“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.”
- Thomas Jefferson
NY Constitution.org’s major goal was to restore New York's reputation as the national state policy leader by studying both existing policies and the State Constitution's often outdated 1894 provisions that contribute to statewide dysfunction today.
To develop the best creative solutions to these problems, NY Constitution.org sought to engender informed discussion, debate and action to change New York State's Law and Constitution, resulting in a more democratic and responsive state and local government.
NY Constitution.org was focused on formal constitutional change, issues that could go before the voters for approval and major topics that may be better handled through statute.
NY Constitution.org was a multi-year project of the Howard Samuels New York Policy Center, Inc., a New York State not-for-profit founded by Bill Samuels that completed its work in 2013.
Assembly Republican Leader Brian Kolb joined Samuels as founder and leader of NY Constitution.org. Leader Kolb has a long history as a strong advocate for reforming New York State through constitutional change.
Research for NY Constitution.org was provided by the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) at SUNY New Paltz under the direction of Professor Gerald Benjamin, a well-known scholar in the field of New York state and local government studies and a former Research Director for the State Commission on Constitutional Revision.
In New York, constitutional changes can be achieved by statewide voter ballot approval (through amendments passed by two successive state legislative sessions) or by holding a state constitutional convention.
Though there is little public awareness of the particulars of our state constitution and no consensus on what changes might be needed, recent polls have indicated a willingness by New Yorkers to consider calling a state constitutional convention. In fact, several state leaders (including Governor Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb) advocate holding a convention. Whether or not that is the best approach is in and of itself one of the topics under debate.
Responsive to current events, state constitutional and legal issues arise regularly. Recent examples include campaign finance reform, redistricting, filling vacancies in high elective office, power sharing in budgeting, the strengthening of constitutional affirmative rights provisions, and lifting restrictions on gambling.
The leadership of NY Constitution.org sought to present a diversity of views on a range of constitutional issues facing New York and took no joint position on any particular proposed changes to New York State's Constitution or Law. Signed essays or remarks represent the views of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Leader Kolb, Professor Benjamin, or Chairman Samuels.