A vote to determine whether or not to have a New York state constitutional convention automatically appears on the ballot every 20 years. This is the year.
It is very tempting to vote in favor of this ballot proposal. Supporters will tell you that through constitutional convention, we can enact into law many things that the governor and state legislature have not done, including ethics reform, campaign finance reform, single-payer health care, and expanded reproductive rights. There is a different reality.
If New Yorkers vote “yet” this year, there will be a costly and convoluted process to elect delegates next year when three delegates would be elected in each of the state’s 63 Republican-drawn state senate districts, and 15 more would be elected at-large. People like the Koch brothers and the Mercers could spend unlimited money to elect delegates who would do their ultra-conservative bidding.
The elected delegates would each get paid the same salary as a state legislator. In fact, the delegates can be state legislators (who would receive both salaries).
The delegates will be mostly political insiders, elected officials and lobbyists.
The cost of this process is estimated to be $100 million or more of taxpayer money.
The state constitution is a long document, which contains many provisions dear to most of us.
At a convention, everything would be on the table. This includes the right to a sound basic education, the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively, protection of public pensions, and the Forever Wild clause — which protects the Adirondack and Catskill state parks from development.
The forces who favor privatization of education would spend a fortune to elect compliant delegates in Republican-drawn districts. Developers who want to invade the Adirondack and Catskill state parks could spend unlimited money, too.
Labor rights, including pensions, would be on the chopping block. We have seen what has happened in other states when the Koch brothers and their allies use their clout to go after working people.
We already have the ability to amend the state constitution, and it’s been done more than 200 times.
In fact, there is an important constitutional amendment on this year’s ballot. Proposal 2 would take away pensions from elected officials convicted of public corruption.
While some people feel that elected leaders in Albany do not work as quickly as we would like, we must evaluate whether the risks of damaging proposals coming out of this convention outweigh the potential benefits. I believe the downside is huge.
Theoretically, some positive changes could be proposed by a convention. And if you believe in rainbows and unicorns, you can believe that a convention will solve all our problems. The cold reality is that a state constitutional convention would be a very costly process where the tremendous wealth of right wing forces and Trump allies could end up being in control.
This could have a devastating impact on public education, health care, the environment and workers. It’s not worth the risk.
Don’t be conned by the con-con.
This costly and dangerous proposal, which will appear on the back of the paper ballot, must be defeated.
Vote “no” on Proposal 1 on Nov. 7.
The author is the male Democratic district leader of the 81st Assembly District, and is the son of Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.