Top New York Republicans say no to a constitutional convention

Note: This story appeared in Thursday’s edition of the Times Union.

New York is blue.

Democrats outpace Republicans in voter enrollment statewide. At the Capitol, the Assembly and Executive Chamber are Democratically held — and the Senate is Republican thanks to a coalition with breakaway Democrats. 

State GOP Chair Ed Cox speaks with reporters at the Capitol Tuesday April 4, 2017 in Albany, NY. (John Carl D’Annibale / Times Union)

But top GOPers are dubious that as they come up short in the legislative and election processes, they’ll fare better in a constitutional convention process, which voters could trigger this November.

“The structure of the constitutional convention in New York puts far too much control into the hands of liberal politicians and special interests who could do catastrophic damage to New York’s already precarious finances,” state Republican Chairman Ed Cox said in a statement. “The risk of potential outcomes under these circumstances is simply too high for me to support it.”

Cox isn’t alone in opposing a convention.

The state’s top elected Republican, state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, has expressed concerns about the cost of a convention. The state Conservative Party, which often cross endorses Republicans, also has unified in opposition to a convention because of fiscal concerns. A convention is projected to cost between $50 million to $100 million.

“The fact that two additional proposals are on the ballot, reinforces our position that there is a process in place that allows the NYS Constitution to be amended, when necessary, without the added immense cost of holding a convention,” the party decreed last month.

Indeed, the process that already is in place — the legislative process — yielded two ballot proposals this year that will appear alongside the question on whether to hold a convention. One amendment deals with stripping the pensions of a public official convicted of a felony related to their duties. The other would create a forest-preserve land bank.

Both amendments had Republican sponsors in the Senate. 

“The Senate, who has the Republicans in the majority, have shown they can be an intricate part of having their voices heard about important and significant and good citizen-related and taxpayer-related constitutional change,” said Sen. Jim Tedsico, R-Glenville, who, as a member of the Assembly minority in 2014, successfully pushed for ratification of an amendment to make the Legislature paperless.

Still, some Republicans are backing a convention, which would take place in 2019, with any amendments ratified by delegates going before the voters that November for final approval.

“The Constitutional Convention comes down to one question: Is state government working for you? If not, than people should vote in favor of it,” Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Ontario County, said in a statement. “We operate in a system where three men in a room make nearly all the decisions about the future of our state. New Yorkers have been shut out, and under this administration things like transparency and public input are seen as an inconvenience rather than a necessity.”

To read the full version of this story, click here.
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