This is the fifth in a series about key reasons why an upcoming referendum to hold a state constitutional convention must be defeated. The series, "Open the state constitution? Heck, NO," examines topics — collective bargaining, public pensions, forever wild provisions, public education and social welfare obligations — that would be at risk at a state constitutional convention.
Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver were the latest to take that perp walk. But all told, a couple dozen New York legislators have been ousted in disgrace in recent years.
In fact, the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan good-government group, ranks New York State numero uno in political corruption in its annual report on state governments.
It's frustrating, discouraging, even demoralizing, right?
A lot of folks think: "These politicians are all criminals. We can fix that with a constitutional convention."
Yea-ah ... no. It doesn't work that way.
Unless we vote "NO" on the constitutional convention referendum that will appear on the ballot Nov. 7, those same politicians could serve as delegates to the convention and would get paid for both jobs at the same time! It would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. "What a party they'll have in Albany, on our dime," said NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale.
Yes, convention delegates would have to be elected, but historically, when a sitting official runs to be one of the 204 delegates — that's another job, on a different line, but on the same ballot — she or he wins virtually every time. Each delegate is guaranteed a salary equal to that of a member of the Assembly, $79,500, whether the convention lasts three months or three hours.
"It would be a big waste of money," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta. "It's worth noting that — for that very reason — current legislative leaders have spoken out in opposition to the constitutional convention."
The last time taxpayers picked up the tab for a "ConCon" in Albany was 1967. It may have been fun, but it was not productive. Taxpayers rejected ALL of the proposed changes that came out of it. But everybody got paid.
"Get involved with your local union's political action; write a letter to the editor; talk to your friends and family," said Pecorale. "Start now. We need to spread the word!" You can find discussion points, a sample letter and answers to questions on what a constitutional convention can and can't accomplish at nysut.org/concon.
What you need to know
- The constitutionally required 20-year referendum to propose a constitutional convention will be on the Nov. 7 ballot.
- If it passes, three delegates per state Senate district and 15 at-large delegates — 204 in total — would be elected at the next general election, in November 2018.
- Delegates can include members of the Legislature or other elected officials, as well as political party leaders — and they can hold both positions, collecting both salaries.
- The convention would meet in Albany in 2019 for an unspecified duration, and then publish its suggested amendments.
- Any proposed changes are submitted to voters for approval separately or as a group for another public referendum.