News Coverage on Convention
'People's convention' proposedRichard E. Baldwin
NIAGARA FALLS — “New York State government is dysfunctional,” Assemblyman John D. Ceretto said here this week, “but we can put government back in the hands of the people if we can get a proposition for a ‘People’s Constitutional Convention’ on this year’s general election ballot.”
Ceretto, a Lewiston Republican, said a “People’s Convention” could deal with issues such as a cap on property taxes and on state spending, debt reform and ethics reform, “back door” borrowing and unfunded mandates for local governments. It also could push for an independent commission on legislative redistricting, term limits for legislative leaders and an initiative and referendum that could result in the recall of some public officials.
Ceretto was joined by the Assembly’s Republican minority leader, Brian M. Kolb of Canandaigua, and Assemblyman Kevin Smardz, R-Hamburg, for an hourlong discussion of the movement for a “People’s Convention” to reform New York. About 20 attended the discussion in Niagara Falls Public Library.
Not a single hand was raised when Kolb asked the audience whether they thought state government was “working for you.”
“People are frustrated with our government; state spending has increased 70 percent in recent years; and we want to see some changes,” Kolb said. “I hope we can take back our government through a nonpartisan constitutional convention.
Kolb explained how to petition the Legislature to get a convention resolution on the November ballot. He said three convention delegates would be elected from each of the state’s senatorial districts; none could be legislators, lobbyists or others with vested interests in the Constitution.
Each convention candidate would have to submit a nominating petition with at least 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot. The commission’s recommended changes to the state constitution would be submitted to a statewide referendum, where the voters could approve or reject them. Kolb said a referendum on a “People’s Convention” probably would cost about $25 million to $30 million.