New York State voters need many things to improve their quality of life. They want better-paying jobs, affordable housing to keep our young talent from fleeing to other states, better roads to keep us safe and solutions to other critical needs.
What New Yorkers do not need, however, is a constitutional convention.
A Nov. 7 ballot would start in motion the calling of a constitutional convention in 2019. Ballot amendments normally don’t get much attention, which is why this year voters should turn over their ballots and cast a no vote on a constitutional convention. Besides being costly, voters should know that the last thing the state needs is another political gathering that would look like a copy of a state legislative session.
There are two major ways to change our state constitution. One is by a required vote every 20 years to decide whether to call for such a meeting. The second is for the State Legislature to pass ballot amendments, which voters cast votes on. There have been only two successful constitutional conventions since 1894, and both were called when the nation was in crisis. There might be a lot of political angst today about how our leaders are dropping the ball, but there is no legitimate reason for a state convention in the next two years.
New York’s constitution is a pretty good document. It protects the right to privacy, bars discrimination, preserves the environment, supports a series of worker protections and ensures help for the needy through medical care, homelessness and educational opportunity.
Somehow well-meaning convention supporters think that in four months, a 200-page document will create a new New York, free from crime, corruption, dirty air, complex laws and burdensome taxes.
The system works! In the past 200 years, voters have amended the state constitution more than 200 times. All of those changes were made at the suggestion of the legislature.
The last vote on a convention for our state took place in 1997, and it was soundly defeated. At the time of that defeat, respected groups that would have favored holding a convention urged its defeat and suggested that the pro groups begin a 20-year campaign to create a real agenda so that future voters would have a choice of whether to vote up or down. Twenty years later, there has been no real educational campaign, just random calls for reform by the “yes” side.
In 1967, I was a member of the Assembly and attended the 1967 convention as an observer. I saw what a fruitless effort it was to get the leaders of the convention to do anything other than protect the status quo. But don’t take my word for it. The groups opposing a convention this year are about as diverse as you could imagine. The long list of opponents, to name a few, includes the Conservative Party, the right-to-life movement, Planned Parenthood, civil liberties unions, the Sierra Club, every major union and the Adirondack Council.
There are also plenty of other reasons why a convention will not be free of politics. A person who wants to run as an independent delegate needs 3,000 signatures to get on the ballot, which means that a lot more are needed to stand up to any challenge. If you run as a major party candidate, you need only 1,000 signatures. That means any candidate backed by a political party is heavily favored to win.
There is no doubt that our political climate is toxic. That is no reason to accept a bundle of vague political promises by supporters with a real risk that the outcome won’t be a disaster.
Jerry Kremer is a former State Assembly member and is the co-author of “Patronage, Waste and Favoritism: A Dark History of Constitutional Conventions.”
To read the full article on Newsday, click here.
By: Hon. Jerry Kremer
Every 20 years New York voters are asked to decide whether there should be a constitutional convention. The last time voters had a choice of whether to hold a new convention was in 1997 and the idea was rejected by a large margin. By law, if a convention is approved, there would be another vote in 2018 to elect delegates, who would serve in 2019. It is important that a vote for a new convention be defeated and there are plenty of reasons why…The last convention was in 1967. There were many ideas discussed but the majority were the same topics that the state legislature had been considering for many years. From personal experience, I was a visitor to the 1967 event and many of the delegates were elected officials who were anxious to get two public salaries in one year and it padded their pensions with little to show for it. There are many outside elite groups who are anxious for there to be a new convention. Some would like to abolish the State Senate and have a one-house legislature. Losing the influence of the Senate and its Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Huntington) would be a serious blow to Long Island. It would be good for New York City, but the suburbs have its own needs and we have to fight to protect them. We have some of the best public schools in our two counties who do a great job educating our children. Regrettably, there are a number of groups who are anxious to shift money away from public schools and spend it on charter schools only.
Our current constitution protects our state parks from over development. There are quite a few developers who are anxious to have the protections that are in the current constitution removed so that they can develop golf courses and luxury housing on precious parkland. All of the important environmental groups have announced their opposition to holding a convention. It is no secret today that the amount of money being spent in campaigns around the nation is mind-boggling. Unknown front groups get involved in local election issues and their dollars can influence the outcome of any election. Next year we will have statewide and Congressional elections, which will attract a lot of attention. While voters are concentrating on major contests, slates of convention delegates could be elected who have no stake in the future of Long Island and here is a simple statistic. In the past 100 years over 200 amendments have been adopted that were approved by the state legislature, without the need for a convention. As an example, this November voters will decide whether to take away the pensions of public officials who commit crimes related to their official position. The system does work and there is no need to spend $100 million on more on an event that is a carbon copy of what the current legislature does. This year more than ever your vote will make a big difference in the future of Long Island and our state.
The smart vote is a “No” vote on a Constitutional Convention.
Former Assemblyman Arthur “Jerry” Kremer is a well-known political figure on Long Island. He served in the State Assembly for 13 terms and headed the powerful Ways and Means Committee. He was the sponsor of many consumer laws including the Automobile Lemon Law. He is seen frequently on News 12 where he provides political commentary. He is a Trustee of Hofstra University and is involved with many local charities. He is a partner at the law firm of Ruskin Moscou Faltischek in Uniondale and is President of Empire Government Strategies.
To read the article on PBA on Patrol, click here.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017: (Uniondale, NY) – Hon. Arthur “Jerry” Kremer and Anthony M. Figliola, Co-Author’s of Patronage, Waste and Favoritism – A Dark History of Constitutional Conventions, which looks at the politics that drove past New York State constitutional conventions are commenting on today’s Siena Research Institute (“SRI”) poll on the pending November 7th vote on whether to hold a state Constitutional Convention.
SRI has recorded yet another record drop in support for a convention, which brings it down 24 percent since it’s high back in May 2016. SRI’s poll continues to record anemic support for a con con to date: from 69 percent in favor to 45 percent (lowest ever) and 19 percent opposed to now 33 percent (2nd highest ever).
Jerry Kremer, Former Assembly Ways and Means Chairman who was in office during the 1967 Convention said, “The pro-convention groups will tell you that a convention is the best way to clean up government as if the legislature is paralyzed. It is a simple fact that during the last 100 years over 200 amendments have been made to the constitution by the legislature.”
SRI recorded the LOWEST amount of support in 7 years (since June 2010). Support has dropped 24 percent since May 2016 as voters have become more informed on the issue.
“SRI’s latest poll continues to prove our point, that support for a Con Con is in free fall. Not surprisingly, voters once are informed on the Con Con, realize it will only benefit the politically connected, while hurting our schools, eliminate important services for the needy, take away valuable parkland, reduce local control and open up critical protected lands for commercial purposes,” stated Anthony M. Figliola, Co-Author of Patronage, Waste and Favoritism – A Dark History of Constitutional Conventions.
The poll clearly shows that the more voters learn about what a Con Con really is, they are against it.
Media Contact: Anthony Figliola
Phone: (516) 663-5335
Sound The Alarm Bells Against A Constitutional Convention
Somewhere in the next few weeks, probably after Labor Day, union members throughout New York State will have heard the first alarm bells about the November vote on whether to approve a Constitutional Convention for our state. Hopefully those warning signs will get the message across that if the convention is approved it would be a major threat to the survival of all unions.
I was a member of the State Assembly back in 1967 when the last convention was held. I took the time to watch the proceedings of the convention and can say from firsthand experience that it was not a pleasant sight. Quite a few of the selected delegates were very cool to preserving pension rights, the need for workers compensation payments and the Worker’s Bill of Rights in the current law.
Because the leaders of the 1967 convention made the mistake of putting the suggested propositions into one package the convention was voted down in large numbers. But the lessons of 1967 have been remembered by a few people. When a vote took place in 1997 on whether to hold a new convention it was voted down in big numbers.
The mood of the nation is not very promising if we were to have a convention approved. Today there is more outside money than ever before and the movement to have right to work states is growing slowly. What happened in Wisconsin was a warning sign that outside forces could try to kidnap a convention and take some drastic steps.
The pro-convention groups will tell you that a convention is the best way to clean up government as if the legislature is paralyzed. It is a simple fact that during the last 100 years over 200 amendments have been made to the constitution by the legislature. This November there will be a proposition to take away the pensions from elected officials who have been convicted of a crime relating to their office. We don’t need an expensive convention to clean up New York.All we need is vocal citizens who demand changes in election laws.
I have been leading the fight against a convention for the past few years. My book “Patronage,Waste and Favoritism, a Dark History of Constitutional Conventions” has become popular reading for groups around the state. It is available for free on www.nyconcon.com Please read it and tell your brothers and sisters in the union movement that they don’t need to get out the pitchforks but they must start spreading the news about the dangers of a Constitutional Convention and get their friends and neighbors to vote “No.”
Mr. Kremer is a 23 year veteran of the State Assembly and was the Chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. He is President of Empire Government Strategies in Uniondal N.Y. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read the full article on LaborPress, click here.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017: (Uniondale, NY) – Hon. Arthur “Jerry” Kremer and Anthony M. Figliola, Co-Author’s of Patronage, Waste and Favoritism – A Dark History of Constitutional Conventions, which looks at the politics that drove past New York State constitutional conventions are commenting on today’s Siena Research Institute (“SRI”) poll on the pending November 7th vote on whether to hold a state Constitutional Convention.
SRI has recorded a monumental 22 percent drop in support for a convention. SRI’s poll has recorded the lowest level of support for a con con to date: from 69 percent in favor to 47 percent (lowest ever) and 19 percent opposed to now 34 percent (highest ever).
Jerry Kremer, Former Assembly Ways and Means Chairman who was in office during the 1967 Convention said, “Convention supporters point to needed ethics reforms. Well, the legislature has passed a ballot amendment that will be presented to the voters in November to strip elected officials who were convicted of a felony, of their pensions. The public referendum process has worked over 200 times in our state’s history and in November it will again be used to amend our state’s constitution.”
SRI recorded the LOWEST amount of support in 7 years (since June 2010). Support has dropped 22 percent since May 2016 as voters have become more informed on the issue.
“SRI’s latest poll proves that support for a Con Con is in free fall. Not surprisingly, voters once informed on the Con Con they realize it will only benefit the politically connected, while hurting our schools, eliminate important services for the needy, take away valuable parkland, reducing local control and open up critical protected lands for commercial purposes,” exclaimed Anthony M. Figliola, Co-Author of Patronage, Waste and Favoritism – A Dark History of Constitutional Conventions.
The poll clearly shows that the more voters learn about what a Con Con really is, they are against it.
Media Contact: Anthony Figliola
Phone: (516) 663-5335
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.
To schedule one of our expert speakers, visit the Con Con Speakers Bureau.
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
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.
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.
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