The New Kings Democrats are excited to announce our support for holding a New York State Constitutional Convention—because we have a right to a government that represents and serves us. After a year in which Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver, respective legislative leaders of both the State Senate and State Assembly, were convicted for defrauding the public for personal gain, politicians in Albany have once again refused to act on preventing corruption and enacting needed ethics reform and running a more open government.
New York voters demand a better system—so we're urging Brooklyn to say YES to a Constitutional Convention in November, 2017.
A Constitutional Convention is a rare chance for the people of New York to come together to transform a broken system, giving us the opportunity to:
● Enact meaningful campaign finance reform to get big money out of our state and local politics.
● Close the LLC loophole that allows corporations to evade campaign contribution limits.
● Keep corrupt lawmakers convicted of defrauding the public from receiving taxpayer-funded pensions.
● Protect the right to vote by guaranteeing automatic voter registration, allowing online registration, and creating oversight mechanisms for state and local Boards of Election.
● Restore the right to vote to people involved in the criminal justice system.
● Adopt strict disclosure requirements for public officials, campaigns, and lobbyists.
NKD recognizes that the New York State Constitution includes critical provisions that safeguard pensions for our retirees, quality education for our children, and state parks that we treasure, and we firmly oppose weakening those protections. But we know that our vision for a progressive government can not be realized without a government that is democratically accountable.
We believe that a slate of delegates who are committed to reform, and not necessarily elected officials, are best suited to achieve these goals. All New Yorkers, whether we're Democrats, Republicans or Independents agree that we need to clean up Albany; let's put party politics aside and elect Convention delegates who agree to focus on creating a system that works for the people.
***Our Policy Committee worked very hard in researching and deliberating on this position. Because this topic can be both wonky and confusing, we're including below some of the many links and resources that accrued during their process***
Rockefeller Instistute of Government's guide to the Constitutional Convention (nonpartisan website with context, history, timeline, videos, a guide to publications, and a media archive)
Convention-Land: New Yorkers' Road Map to the Constitutional Convention (pdf file from League of Women Voters & New York Public Interest Research Group) (or online here)
A NY Convention? 'Reflection and Choice' in Albany (statement from ChangeNYS, a not-for-profit that educates New Yorkers "about the need for non-partisan civic understanding and political reform in our state")
Op-Ed: "New York's Coming ConCon Battle" (J.H. Snider, Gotham Gazette March 24, 2016)
Flowchart of the Constitutional Convention Process (click for full size image from http://www.newyorkconcon.info):
New York State Constitution (pdf file of the document itself)
NKD Con Con FAQ
Q: Why support this now, so far away from November 2017?
A: A Con Con will only be successful if there is a majority of voters in support of the effort. The earlier we start the conversation, the better.
Q: Why support this before we know who the delegates are? Won’t electeds support their proxies or themselves as delegates?
A: These are important concerns! We know that there is risk in supporting a Constitutional Convention. The delegates will be elected if, and only if, a majority of New Yorkers say yes to the Con Con in November, 2017. The earlier we start the dialogue about why it is important to support a Con Con, the more power we can build to run reform-oriented delegates.
Right now, our elected officials, Democrats and Republicans in New York, are saying no to a Con Con. But they are not proposing an alternative to reform. We are willing to take the risk to tell them, “because you can’t push hard for reform, we’ll do it for you.” And we will run delegates who are aligned with our goals.
Q: Why doesn’t our policy statement include broader support for all the other issues good Democrats should care about, ie, Constitutional right to choice, Constitutional right to marriage equality, Constitutional ban on guns everywhere, Constitutional right to free college, etc?
A: Generally, we are seeking to form a broad consensus of folks who can agree on what the barrier to a better democracy means in New York State. By focusing NKD’s policy goal on good government, we are attempting to say to everyone “this is about more than left or right.” A Con Con is a chance for people to say that regardless of our personal politics, we can all agree that our elected officials should not be sitting in government for their own personal gain, Nor should the electoral system we use to put those people in office be a barrier to entry for those who wish to participate.
In short, we think that the more we incorporate things outside of the good government arena, the more we will fall into infighting and exclude nonpolitical folks.
Q: Ok, so we’ve elected delegates, but what about the risk of all the things we can lose, like a commitment to welfare and the forever wild clause?
A: Right, we hear you and we are nervous too. But two things - New Yorkers are better than that and can vote it down if it’s terrible, and this nuclear option is better than nothing.
First - unlike the convoluted constitutional ballot measures we see in the voting booth each November, these are going to have to be presented as either one entire batch of changes (almost guaranteed to fail because everybody can find something serious enough to disagree with) or as individual questions for people to affirm or deny. New Yorkers are not going to strike out the strong provisions that protect vulnerable populations or resources because, we believe that we are better than that.
Second - The Speaker of the Assembly is already stating his opposition to a Con Con but he isn’t suggesting an alternative for reform. He is not saying things that we want to hear, such as “well even though I’m Speaker precisely because of a controlling, corrupt, self-aggrandizing politician, I’m still not in favor of an improved system that more seriously discourages the very behavior that led to his conviction.” We need to push for this because our electeds are not taking the brave and bold steps they need to reform our electoral system. This is a better chance at real change than waiting for the piecemeal, shoddy constitutional reform that various branches of government can eke out over the next decade or two. We can do better, and this is our chance. We want to be bold and take risks worth taking.