Dyker Heights

Constitutional convention controversy: Local lawmakers urge voters to turn down proposal

November 3, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblymember Peter Abbate says he’s voting no. Photo courtesy of Abbate’s office
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The races for mayor and City Council aren’t the only things voters will find on the ballot when they show up at the polls on Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Voters will also be asked to approve or turn down a proposition on whether New York state should convene a constitutional convention in 2018 to rewrite or amend the state constitution.

The ballot initiative, listed as Proposition 1, asks the question, “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?”

Voters will be asked to mark yes or no on their ballots.

Ballot propositions are normally dry affairs, usually dealing with bonds, but this one has generated a great deal of controversy.

Opponents of the idea are calling the constitutional convention by the nickname “con-con.” And the proposition is opposed by a variety of political entities with normally opposite views, like American Civil Liberties Union and the New York State Conservative Party.

The Brooklyn Eagle asked local lawmakers what they thought of the idea.

Here are the responses that came in by press time:

  • State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Coney Island-Bensonhurst-Staten Island): “Don’t be conned by the allure of a con con. Vote no. As a former labor leader, I know that you never put hard-earned victories back on the table for negotiation like workers’ pensions, a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave to name a few. Moneyed interests will swoop in to take away our triumphs.”

  • Assemblymember Peter Abbate (D-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst-parts of Sunset Park): “I’m voting no to constitutional convention amendment on the back of this year’s ballot for one main reason — we must protect the rights of our citizens and a convention could do much more harm than good. Opening up our constitution could threaten existing protections for workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits and collective bargaining for our first responders, teachers and other hardworking New Yorkers. With so much to lose and no guarantees, as well as a hefty price tag that could put a drain on New York’s budget, I oppose the convention.”

  • State Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Borough Park-Midwood): “This is the first time New Yorkers are voting for or against a NYS constitutional convention in two decades. It is, in fact, a very complicated issue. I recommend that voters need to research the issue on their own and vote their conscience.”

In an editorial published last week, The New York Times urged its readers to reject the idea of a constitutional convention.

The question of whether or not to hold a constitutional convention is actually written into the state constitution itself, according to the Times, which reported that the state’s constitution requires that the matter be put before the voters once every 20 years.

In 1997, the voters rejected the idea of holding a constitutional convention. Voters also turned down the chance to convene a convention 40 years ago and 60 years ago before that.

The last time New York state held a constitutional convention was in 1938.


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