The first proposal on the ballot deals with whether the state should convene a Constitutional Convention to propose and consider various changes to the New York State Constitution.
Proponents of this measure site the need for various reforms, including changes in campaign finance laws, term limits for state legislators, and changes in voting procedures to encourage participation, to name just a few.
Many of the proposals could be beneficial to the residents of our state.
Opponents say procedures are already in place for the legislature to consider these and other changes to the state constitution without the need for a formal convention.
They also point out that there are a multitude of measures in the constitution that protect the citizens of the state that could be changed at in a constitutional convention by those with special interests or regressive agendas.
If the proposal passes, there would be an election in 2018 for delegates to the convention, with the convention convening in 2019 to consider all of the possible changes. Those proposals would then be brought before the voters for their approval or disapproval.
There is a fear there may be delegates elected who would be backed by those same special interests, many of which have huge financial resources. Those delegates would then have sway over what is ultimately put before voters, and those issues may reflect the wishes of the special interests who backed those particular delegates.
It has been suggested there could be changes that would undermine measures already in place in the state constitution that protect workers, tenants and others.
Changes to the education system may also be under consideration by groups that do not support public education, and perhaps state employees who have retired with pensions could face changes in benefits.
Some environmental groups fear that the “Forever Wild” clause in our state constitution that protects our state forests and natural areas could be up for change or repeal by special interests who wish to use protected public lands for their own benefit.
The proposal for a constitutional convention is a Pandora’s box!
The cost of a convention also is problematic. I have heard estimates from $47 million up to $300 million. Wouldn’t that taxpayer money be better spent on programs that benefit our young people, our seniors and those less fortunate? Or how about a tax break for everyone?
When you consider all of the pros and cons of holding a constitutional convention, it would seem that a “no” vote wins the contest.
Either way you decide, remember to turn over your ballot to find the three proposals on Election Day.
Henry Euler is a resident of Bayside.