NY Constitutional Convention panel debate held

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – As election day draws closer, the debate over whether to hold a Constitutional Convention, or a con con, has started to gain more momentum.

The Times Union Center held a panel discussion on Wednesday with members on both sides of the issue.

A Constitutional Convention, or a con con, would allow voters to make changes to the New York Constitution. These changes are what drives both sides to be for or against a con con.

“We have to embrace change. It’s not going to come from the current three men in a room led by the Governor,” Bill Samuels, Founder and Chairman of Effective New York, said.

“The process can work,” Arthur Jerry Kremer, Founder and Chairman of Empire Government Strategies and former Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chairman, said.

As it stands now, the legislature can make changes to the constitution through a very long process, it has to pass both houses in two separate successive sessions and then go before voters on the ballot.

In the past 100 years, the constitution has been amended around 200 times by the legislature, without the use of a con con.

“Nothing more than a carbon copy of a legislative session,” Kremer said.

“An enormous opportunity to elevate rather than diminish rights. I would like to ask feminists in the room if they would favor an equal rights amendment to the New York Constitution,” Gerry Benjamin, Supporter of Con Con and Director of Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz, said.

Many believe the delegates that would sit on the Con Con, would be the same legislators that could change the constitution now.

“Putting our entire constitution, the whole thing up for grabs, in a process I think is rigged,” Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said.

“I will run, there will be a large number of people run who are not in power now. People who have experience or an interest in politics,” Benjamin said.

Many unions are also opposing a con con partly due to the belief that their pensions will be threatened.

“I don’t think we’re going to undo public pensions, in fact, I’m a public employee and I will get a public pension if I ever figure out when to retire.”

“Of course they really care about their pensions but they care about other things that are enshrined in our constitution now and might not be if Betsy Devos’ big money gets their way,” Lieberman said.

A Constitutional Convention could cost taxpayers anywhere in the range of $47-108 million.

There will also be a separate referendum on the ballot that will ask voters whether or not government officials convicted of corruption should keep their pensions. These will all appear on the ballot on November 7th.

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