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The New York State
Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse


Information Related to New York's Nov. 7, 2017 Constitutional Convention Referendum

 

Quotes

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Former Governor Mario Cuomo (Andrew Cuomo’s Father)

“[A] Cuomo Administration [will] work to enact into law important reforms at a constitutional convention including an overhaul of our redistricting process, ethics enforcement, and succession rules, among others…. A new constitutional convention could be the vehicle for critical reforms to our State government.”

–Andrew Cuomo, From Clean Up Albany, Cuomo2010 Campaign, pp. 71-2

“What we really need is a new state constitutional convention to re-think the way politics works in New York, and to re-imagine the powers of the governor and the state Legislature. The system is broken. It needs to be fixed in fundamental ways.”

–Mario Cuomo, From “Cuomo Looks Back – And Ahead,” New York Sun, May 21, 2003

See also the C-SPAN video: Mario Cuomo Urges NY Constitutional Convention. Description: Mario Cuomo attributes the failures of NY state politics on a flawed state constitution, and describes a state constitutional convention as “the only way” to solve the problems facing the state.

Other New York Politicians

“One of the many lessons I’ve learned in Albany is this: when those who have harvested most of the power oppose an idea, it’s probably something worth considering.  We see a prime example of this on the issue of a constitutional convention…. [T]hose enjoying the spoils of the status quo – legislative majorities and high-powered special interests – oppose the idea of shaking things up. They are protecting the status quo by using fear and scare tactics to undermine a movement for positive change to our state government. But, we cannot be deterred or intimidated. Through a Constitutional Convention, the people can force action that lawmakers are unwilling to take.”

–Brian Kolb, Minority Leader of the New York State Assembly,
The case for a constitutional convention, AuburnPub.com, February 7, 2017

“There is a very significant disquiet in the public today…, and I see no downside whatsoever in convening a constitutional convention because I think the issues that are very much on the public’s mind should be discussed in the most open and public forum that is possible.  It could well come to deciding that we don’t need to change any constitutional provisions.  That in itself would be a serious and perhaps proper decision.  But that there are questions out there that have to be thought about and considered and publicly debated I don’t think anybody can argue with that.”

–Richard Ravitch, Former New York Lieutenant Governor, Speech to the New York State Bar Association, January 27, 2016

“[Y]ears of experience have taught me that in every case the reason for the failures of good legislation in the public interest and the passage of ineffective and abortive legislation can be traced directly to the rules.”

–New York State Senator George F. Thompson Thompson, New York Times, Dec. 23, 1918

“State government’s dysfunction, corruption, and fiscal irresponsibility are still the ultimate trump card that can mobilize public opinion and serve as an urgent call to action. As symptoms of these “cancers” on government continue to manifest themselves…, the “case” for convening a constitutional convention will be self-evident….

–Kolb, Republican Leader, New York Assembly, “New York’s Last, Best Hope For Real Reform: The Case for Convening a State Constitutional Convention,” Albany Government Law Review, 2011.

“Getting the legislature to make the necessary reforms to things like campaign finance, ethics, and the like is something that has to be done outside the of the hands of the legislature, and the only way to do that is through the constitutional convention process.”

–Anthony Weiner, former member of Congress from New York City, WNYC.com, August 31, 2015.

The New York Times

“New York is now gripped by the dead hand of history. It is no coincidence that the elected officials who oppose a constitutional convention most relentlessly are the Democratic Assembly Speaker and Republican majority leader, the barons of the state’s ossified power structure.”

–New York Times Editorial, From Call a Constitutional Convention, New York Times, Oct. 28, 1997

“It has become an easy campaign pitch in New York: clean up Albany in one big sweep with a constitutional convention. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the leading candidate for governor at this point, has been touting his version as a ‘people’s convention’ chock-full of reforms. As tempting as it sounds, … the political establishment — mainly the Legislature — gets to pick most of the delegates. If it sounds like an inside job, it is. Also, it is a big waste of time and money…. Whether it is Mr. Cuomo or his rival who is elected, those reforms deserve to be urgent priorities — not some distant fantasy about a constitutional convention.”

–New York Times Editorial, From The New York Convention Con, New York Times, August 8, 2010.

Academics

“[T]he written constitution and particularly the process of constitutional revision are the most democratic of our political institutions.   The constitution and the constitutional convention were created in the early days of the nation out of a felt need to establish the popular sovereignty and limit the popular representatives.”

–Lewis B. Kaden, “Some Observations on the 1967 New York Constitutional Convention,” Harvard Journal on Legislation, 1967

“The people who added this mandatory convention question to the New York Constitution in 1846 wanted to make sure that there was a way for the state’s citizens to review the basics of their government that was… not dependent on the will of [elected] officials.  If the people are truly sovereign, they reasoned, we should consider from time to time whether we want to take a look at the fundamental rules of the game and perhaps change and update them.”

-Peter G. Goldmark, Jr., President, Rockefeller Foundation, Cited in Decision 1997, p. xiii.

 “[The New York Constitution] is a document neither known nor read by the general public, or most public servants for that matter; a document subject to neglect and ridicule; a document filled with impenetrable prose, anachronisms, oddities, and redundancies; a document encrusted with amendments that have undermined the initial coherence of the constitution. By trivializing its content, these provisions have done more than discourage reading: they have derogated from the constitution’s character as a fundamental document, engendering disrespect if not ridicule.”

–Peter J. Galie & Christopher Bopst, House Cleaning the New York Constitution, Albany Law Review, 2014, p. 1388.

New York Convention Delegates

The idea… is to prevent the great moneyed corporations of the country from furnishing the money with which to elect members of the legislature… in order that those members of the legislature may vote to protect the corporations. It is to prevent the great railroad companies, the great insurance companies, the great telephone companies, the great aggregations of wealth, from using their corporate funds, directly or indirectly, to send members of the legislature to these halls, in order to vote for their protection and the advancement of their interests as against those of the public. It strikes, Mr. Chairman, at a constantly growing evil in our political affairs, which has, in my judgment, done more to shake the confidence of the plain people of small means in our political institutions, than any other practice which has ever obtained since the foundation of our government…. And I believe that the time has come when something ought to be done to put a check upon the giving of $50,000 or $100,000 by a great corporation toward political purposes, upon the understanding that a debt is created from a political party to it; a debt to be recognized and repaid with the votes of representatives in the legislature and in Congress, or by the action of administrative or executive officers who have been elected in a measure through the use of the money so contributed.

–Elihu Root, Delegate to New York’s 1894 convention, President of New York’s 1915 convention,