limits and redistricting.

"How many legislators do we need to see taken away in handcuffs before we decide to make some changes?" asked Clifford Richner, publisher of Richner Communications. "Even getting convicted doesn't seem to be a barrier to serving in the state legislature. I think that's wrong, and I think there's an opportunity here to change that."

But 'con-con,' as it's called, is generating a chorus of 'no.'

"A constitutional convention comes with great costs and risks. The convention process is lawless. There are no rules about what can be changed," said David Sprintzen, of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

Foes say a price convention is a wildcard and unnecessary.

"Most of what could be looked at in a constitutional convention can also be done through legislation, and in that way it's much more of an open process," said Susan Gottehrer, of NYCLU's Nassau Chapter.

Labor unions worry about losing constitutionally protected pensions.

"The idea of opening the state constitution, which is a Pandora's Box, because the special interests are going to pour their money to run their people next year," said Lisa Tyson, also of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

Hofstra University political expert Larry Levy says the battle is creating interesting alliances in opposition.

"Anti-abortion groups, pro-abortion groups, anti and pro-gun control groups – they are all concerned that the other one might get an advantage," he said.

If it's approved by voters, delegates would be elected next year for a 2019 convention. To vote, you'll have to turn the ballot over.


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