2017 Proposed Constitutional Amendments Herein
Every 20 years, New Yorkers have the opportunity to vote on whether to hold a constitutional convention as per Section 2, Article 19, of our New York State Constitution. The next vote will be held in two weeks. Sadly, only a hand-full of people are aware of this ballot initiative and its implication. So after voting on November 7 for your local candidates, as well as, your county executive candidate, remember to flip to the back side of the ballot and weigh in on all three ballot proposals.
The first ballot proposal is whether or not to have a convention. It’s a straight up or down vote. (..more on that later.)
A “yes” vote to the second and third proposals will actual amend the New York State Constitution. Already sanctioned by the Legislature, these proposals require voter approval to be enacted.
Getting back to the first ballot; if voters call for a reboot of the highest law of New York, a constitutional convention could take on issues like legislative term limits, improvements to mass transit, anti-corruption measures, and measures to combat the influence of big-money campaign donors, to name a few –all issues supporters contend can’t get a fair shake through today’s hyper-partisan Legislature. In theory, the convention would cut to the chase by circumventing the partisan legislative process and provide results or relief sought by the will of the people.
In addition, if the vote passes in the next two weeks, it would set up an election process for November 2018 for three delegates to be elected from each of 63 State Senate districts statewide. Plus, it will allow for another 15 “at large” delegates to be elected from anywhere in the state for a total for 204. The paid work of each delegate – $79,500 – would begin in April 2019, and the results would be put to a referendum in November 2019.
Many opponents fear that politicians and incumbents, who could also become delegates, would hijack the citizens’ convention to unravel current protections in the constitution, such as the guarantee of pensions for teachers and other public workers and environmental protections. Growing up in a union household (my mother was a member of UFT for 30 years) any unravelling of related gains and protections, in my view, would be a grave setback. Yet, I see the other side of the argument.
There is no direct causal relationship in voting “yes” on supporting a constitutional convention and the unravelling of protections. Some worker protections in place today were a result of the 1938 convention. I will acknowledge that there is always a potential risk in any political action we take. But in a constitutional convention, we can both protect the rights and gains of public workers and pensioners in New York; as well as, provide relief on a host of policy issues. Moreover, even in acknowledging the potential of a risk, that risk would be mitigated because of the high-hurdle of a majority vote of delegates needed to repeal those protections. And, amendments approved by the majority of the delegates are subject to yet another hurdle: state-wide voter approval on November 6, 2019.
Voters rejected a convention the last two times it was on the ballot, 1977 and 1997. But this year may be different. At a time when our nation has witnessed rollbacks at the federal level through executive order on issues ranging from immigration, education, civil rights and voter rights; including recently, healthcare; a state constitution convention does have appeal to a frustrated electorate. In short, New York can chart its own course.
No doubt, opponents will make their case through intense ad blitz –in the coming weeks–by stoking fears. As mentioned in the foregoing the risks can be mitigated. The upside of the “yes” vote is that a citizen convention can provide relief on a host of issues that have been either rolled back on the federal level, or have been stuck in the political gears of Albany for far too long. Voters, therefore, should base their decision on the opportunity for engagement and participation to drive policy changes that will improve the lives and the future for all New Yorkers. So instead of voting your fears, vote your future.
A “no” vote would maintain the status quo and kick the proverbial can down the road. If you believe, however, there ought to be: ballot reform (e.g., simplify the petitioning process, have an automatic hand recount when there is a close vote, disallow gerrymandering for state and congressional districts); or campaign finance reform (e.g., eliminate the corrupting influence of money in NY politics); or an alternative to healthcare options at the state level; waiting for 20 years is not the answer. The urgency is now.
Vote “yes” for a constitutional convention on November 7, and if it passes, get ready to roll up your sleeves.
The writer is a Mount Vernon resident, and is a former congressional candidate for NY CD 16.
He is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org .
2017 Proposed Constitutional Amendments
Below is a listing of the statewide ballot proposals which will be voted on at the General Election so far this year. The language below is DRAFT language provided by the State Attorney General and will not be official until adopted by the State Board of Elections. Once this text is official we will be able to provide translations in additional required languages. The proposals shall be numbered consecutively on the voting machine or ballot. The number of each proposal shall appear in front of its designation as an amendment, proposition or question in the following form: “Proposal one, an amendment; proposal two, a proposition; proposal three, a question”.
Each of the proposals appears below, along with the question as it will appear on the ballot, the abstract summary as well as the full text of the resolution or Constitutional provision responsible for each proposal. Until the State Legislature adjourns for the year, this listing is subject to change. Please send comments to: INFO@elections.ny.gov
Question _____ – Constitutional Convention
Form of Submission of Question Number _____ — Shall there be a convention to revise the Constitution and amend the same?
Abstract: The New York State Constitution requires that every 20 years the people decide if a Constitutional Convention should be held to consider amendments to the State Constitution. The purpose of this Ballot Question is to allow the voters of New York State to determine whether a Constitutional Convention will be held according to the procedure provided by the State Constitution.
If a majority voting on this Question votes NO, there will be no Constitutional Convention.
If a majority votes YES, three delegates from each state senatorial district will be elected in November 2018, along with 15 at-large delegates who will be elected statewide. The delegates will convene at the Capitol in April 2019. Amendments adopted by a majority of the delegates will be submitted to the voters for approval or rejection in a statewide referendum, at an election held at least six weeks after the Convention adjourns. Any amendments that the voters approve will go into effect on the January 1 following their approval.
If a majority votes in favor of a Constitutional Convention, then the delegates will receive for their services the same compensation as that payable to Members of the Assembly. The delegates also will be reimbursed for actual traveling expenses while the Convention is in session, to the extent that Members of the Assembly would be entitled reimbursement during a session of the Legislature.
The delegates will have the power to appoint the officers, employees, and assistants that they deem necessary and to fix the compensation of those officers, employees, and assistants. The delegates also will have the power to provide for the expenses of the Convention, including the printing of its documents, journal, and proceedings. The delegates will determine the rules of their proceedings, choose their officers, and be the judge of the election, returns, and qualifications of their members. A vacancy in an office of district delegate will be filled by a vote of the remaining delegates representing the district in which the vacancy occurs; a vacancy in the office of a delegate-at-large will be filled by a vote of the remaining delegates-at-large.
TEXT OF SECTION TWO OF ARTICLE XIX OF NY CONSTITUTION AUTHORIZING SUBMISSION OF QUESTION EVERY TWENTY YEARS
§2. At the general election to be held in the year nineteen hundred fifty-seven, and every twentieth year thereafter, and also at such times as the legislature may by law provide, the question “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?” shall be submitted to and decided by the electors of the state; and in case a majority of the electors voting thereon shall decide in favor of a convention for such purpose, the electors of every senate district of the state, as then organized, shall elect three delegates at the next ensuing general election, and the electors of the state voting at the same election shall elect fifteen delegates-at-large. The delegates so elected shall convene at the capitol on the first Tuesday of April next ensuing after their election, and shall continue their session until the business of such convention shall have been completed. Every delegate shall receive for his or her services the same compensation as shall then be annually payable to the members of the assembly and be reimbursed for actual traveling expenses, while the convention is in session, to the extent that a member of the assembly would then be entitled thereto in the case of a session of the legislature. A majority of the convention shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, and no amendment to the constitution shall be submitted for approval to the electors as hereinafter provided, unless by the assent of a majority of all the delegates elected to the convention, the ayes and noes being entered on the journal to be kept. The convention shall have the power to appoint such officers, employees and assistants as it may deem necessary, and fix their compensation and to provide for the printing of its documents, journal, proceedings and other expenses of said convention. The convention shall determine the rules of its own proceedings, choose its own officers, and be the judge of the election, returns and qualifications of its members. In case of a vacancy, by death, resignation or other cause, of any district delegate elected to the convention, such vacancy shall be filled by a vote of the remaining delegates representing the district in which such vacancy occurs. If such vacancy occurs in the office of a delegate-at-large, such vacancy shall be filled by a vote of the remaining delegates-at-large. Any proposed constitution or constitutional amendment which shall have been adopted by such convention, shall be submitted to a vote of the electors of the state at the time and in the manner provided by such convention, at an election which shall be held not less than six weeks after the adjournment of such convention. Upon the approval of such constitution or constitutional amendments, in the manner provided in the last preceding section, such constitution or constitutional amendment, shall go into effect on the first day of January next after such approval. (Formerly §2 of Art. 14. Renumbered and amended by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938; further amended by vote of the people November 6, 2001.
Proposal _____ – Allowing the Complete or Partial Forfeiture of a Public Officer’s Pension if He or She is Convicted of a Certain Type of Felony
FORM OF SUBMISSION OF PROPOSAL NUMBER ________, AN AMENDMENT — The proposed amendment to section 7 of Article 2 of the State Constitution would allow a court to reduce or revoke the pension of a public officer who is convicted of a felony that has a direct and actual relationship to the performance of the public officer’s duties. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?
Abstract: New York’s Constitution now provides that the benefits of a public pension or retirement system cannot be reduced or impaired. The purpose of the proposed amendment is to allow a court to reduce or revoke the pension of a public officer who is convicted of a felony that has a direct and actual relationship to the performance of the public officer’s duties. A court would determine, after notice to the public officer and a hearing, if a public officer convicted of such a felony would lose part or all of his or her pension. In reaching this determination, the court must consider the seriousness of the public officer’s crime, the proportionality of a reduction or revocation to the crime, whether forfeiture would result in undue hardship or other inequity to dependent children, spouse, or other dependents, and any other factors required by the Legislature. The Legislature must enact law that puts this proposal into effect, taking into account principles of fairness.
The proposed amendment would define “public officer” to mean the following:
▪ A person filling an elected office within New York;
▪ A person holding an office that is filled by appointment by the New York Governor, whether or not that appointment has to be confirmed by the Senate;
▪ A county, city, town, or village manager or administrator, or equivalent position;
▪ The head of any state or local government department, division, board, commission, bureau, public benefit corporation, or public authority in New York who is vested with authority, direction, and control over that entity;
▪ The chief fiscal officer or treasurer of a municipal corporation or political subdivision in New York;
▪ A judge or justice of the Unified Court System; and
▪ A legislative, executive, or judicial employee who directly assists in the formulation of legislation, rules, regulations, policy, or judicial decision-making and who is designated by law as a policy-maker.
If approved, the amendment will apply only to crimes committed on or after January 1, 2018.
TEXT OF PROPOSAL NUMBER _____, AN AMENDMENT
CONCURRENT RESOLUTION OF THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY
proposing an amendment to section 7 of article 5 of the constitution, in relation to the public pension of a public officer Section 1. Resolved (if the Senate concur), That section 7 of article 5 of the constitution be amended to read as follows:
§ 7. (a)After July first, nineteen hundred forty, membership in any pension or retirement system of the state or of a civil division thereof shall be a contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a) of this section, the public pension of a public officer, as defined in paragraph (c) of this section, who stands convicted of a felony for which such felony has a direct and actual relationship to the performance of the public officer’s existing duties, may be reduced or revoked, following notice and a hearing by an appropriate court, as provided by law. The court determination whether to reduce or revoke such pension shall be based on the consideration of factors including the severity of the crime and the proportionality of a reduction or revocation of such pension to such crime. When a court issues an order to reduce or revoke such pension, the court shall consider and determine specific findings as to the amount of such forfeiture, if any, and whether forfeiture, in whole or in part, would result in undue hardship or other inequity upon any dependent children, spouse or other dependents; and other factors as provided by law. The legislature shall enact legislation to implement this amendment taking into account interests of justice.
(c) For the purposes of paragraph (b) of this section, the term “public officer” shall mean: (i) an official filling an elected office within the state; (ii) a holder of office filled by direct appointment by the governor of this state, either upon or without senate confirmation; (iii) a county, city, town or village administrator, manager or equivalent position; (iv) the head or heads of any state or local government department, division, board, commission, bureau, public benefit corporation, or public authority of this state who are vested with authority, direction and control over such department, division, board, commission, bureau, public benefit corporation or public authority; (v) the chief fiscal officer or treasurer of any municipal corporation or political subdivision of the state; (vi) a judge or justice of the unified court system; and (vii) a legislative, executive, or judicial employee of this state who directly assists in the formulation of legislation, rules, regulations, policy, or judicial decision-making and who is designated as a policymaker as set forth in statute.
(d) Paragraph (b) of this section shall only apply to crimes committed on or after the first of January next succeeding the date upon which the people shall approve and ratify the amendment to the constitution that added this paragraph.
§2. Resolved (if the Senate concur), That the foregoing amendment be submitted to the people for approval at the general election to be held in the year 2017 in accordance with the provisions of the election law.
EXPLANATION—Matter underscored is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted.
Proposal _____ – Authorizing the Use of Forest Preserve Land for Specified Purposes
FORM OF SUBMISSION OF PROPOSAL NUMBER ________, AN AMENDMENT — The proposed amendment will create a land account with up to 250 acres of forest preserve land eligible for use by towns, villages, and counties that have no viable alternative to using forest preserve land to address specific public health and safety concerns; as a substitute for the land removed from the forest preserve, another 250 acres of land, subject to legislative approval, will be added to the forest preserve. The proposed amendment also will allow bicycle trails and certain public utility lines to be located within the width of highways that traverse the forest preserve while minimizing removal of trees and vegetation. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?
Abstract: New York State’s Constitution protects the State’s forest preserve as wild forest land and generally prohibits the lease, sale, exchange, or taking of any forest preserve land. The proposed amendment will create two exceptions to this broad protection of the forest preserve to make it easier for municipalities to undertake certain health and safety projects.
First, if passed, the proposed amendment will create a land account of up to 250 acres of forest preserve land. A town, village, or county can apply to the land account if it has no viable alternative to using forest preserve land for certain limited health and safety purposes. Those purposes are (1) to address bridge hazards or safety on county highways and certain town highways; (2) to eliminate the hazards of dangerous curves and grades on county highways and certain town highways; (3) to relocate, reconstruct, and maintain county highways and certain town highways; and (4) for water wells and necessary related accessories located within 530 feet of a state highway, county highway, or certain town highway, where needed to meet drinking water quality standards. The State will acquire 250 acres, subject to approval by the Legislature, to incorporate into the forest preserve to replace the land placed in the health and safety land account.
Second, if passed, the proposed amendment will allow bicycle paths and specified types of public utility lines to be located within the widths of state, county, and certain town highways that traverse forest preserve land. The work on the bicycle paths and utility lines must minimize the removal of trees and vegetation. And, if passed, the proposed amendment will allow a stabilization device (such as a guy wire) for an existing utility pole to be located near the width of a highway when necessary to ensure public health and safety and when no other viable option exists. The proposed amendment expressly will not permit the construction of a new intrastate gas or oil pipeline that did not receive necessary state and local permits and approvals by June 1, 2016.
TEXT OF PROPOSAL NUMBER _____, AN AMENDMENT
CONCURRENT RESOLUTION OF THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY
proposing an amendment to article 14 of the constitution, in relation to allowing public utility lines and bicycle paths on certain state lands in the forest preserve and establishing a forest preserve health and safety land account
Section 1. Resolved (if the Assembly concur), That section 1 of article 14 of the constitution be amended by adding a new undesignated paragraph to read as follows:
NOTWITHSTANDING THE FOREGOING PROVISIONS AND SUBJECT TO LEGISLATIVE APPROVAL PRIOR TO ACTUAL TRANSFER OF TITLE, A TOTAL OF NO MORE THAN TWO HUNDRED FIFTY ACRES OF FOREST PRESERVE LAND SHALL BE USED FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A HEALTH AND SAFETY LAND ACCOUNT. WHERE NO VIABLE ALTERNATIVE EXISTS AND OTHER CRITERIA DEVELOPED BY THE LEGISLATURE ARE SATISFIED, A TOWN, VILLAGE OR COUNTY MAY APPLY, PURSUANT TO A PROCESS DETERMINED BY THE LEGISLATURE, TO THE HEALTH AND SAFETY LAND ACCOUNT FOR PROJECTS LIMITED TO: ADDRESS BRIDGE HAZARDS OR SAFETY ON COUNTY HIGHWAYS, AND TOWN HIGHWAYS LISTED ON THE LOCAL HIGHWAY INVENTORY MAINTAINED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, DEDICATED, AND IN EXISTENCE ON JANUARY FIRST, TWO THOUSAND FIFTEEN, AND ANNUALLY PLOWED AND REGULARLY MAINTAINED; ELIMINATION OF THE HAZARDS OF DANGEROUS CURVES AND GRADES ON COUNTY HIGHWAYS, AND TOWN HIGHWAYS LISTED ON THE LOCAL HIGHWAY INVENTORY MAINTAINED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, DEDICATED, AND IN EXISTENCE ON JANUARY FIRST, TWO THOUSAND FIFTEEN, AND ANNUALLY PLOWED AND REGULARLY MAINTAINED; RELOCATION AND RECONSTRUCTION AND MAINTENANCE OF COUNTY HIGHWAYS, AND TOWN HIGHWAYS LISTED ON THE LOCAL HIGHWAY INVENTORY MAINTAINED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, DEDICATED, AND IN EXISTENCE ON JANUARY FIRST, TWO THOUSAND FIFTEEN AND ANNUALLY PLOWED AND REGULARLY MAINTAINED, PROVIDED FURTHER THAT NO SINGLE RELOCATED PORTION OF ANY SUCH HIGHWAY SHALL EXCEED ONE MILE IN LENGTH; AND WATER WELLS AND NECESSARY APPURTENANCES WHEN SUCH WELLS ARE NECESSARY TO MEET DRINKING WATER QUALITY STANDARDS AND ARE LOCATED WITHIN FIVE HUNDRED THIRTY FEET OF STATE HIGHWAYS, COUNTY HIGHWAYS, AND TOWN HIGHWAYS LISTED ON THE LOCAL HIGHWAY INVENTORY MAINTAINED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, DEDICATED, AND IN EXISTENCE ON JANUARY FIRST, TWO THOUSAND FIFTEEN, AND ANNUALLY PLOWED AND REGULARLY MAINTAINED. AS A CONDITION OF THE CREATION OF SUCH HEALTH AND SAFETY LAND ACCOUNT THE STATE SHALL ACQUIRE TWO HUNDRED FIFTY ACRES OF LAND FOR INCORPORATION INTO THE FOREST PRESERVE, ON CONDITION THAT THE LEGISLATURE SHALL APPROVE SUCH LANDS TO BE ADDED TO THE FOREST PRESERVE.
S 2. Resolved (if the Assembly concur), That article 14 of the constitution be amended by adding a new section 6 to read as follows:
S 6. WHERE STATE, COUNTY, OR TOWN HIGHWAYS LISTED ON THE LOCAL HIGHWAY INVENTORY MAINTAINED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, DEDICATED AND IN EXISTENCE ON JANUARY FIRST, TWO THOUSAND FIFTEEN, AND ANNUALLY PLOWED AND REGULARLY MAINTAINED, TRAVERSE FOREST PRESERVE LAND, PUBLIC UTILITY LINES, LIMITED TO ELECTRIC, TELEPHONE, BROADBAND, WATER OR SEWER LINES AS DEFINED IN LAW, MAY, CONSISTENT WITH STANDARDS AND REQUIREMENTS SET FORTH IN LAW, AND FOLLOWING RECEIPT OF ALL PERMITS OR AUTHORIZATIONS REQUIRED BY LAW, BE BURIED OR CO-LOCATED WITHIN THE WIDTHS OF SUCH HIGHWAYS AS DEFINED IN LAW, AND BICYCLE PATHS MAY, CONSISTENT WITH STANDARDS AND REQUIREMENTS SET FORTH IN LAW, AND FOLLOWING RECEIPT OF ALL PERMITS OR AUTHORIZATIONS REQUIRED BY LAW, BE CONSTRUCTED AND MAINTAINED WITHIN THE WIDTHS OF SUCH HIGHWAYS, AS DEFINED IN LAW; PROVIDED, HOWEVER, WHEN NO VIABLE ALTERNATIVE EXISTS AND WHEN NECESSARY TO ENSURE PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY, A STABILIZATION DEVICE FOR AN EXISTING UTILITY POLE MAY BE LOCATED IN PROXIMITY TO THE WIDTH OF THE ROAD, AS DEFINED IN LAW; PROVIDED FURTHER, THAT ANY CO-LOCATION, BURIAL, MAINTENANCE OR CONSTRUCTION SHALL MINIMIZE THE REMOVAL OF TREES OR VEGETATION AND SHALL NOT INCLUDE THE CONSTRUCTION OF ANY NEW INTRASTATE NATURAL GAS OR OIL PIPELINES THAT HAVE NOT RECEIVED ALL NECESSARY STATE AND LOCAL PERMITS AND AUTHORIZATIONS AS OF JUNE FIRST, TWO THOUSAND SIXTEEN.
S 3. Resolved (if the Assembly concur), That the foregoing amendment be submitted to the people for approval at the general election to be held in the year 2017 in accordance with the provisions of the election law.
SOURCE: New York State Board of Elections, https://www.elections.ny.gov/ProposedAmendments.html