Constitutional Change
Constitutional Change: Amendment v. Convention

"For New York to have the best business environment and the most respected legislature, it requires that we modernize our 1894 constitution so that it too can be the best.

Governor Cuomo has failed to keep his 2010 promises to reform the process and rules for the next Constitutional Convention"  Bill Samuels, founder of New Roosevelt.

Whether Constitutional Change occurs piecemeal through amendments or as a whole by a Constitutional Convention, the Citizens' Committee for an Effective Constitution seeks to engender informed discussion, debate and action regarding changes to the New York State Constitution that will produce more democratic, responsive, and EFFECTIVE state and local government.

Constitutional Change in New York State is defined in Article XIX of its Constitution, which provides for change through amendment or revision. Amendment is focused on, particular changes. Revision is widespread, an overall change. Both may occur by either legislative action or through the calling of a constitutional convention.

Amendment of the New York State Constitution through the legislature requires passage of a proposed change by two consecutively elected legislatures, and then ratification by the voters in a General Election.  As a matter of law, each new even-year election produces a "new" legislature (even though many members may be continuing.) Using this method the earliest a new amendment to the Constitution could be passed would be in 2015.  The currently elected legislature must pass an amendment before the General Election in 2014, with their successor bodies passing the amendment a second time in 2015 and placing it on the ballot for the 2015 General Election. Amendments passed in this manner are not subject to gubernatorial veto.

Conventions have been provided for by the New York State Constitution since 1846, with the question "Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?" appearing on the ballot every twenty years or "at such times as the legislature may by law provide."  

The last time they were asked, in 1997, the voters decided against calling a convention. 1967 was the last Constitutional Convention held in New York.  The legislature had placed the quesiton on the ballot and it was passed by the voters after the successful campaign of the first Citizens Committee for an Effective Constitution.  As it did prior to 1967, the legislature could have put the question of whether to convene a Constitutional Convention on the ballot as early as this year. Realistically,  the next time this question will appear on the ballot for a mandatory vote will be 2017.

Constitutional Change in New York State garnered a lot of attention in recent years, with the idea of convening a Constitutional Convention included in platforms during the 2010 General Election, 

In Cuomo's Constitutional Convention

In his campaign platform "The New NY Agenda: A Plan for Action" Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to "spearhead a Constitutional Convention — a People’s Convention — to rewrite the rules, because we are just plain tired of waiting for the State Legislature to act."  Governor Cuomo even went as far as to say "Past constitutional conventions have resulted in transformative change in times of crisis. A new constitutional convention could be the vehicle for critical reforms to our State government."

Governor Cuomo contemplates reforming the Convention prior to its convening with a new delegate selection process, relax ballot access requirements, provide public campaign financing, and place other limitations on legislators, lobbyists, and party officials from serving as delegates.However he has failed to follow-up on his promises.
Prior to the convening of a Convention, Governor Cuomo has proposed creating a constitutional commission to help define its agenda, including identifying issues that need to be addressed and recommending amendments for passage.


Amendments to Constitution


Section 1.   Any amendment or amendments to this constitution may be proposed in the senate and assembly  ... [if] agreed to by a majority of the members elected to each of the two houses ... and referred to the next regular legislative session convening after the succeeding general election of members of the assembly ... [and if] agreed to by a majority of all the members elected to each house, then it shall be the duty of the legislature to submit each proposed amendment or amendments to the people for approval ...


§2. ... every twentieth year thereafter, and also at such times as the legislature may by law provide, the question "Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?" shall be submitted to and decided by the electors of the state;

The Empire
Colby Hamilton
Thursday, March 8, 2012
 If the state constitution were a used car, would you want to see the Car Fax? While the constitution has been overhauled several times, no one has really looked under the hood since 1938. There are plenty of people who think it’s time for a...
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