Arthur ‘Jerry’ Kremer and Anthony Figliola Featured in Newsday Article


Arthur ‘Jerry’ Kremer and Anthony Figliola, co-authors of Patronage, Waste, and Favoritism: A Dark History of Constitutional Conventions were recently featured in Newsday for discussing the ills of having a Constitutional Convention. This discussion took place in Melville on Tuesday, June 6th, 2017 at the Long Island Association. Jerry Kremer stated that NYS lawmakers have amended the state’s constitution 200 times in the past century, and are capable of addressing any major issues in Albany during the regular legislative session. “The risks are too high. And I truly think there is no need for a constitutional convention” said Kremer. Anthony Figliola, Vice President of Empire Government Strategies agreed with this statement made by Kremer and stated that delegates will likely be hand-picked party leaders, rather than grass-roots activists. “It gives you another bite of the apple for anything not accomplished in the regular legislative session,” said Figliola.

To read the entire article on Newsday, click here.

 

 

NEW POLL: 10% DROP IN SUPPORT AS MORE VOTERS ARE SAYING NO TO A CON CON


Monday, April 24, 2017: (Uniondale, NY) – Siena Research Institute (“SRI”) released its latest poll on the pending November 7th vote on whether to hold a state Constitutional Convention.  Support has dropped 10 percent in the past 11 months.

“As we get closer to the November 7th vote, New Yorkers are beginning to pay attention. As voters learn more they realize a conclave is nothing more than another government boondoggle that will spend taxpayer money to boost the government pensions of the delegates and line the pockets of the special interests,” stated Anthony M. Figliola, Co-Author of Patronage, Waste and Favoritism – A Dark History of Constitutional Conventions.

SRI recorded the LOWEST amount of support in 7 years (since June 2010).  Support had been increasing in previous polls, although  most respondents said they knew little to nothing about the convention.  However, support has dropped 10 percent since May 2016 as voters have become more informed on the issue.

Jerry Kremer, Former Assembly Ways and Means Chairman who was in office during the 1967 Convention said, “There is no pressing public issue that is driving the call for another convention.  There are certainly many issues that the legislature must debate, but voters are speaking up and they don’t believe that a Con Con is the vehicle to deliver the need reforms – that’s the job of the legislature.”

The poll clearly shows that the more voters learn about what a Con Con really is, they are leaning against it.

 

Media Contact: Anthony Figliola

Phone: (516) 663-5335

Email: AFigliola@empiregs.com

READ THE POLL

Don’t Be Cajoled Into a Constitutional Convention


New York Voters should be aware of an important vote this November that will decide whether we have a costly state constitutional convention.

As Featured in the Long Island Press

By Anthony Figliola

On Nov. 7, the voters will make an important choice on whether to hold another state constitutional convention, which if approved would take place in April 2019. Voters beware, many of the groups advocating in favor of this ballot proposition are representing narrow interests, masked under the thin veil of good government.

Our state’s constitution requires that every 20 years, voters get the opportunity to choose whether or not to hold a constitutional convention. During the past 112 years we have held four conventions (e.g., 1894, 1915, 1938 and 1967) and their accomplishments are debatable. However, there is one indisputable fact that ties them together, they were carbon copies of a typical legislative session, driven by politics and tilted to benefit the political elite.

Unlike in years past, there is no pressing public issue that is creating a wave of support for a convention. In fact, the most recent Siena College poll shows that more than 71 percent of New Yorkers have no idea there is even an upcoming vote.

Leading up to the Convention of 1894, the country was mourning the loss of Presidents James Garfield and William McKinley, who were killed by an angry campaign workers who did not receive a government job. New Yorkers felt there was work to be done especially in passing civil service laws to end patronage and nepotism. In 1938, New York was recovering from a world war and the Great Depression, and many felt it was crucial to rebuild the national infrastructure and strengthen our laws.

Advocates for a convention will tell you that the only way to pass ethics reform is to have a convention, because the legislature can’t get it done. Not true, this year the legislature proposed an amendment that would to take away the pensions of legislators convicted of a felony. Many of these same proponents believe we need radical changes to our constitution, pushing to abolish the State Senate on the grounds that the Republicans who control the Senate with a group of independent Democrats are an impediment to getting progressive laws passed. Again, an empty argument. This month the legislature enacted, without a costly convention, an important progressive judicial reform that will raise the age of adult criminal prosecution from 16 to 18 years of age.

There is another group who wants to abolish the state, in a plan that is a better fit for a mini-series on AMC. A disparate group of land owners, who want to keep their tax dollars, seek to abolish the government and form regional frontiers with a figurehead, played by Pierce Brosnan, in the role of Governor for the regions.

All of these groups fail to recognize that past conventions have been riddled with rigged agendas and political patronage. In fact, in 1938 lobbyists were allowed stand on the convention floor and debate proposed amendments. Anyone who tells you that this will be a people’s convention is delusional. In 1967, 80 percent of the delegates were politically connected and 45 percent were current or former public officials who were able to collect a second salary, allowing them to double dip to boost their state pensions.

Constitutional conventions, which run concurrently with a regular legislative session, are not cost-effective. Not only are the delegates well paid, they get to hire staff. There are 204 delegate spots and they all need help. Administrative, legal, and research are just some of the staffing positions that have been filled in past conventions. Then you add per diems, food, transportation, lodging, and printed materials to the bottom line. You can even hire a special consultant or two.

The only stimulus for the economy is that the lobbyists can charge their clients another fee to represent them at the convention.

Thankfully, there is an alternative to this government boondoggle. During the last century, New Yorkers have amended their constitution 200 times by public referendum. Voters have shown time and time again that they can make intelligent choices and as such there is no reason to have a convention. The voters have elected 218 state officials, including the Governor, to represent their interests. The current democratic process allows the people to engage their government at the ballot box.

If the pro-convention advocates really want to change our laws, they can take a drive up to Albany like the rest of us and spend some time advocating for real reforms.

Anthony Figliola is Vice President of Empire Government Strategies and co-author of Patronage, Waste and Favoritism – A Dark History of Constitutional Conventions.

Kremer Makes the Case Against a Con Con at the NYC Bar Association


On March 20, 2017, Jerry Kremer, co-author of Patronage, Waste and Favoritism spoke on the ills of holding another state constitutional convention.  In 1997, the New York City Bar Association took the position against holding a convention, choosing instead to create legislative policy groups to tackle the larger constitutional issues to present before the state legislature.

As the lone voice on the panel against the holding a conclave, Kremer explained his experiences during the 1967 convention and why he felt another conclave would only benefit narrow “deep-pocketed” special interests.

 

Listen to the full discussion at the New York City Bar Association.

New York State Pension Forfeiture Amendment Goes to the Voters


The New York State Legislature, in record speed, passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would strip government pensions from those public officials who are convicted of public corruption and other felonies.

The bi-partisan nature and the speed at which it was introduced and passed during two successive legislative sessions, is more evidence of the efficiency of the public referendum process.  It is also another reason why the legislative process works and a constitutional convention is a government boondoggle that will enrich the political elite at the expense of the taxpaying public.

The voters will decide it’s fate on November 7, 2017.

 

Read the full proposal here: http://bit.ly/2kPICjU 

The Election Process: NYS Constitutional Convention


What is the timeline of events leading up to and after a state constitutional convention?

This diagram courtesy of our friends at The New York State Constitutional Convention Clearing House, outlines the process.

 

Source:  http://www.newyorkconcon.info/ 

NYS Constitutional Convention is Nothing But a Con


As Featured in Smithtown Matters

By Anthony Figliola

This year, one of the most important legislative issues that will confront Albany legislators will be to approve a ballot proposition slated for November 7, 2017, to hold a constitutional convention.

On its face, a convention makes sense given the many issues that have stalled in Albany’s black hole of bureaucracy over the years. The problem with this philosophy is that it ignores the history of past conventions and the powerful role that politics played in the process.

History has shown that a con con is nothing more than a carbon copy of a typical legislative session.  In short, it’s a $335 million plus workforce development initiative for the politically connected.

Many good-government groups who have pushed for ethics and campaign finance reform in New York are keen to support a convention, because their efforts over the years have been thwarted by the culture of the status quo. Many reformers naively accept the premise that seizing on a possible vote for a New York Constitutional Convention (e.g., vote slated for November 7, 2017) will force the state legislature’s hand to pass meaningful reforms. In theory, it makes sense, but the one variable that will dilute this purist approach is politics. The same people who are impotent on the issue of reforms are the same folks who will set the rules, select candidate delegates and ultimately run the convention.

History shows us that while some worthy policies were developed and ratified by the voters, much of the conventions were riddled with rigged agendas and uncontrolled costs. It is important to note that in past conventions, elected officials, including state legislators, have served as delegates at the convention. These pols essentially “double dipped”, collecting two salaries that significantly boosted their government pensions.

Let’s not forget the lobbyists who love the idea of a conclave, so they can charge their clients another fee to represent them at the convention.  The 1967 convention charged taxpayers more than $45 million ($335 million in today’s dollars) and very little was achieved that could not have been accomplished through a statewide referendum.

Constitutional conventions are not cost-effective. Not only are the politically connected delegates well paid, they get to hire staff. There are 189 delegate spots and they all need help. Administrative, legal, and research are just some of the staffing positions that have been filled in past conventions. Then you add per diems, food, transportation, lodging, and printed materials to the bottom line. You can even hire a special consultant or two.

Historians and legal scholars will point to the 1894 convention that brought us the “Forever Wild” amendment, which protects the Adirondacks from development or the 1938 convention that authorized public funds for low-income housing, all of which were important pieces of legislation. Other conventions in 1915 and 1967 produced nothing for the voters.

Legal scholars have also argued that a conclave could develop critical judicial reforms, such as streamlining the court system and adding an amendment that would guarantee legal aid in civil cases.  These proponents have an opportunity every year during a regular legislative session to educate the public, in order to galvanize support for specific constitutional amendments to be brought to the voters.

In developing the convention rules, many supporters have stated that there will be checks and balances in the rule making process that will give the power to the people.  History has proven that nothing could be farther from the truth.

It has been almost 80 years since a convention has produced any constitutional amendments, because politics has been the poison pill.

There is a less costly and more effective approach to changing our constitution and that is the public referendum process, which has successfully amended the constitution more than 200 times.  In fact, the constitution has been amended seven times in the last few years using this process, which included the voters approving casino gambling.

Voters seeking good government solutions can’t afford the luxury of another convention.

 

READ ORIGINAL AT SMITHTOWN MATTERS

Constitutional Convention is Bad for Taxpayers


As Featured in The Buffalo News

By Anthony Figliola

This year, one of the most important legislative issues that will confront Albany legislators will be whether to approve a ballot proposition slated for Nov. 7 to hold a constitutional convention.

On its face, a convention makes sense given the many issues that have stalled in Albany’s black hole of bureaucracy over the years. The problem with this philosophy is that it ignores the history of past conventions and the powerful role that politics played in the process.

History has shown that a constitutional convention is nothing more than a carbon copy of a typical legislative session. In short, it’s a $335 million-plus workforce development initiative for the politically connected.

Many good-government groups that have pushed for ethics and campaign finance reform in New York are keen to support a convention, because their efforts over the years have been thwarted by the culture of the status quo.

Many reformers naively accept the premise that seizing on a possible vote for a New York Constitutional Convention will force the State Legislature’s hand to pass meaningful reforms.
In theory, it makes sense, but the one variable that will dilute this purist approach is politics. The people who are impotent on the issue of reforms are the same folks who will set the rules, select candidate delegates and ultimately run the convention.

History shows us that while some worthy policies were developed and ratified by the voters, much of the conventions were riddled with rigged agendas and uncontrolled costs. It is important to note that in past conventions, elected officials, including state legislators, have served as delegates at the convention. These pols essentially “double dipped,” collecting two salaries that significantly boosted their government pensions.

Let’s not forget the lobbyists who love the idea of a conclave, so they can charge their clients another fee to represent them at the convention. The 1967 convention charged taxpayers more than $45 million ($335 million in today’s dollars) and very little was achieved that could not have been accomplished through a statewide referendum.

In developing the convention rules, many supporters have stated that there will be checks and balances in the rule-making process that will give the power to the people. History has proven that nothing could be further from the truth.

It has been almost 80 years since a convention has produced any constitutional amendments, because politics has been the poison pill.

There is a less costly and more effective approach to changing our constitution and that is the public referendum process, which has successfully amended the constitution more than 200 times. In fact, the constitution has been amended seven times in the last few years using this process, which included the voters approving casino gambling.

Voters seeking good government solutions can’t afford the luxury of another convention.

State Conservatives Call on Voters to Say No to a Con Con


For Immediate Release

January 7, 2017

Contact:  Shaun Marie
518-356-7882

www.cpnys.org

 

CONSERVATIVES CALL ON VOTERS TO

VOTE NO ON CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION

 

The New York State Conservative Party’s executive committee, at its first meeting of the new year, passed a resolution calling on voters to reject this November’s ballot question calling for a Constitutional Convention. “It is important for voters to understand that the history of holding Constitutional Conventions proves they are a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money that fails to accomplish what supporters claim,” said Chairman Michael R. Long. The text of the resolution follows:

 

Resolution, in opposition to a Constitutional Convention, presented and adopted by the members of the State Executive Committee on Saturday, January 7, 2017:

 

Whereas the New York State Constitution, since 1846, requires that voters decide every twenty years if there should be a Constitutional Convention to amend the New York State Constitution;

Whereas voters will have the opportunity to decide in the upcoming November, 2017 general election if such a Constitutional Convention shall take place;

Whereas the last four Constitutional Conventions were a carbon copy of legislative sessions and the majority of delegates were influential legislators;

Whereas the delegates that were influential legislators were able to collect a salary as a delegate and a legislator;

Whereas the past Constitutional Conventions were driven by personal agendas and special interest groups;

Whereas voters have failed to pass 7 of the 9 Constitutional Conventions since the first Constitutional Convention in 1776-1777;

Whereas legislative members have and will continue to present voters another means of amending the New York State Constitution without the undo expense of holding a Constitutional Convention;

Now, therefore, be it resolved that the New York State Conservative Party urges the voters of New York State to vote NO to a Constitutional Convention that would convene in Albany beginning April of 2019.

State Convention is Nothing but a Con


As Featured in the Shawangunk Journal

By Anthony Figliola

Earlier this month the Mamakating Town Board was cajoled into voting for a resolution to support a state constitutional convention without being provided all of the facts.

Every twenty years, voters are given the opportunity to make a decision on whether to hold a constitutional convention or not, with the next vote being held on November 7, 2017. In theory, a convention would bring together citizen delegates from across the state to consider a variety of possible reforms to the constitution. Many civic minded New Yorkers believe a conclave is an opportunity to pass state ethics reform, which some believe would provide a major blow to the corruption plaguing state government. Unfortunately, history has shown con cons are merely a carbon copy of a typical legislative session, resulting in nothing more than a costly government boondoggle.

It is important to note that in past conventions, elected officials, including state legislators, have served as delegates at the convention. These elected officials essentially “double dip”, collecting two salaries and significantly boosting their government pensions.

The most recent convention took place in 1967 and ended up costing taxpayers $47 million ($336.5 million today, adjusted for inflation), while producing zero changes to the constitution. With the exception of the 1938 convention, gatherings have faced partisan fighting and little progress on the issues that bedeviled the legislature during a regular session.

There is another way for Sullivan County residents to make changes to their state constitution. The statewide referendum process allows voters to cast their ballot on individual issues without having to face the financial burden of a convention. Over the past 100 years, over 200 amendments were added to the constitution through this process, including seven since 2013.

New Yorkers would be ill-advised to vote “yes” to an upcoming constitutional convention. The sure way to make changes to our constitution is by the voters participating in the legislative process, which begins in every January and ends in June.

 

READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE AT SHAWANGUNK JOURNAL

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