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Blair Horner: The Fight Over The Constitutional Convention Heats Up

Blair Horner: The Fight Over The Constitutional Convention Heats Up

  JUL 24, 2017

New Yorkers have a big decision to make in three and a half months: A decision whether to overhaul their state constitution. That document requires that every 20 years voters get an opportunity to decide whether they want to rewrite the state’s foundational document. This November, voters will get that vote.

Having such a provision is unusual, but not rare in America. Fourteen other states have similar mechanisms in place to periodically ask voters about convening a convention.

Not surprisingly, since it only occurs once every 20 years, the vast majority of New Yorkers don’t know about the vote. In a recent poll, fully two thirds of New Yorkers were unaware of the upcoming vote to revamp New York’s state constitution.

The decision on whether to convene a convention will likely turn on two questions: (1) How New Yorkers feel about the state of their state; and (2) How concerned they are about provisions of the current constitution that could be put at risk if a convention is convened. If voters are more unhappy with the direction of New York than they are worried about jeopardizing popular constitutional provisions that exist, then they’ll vote yes.

The process for convening a constitutional convention contains four basic steps:

  1. New Yorkers vote on whether they want to convene a convention. That will happen this November. If voters choose no, then the process ends. If voters approve the convention, then …
  2. New Yorkers choose delegates to the convention at the November 2018 election. The constitution says that voters will choose three delegates for each of the state’s 63 senate districts and then vote on 15 statewide fora total of 204 delegates.
  3. Those delegates will convene the convention in the following Spring. The delegates can make whatever changes they want to the constitution, there are no restrictions.
  4. Finally, the changes drafted by the delegates goes to the voters for final approval.

This vote is a contentious one, with organizations lining up to battle over the pros and cons. Under New York law, politicians and interest groups that raise or spend campaign donations must periodically report their activities. Last week, New Yorkers got a peek into the efforts to influence the upcoming question to be put to voters on whether they want to convene a state constitutional convention.

The campaign filings last week showed just how intense the upcoming debate will be. A coalition of groups urging a “no” vote on the constitutional convention, which they call “New Yorkers Against Corruption,” disclosed that it had raised $635,000 so far. Much of that was raised from unions: $50,000 from the teachers’ union and $250,000 from a health-care union.

The strange-bedfellow coalition includes Planned Parenthood, the United Federation of Teachers, the Rifle and Pistol Association, the Conservative Party, and many environmental organizations. It’s not just advocacy groups weighing in: In addition, the majority party leaders of the Senate and Assembly have urged opposition. The Senate Democratic minority leader is opposed, and the governor has expressed concerns.

A competing odd couple coalition which calls itself the Committee for a Constitutional Convention, is urging a “yes” vote and has raised $67,000, mostly from individual donors giving small amounts. In addition, a donor to many liberal causes, Bill Samuels, has spent more than $100,000 to support a “yes” vote. Lastly, the leader of the Republican Assembly minority has urged support for the convention.

Supporters argue that Albany’s a mess – corrupt, operating in secret, costing too much and that the state’s basic document is old, anachronistic, and contains provisions that are now considered unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution. Opponents argue that the current state constitution includes provisions that protect the Adirondack Park, require a sound, basic education for children, require that the poor are protected, and guarantee the pensions of public employees.

At New York’s last referendum for a constitutional convention, in 1997, the issue was voted down. Voters were unwilling to accept the risks.

As the battle over convening a convention heats up, with corruption trails upcoming and with a wobbly administration in Washington, we’ll see if New Yorkers have changed their minds.

Blair Horner is executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors.They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

Full page at http://wamc.org/post/blair-horner-fight-over-constitutional-convention-heats

Debating a NY Constitutional Convention

From http://www.fios1news.com

Debating a NY Constitutional Convention

Question of whether to hold convention to amend State Constitution will be on the ballot this November

People's Climate March Delhi

Cycle of Change

Delhi Rally Brings Awareness to Climate Change
By Lillian Browne

Chris Karmosky, a climatologist, of Treadwell, attended the rally to raise awareness about climate change at Courthouse Square in Delhi on April 29. Lillian Browne/The Reporter

Chris Karmosky, a climatologist, of Treadwell, attended the rally to raise awareness about climate change at Courthouse Square in Delhi on April 29. Lillian Browne/The Reporter

DELHI - In an effort to slow down the impacts of accelerated climate change due to human activity, five area women, Janet TweedKathy MarioLisa RobinsonBonnie Seegmiller and Irene Berkowitz, combined their efforts to facilitate a rally to show support for the National People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., on April 29 at Courthouse Square in Delhi.

Nearly 300 people were in attendance at the rally, according to organizers, at which many spoke about individual steps that could be taken to help thwart the cyclical event once known as global warming, now re-dubbed climate change.

Others used the event as a platform to call out the Trump administration for interfering with federally funded agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), tasked with ensuring that people are protected from risks to their health and environment and that federal laws that protect human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively, among other things.

Many event attendees shared their views via signs on what could be done to slow down the effects of climate change. Lillian Browne/The Reporter

Event attendee Chris Karmosky of Treadwell, a climatologist who teaches meteorology at SUNY Oneonta, said the climate is changing and though many in his profession believe that humans are to blame for accelerated climate change, the general population does not believe that is the case.

Karmosky carried a sign at the rally that said “Climate is changing WEATHER you believe it or not,” in support of his belief.

 

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NY 19 Votes!

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—Day 50 of the First 100 Days of Resistance—

Hundreds of First-time Grassroots Activists Train and Canvass Across NY’s 19th Congressional District (NY19)

On Sunday, March 12, Resistance Voter Registration launched NY19Votes, the nation's first grassroots, all-volunteer voter registration campaign—the first to be staged in a congressional swing district, NY19.

Residents across the district turned out in unprecedented numbers to lead the change they want to see in America.

More than 350 people district-wide joined forces to canvass in Boiceville, Brunswick, Ellenville, Gardiner, Hudson, Kingston, Middleburgh, Monticello, New Paltz, Oneonta, Red Hook and Saugerties. Volunteers gathered at 12 community launch sites in one of New York's largest swing districts, NY19, for intensive canvass training and then took to the streets to register new and unaffiliated voters across the district.

Canvass volunteers also collected more than 1,500 signatures demanding Congressman Faso, (R) Kinderhook, meet face-to-face with his constituents at open town hall meetings. Petitions will be delivered to Congressman Faso’s Kingston office on Friday.

Participants included NY19 Indivisible groups, Resistance and Women's March NY groups, Citizen Action, Democratic and Working Families Party committees and members.

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Hundreds Gather to Support Women in Delhi

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DELHI - Hundreds of women and men gathered in Delhi Saturday at Courthouse Square to make a stand to support women and with the hope that their voices be heard.

The crowd carried signs, many of which displayed anti- Trump rhetoric and concern over loss of rights. Music was performed and speakers such as Debra Marcus of Planned Parenthood in South Central New York, local democratic committee members and area residents, took to the microphone.

And it wasn’t just in Delhi - more than two million people across the world, led by hundreds of thousands who overwhelmed the nation’s capital, protested the first full day of President Trump’s tenure Saturday. They called for a “revolution” as a bulwark against the new administration and the Republican led Congress they fear will roll back reproductive, civil and human rights.

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VeccBrowne Productions Records Women's March--Delhi

Lillian Browne and Jessica Vecchione of VeccBrowne Productions filmed from set up to breakdown and perfectly captured the spirit and message of the day!  Thank you VeccBrowne!  

Women's March Gathering in Delhi-The Reporter

DELHI — Local supporters of the Women’s March on Washington, who are unable to travel to the nation’s capital on Saturday, Jan. 21, now have an option in Delaware County. A “Women’s March” event will be held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Courthouse Square in Delhi.

The event will be a gathering, rather than a march, in support of the stated goals of the national march organizers — “Being proactive about women’s rights,” and even more broadly, “stand on social justice and human rights issues, ranging from race, ethnicity, gender, religion, immigration and healthcare.”

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Women's March Gathering in Delhi

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Delhi — Local supporters of the Women’s March on Washington who are unable to travel to the nation’s capital on January 21st now have an option in Delaware County. A “Women’s March” event will be held at the Delhi County Courthouse Square on January 21st from 10am - 2pm. 

The event will be a gathering, rather than a march, in support of the stated goals of the national march organizers: “being proactive about women’s rights” and even more broadly, “stand on social justice and human rights issues ranging from race, ethnicity, gender, religion, immigration and healthcare”.

Joan Homovich, Delaware County Democratic Committee Vice Chair, notes “In 1848 the Declaration of Sentiments was drafted at the Meeting at Seneca Falls stating that the ground had been set for ‘grand movement for attaining the civil, social, political, and religious rights of women.’  In 1967 I had to defend 50 students who were sent home because they wore jeans to school.  Four years later the female teachers had to get permission to wear pant suits to work.  We had not gotten very far.  Title IX helped start to equalize sports but we had much more to gain and that goes for today. We must also mobilize to keep those gains that we have made.  When teaching Women’s history a student brought this proverb:  A woman, a dog, a walnut tree…the more you beat ‘em, the better they be ….. We cannot go back wards on our rights but must move forward…gather and then keep going.”

The event in Delhi is not limited to women, is open to the public and is non partisan. Attendees are encouraged to bring signs along with digital cameras and video recorders and to use the gathering as an opportunity to share concerns and ideas. The Delaware County Democratic Committee is sponsoring the event and will also be collecting donations for county area food banks. 

 

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Bonacic Ducks Debate with Malick in Orange County

News from campaign trail...Pramilla Malick, Candidate for State Senate District 42, reports...

BONACIC DUCKS DEBATE WITH DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGER PRAMILLA MALICK

WALLKILL, NY - Orange County residents who packed Wallkill Town Hall on Tuesday night did not know quite what to expect. The event had been scheduled as a debate between Republican State Senator John Bonacic and his Democratic challenger, Pramilla Malick, but while Ms. Malick readily agreed to the debate, Sen. Bonacic never replied to the invitation.

Attorney Michael Sussman, convener of the Orange County Democratic Alliance, had arranged the event after learning that Bonacic, a Republican, was encouraging Democrats to write in his name on the ballot in the September 13 primary. Bonacic is already assured of four other lines on the ballot, and if he captures the Democratic line as well, he will not have to face an opponent in the general election. In other words, the pre-primary debate proposed by Sussman might have been the only opportunity voters would have to hear the two candidates go face-to-face on the issues. Sussman expressed disappointment that the senator was a no-show, saying “It deprives him of an opportunity to express himself, and denies his constituents the opportunity to ask him any questions.”

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We have a Senate candidate in District 42 - Pramilla S. Malick

DCDC_Pramilla_Malick.jpgTo our Delaware County Dem friends in the towns of Colchester, Delhi, Hamden, Masonville, Tompkins and Walton: Help Pramilla! Vote in the Sept 13th Primary. Join the write-in campaign to get her on the ballot for NYS 42nd Senate District. 

 

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