Why the Constitutional Convention Must be Stopped: It's a Double-Dipping Bonanza for Legislators


New York State government may spend tens of millions of dollars on a constitutional convention – a massive political orgy where fat-cat politicians, and their cronies and sidekicks, and a host of lawyers, lobbyists and public relations spin masters, would wine and dine and fill their pockets with money. Only we – the voters – can stop it. And we should.

In addition to being an overly expensive and unseemly affair – estimates range from $50 million to as much as $100 million – a constitutional convention could result in a back-door attack on workers’ pensions. Under state law, voters must be asked every 20 years whether or not a constitutional convention should be convened. Delegates at such a gathering would get to draft, introduce and vote on proposed amendments to the state constitution. This wouldn’t be a one-day affair but could go on for weeks or months, and the delegates, who essentially would be handpicked by the political party machines, would get paid for their “service.” Even members of the state Legislature who are picked to be delegates would get paid – on top of what they already are making on the state payroll.

To do what? Decide whether or not to draft, introduce and pass legislation, which is the job they were elected to do in the first place.

It’s a crock. A double-dipping bonanza. Who the hell needs a gun and a bank with schemes like this?

A horde of lobbyists, lawyers and public relations slicksters will descend on the convention in order to press their issues with delegates over dinner, drinks, or rounds of golf or whatever else they can conjure up to win favor. This would be an opportunity for right-wing ideologues to advance legislation that would weaken unions, just as they have in many other parts of the country. The guarantee that workers’ pensions “may not be diminished” could be eliminated.

IB ImageThe right to organize and collectively bargain and the right to workers compensation also could come under fire. Proposals that would weaken women’s rights, environmental protections, guarantees to a free public school education – and more – could be advanced and become law.  “This is the “Pandora’s Box” of a constitutional convention in New York,” as Angelo Cucuzza (at left), chairman of the NY State Conference of Transport Workers Union of America, has said. There’s no shortage of better uses for that kind of dough, including increasing bus and subway service, putting significant numbers of law enforcement officers on buses, and putting more security cameras in stations.

Voters overwhelmingly said NO to a constitutional convention in 1997 and again in 1977. Now it’s time to say NO again. Make sure you make it to the polls on Election Day in November.