What is the New York constitutional convention?

11/04/2017 6:00 AM |

It’s likely that local drivers have noticed “Vote No!” bumper stickers and lawn signs around town, but what do they refer to?

New York State’s constitution requires that every 20 years the people decide if a constitutional convention should be held to consider amendments, according to the state Board of Elections.

On Nov. 7, voters will have the chance to decide if the constitutional convention should happen.

Some groups, many of them labor unions, are advocating that people vote no. Organizations such as the United Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO are concerned that a convention would put workers’ benefits, wages and rights at risk while also raising taxes.

Meanwhile, there are also groups favoring a convention. The coalition “NY Votes Yes” is calling for a convention to eradicate corruption and government dysfunction. The groups are looking for fixes to the constitution’s judiciary language, added environmental provisions, election reform and a number of criminal justice adjustments, according to the coalition’s website.

Should a majority of citizens vote “yes,” three delegates from each of the state’s 63 state senatorial districts would be chosen in the 2018 election. Fifteen more at-large delegates would be selected statewide. If the convention is approved by voters, those delegates would meet in Albany in April 2019, according to the Board of Elections. Delegates would then adopt amendments that would be submitted to voters on the ballot the following November.

In 1997, the last time this choice appeared on the ballot, New Yorkers voted down the prospect of a 1999 convention to amend the state constitution.

The last state constitutional convention was held in 1967 and all proposed changes that emerged from it were voted down in the general elections that followed.

There are other statewide proposals on the ballot this year, including a measure that, if approved, would allow a court to reduce or revoke the pension of a public officer convicted of a felony directly related to their duties a public officer, according to the Board of Elections.

Another proposed amendment calls for the creation of up to 250 acres of forest preserve land for use by municipalities that “have no viable alternative to using forest preserve land to address specific public health and [highway] safety concerns.” It would also allow bicycle trails and some utility lines to be located near highways that cut through preserves, according to the BOE.

All three proposals are on the back of the ballot.

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