On Nov. 7, New York voters will decide whether a state constitutional convention should be held. By law, every 20 years, the question of whether one should be convened comes up on the ballot. 2017 is that year.
Estimates are that a convention would cost New York taxpayers $50 million to $100 million. That sounds like a lot of money, and it would be. However, if a convention were to help rein in the rampant corruption that we’ve seen in Albany in recent years, then the funds would be well spent.
A convention would be an opportunity for we, the people, to rethink how our state government conducts itself. A convention could finally bring an independent, non-partisan redistricting commission, not controlled by the Legislature, to redraw election district lines and eliminate gerrymandering, which is common practice in New York — and enables incumbents to remain in office without fear of ever losing their seats. It’s been said that New York lawmakers are more likely to die than lose an election. That’s most often true.
At the same time, a convention would be a chance to enact term limits for our state legislators, many of whom become entrenched and arrogant after decades in office. That was certainly the case with Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver. According to the non-profit Citizens Union, a convention would enable New York to enact tougher ethics reforms for lawmakers to finally bring about real transparency.
Special-interest groups are lobbying against a convention. Unions worry that their constitutionally guaranteed pensions could be taken away. Environmentalists fear that protections for the Adirondacks Region could be removed from the Constitution. Their concerns are not entirely unwarranted, but are likely overblown.
Convention or not, voters must be vigilant to rein in Albany’s wanton ways. We must demand change for the better by calling out — and voting out — crooked politicians. When they understand that we will not stand for corruption, then, and only then, it will end.