Is it time to maybe turn Albany upside down and hold a state constitutional convention?
Every twenty years, state voters are asked on Election Day whether a constitutional convention (or con-con for short) should be convened. The possibilities for change are almost endless and that makes some people uneasy. People like Rev. Mark Blue.
He says "It's all about the people you put in."
Blue, president of the Buffalo Branch of the NAACP, sees risk with a con-con. Protections already outlined in state law for healthcare, education and housing could be permanently changed. And there's the potential cost of con-con.
“Is this a budgeted item, when we’re lacking money in healthcare, lacking money in our school systems? If it’s not a budgeted item, where is this money coming from?,” says Blue.
Also a "no" vote on the referendum is State Senator Chris Jacobs, who says a con-con could "frankly could make things in New York worse not better because the same special interests that are controlling Albany right now would be at the trough during the convention.”
The loudest organization on this issue these days is a political action group called New Yorkers Against Corruption. It has bought a lot of local airtime in Western New York to run a television ad describing a con-con as like "the bar in Star Wars", and that politicians would use the event to to grab more power, downstaters would use it to grab more money.
Bankrolling the commercials are labor unions. New Yorkers Against Corruption is almost exclusively funded by organized labor groups. Top donor is New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) which gave $600,000 to the organization.
The primary concern expressed by labor is that a con-con could tinker with state pension deals.
That notion has been dismissed by pro con-con advocates like former Chief Justice to the State Court of Appeals Jonathan Lippman. Lipman says "The contract clause of the United States Constitution protects your pension from being taken away no matter what happens at the convention.”
There are also a collection of newspaper editorial board that have come out in favor of a con-con, including the Buffalo News.