New Yorkers Want Constitutional Change

By John Celock

While many special interest groups in New York State do not want the state constitution changed, state residents want to see changes made.

A Quinnipiac University Poll released last week shows that 55 percent of New Yorkers want to see a constitutional convention called to discuss the governing document, along with support for a variety of provisions. The poll comes as a diverse collection of the most powerful special interest groups in the state seek to defeat November’s referendum on whether a convention should be held.

The poll showed that 30 percent of those surveyed did not want a convention held. In terms of various issues that could come up in a convention, 65 percent of those surveyed want the constitution to include a non-partisan commission to draw state legislative and congressional district lines, 54 percent want a public financing system for state candidates and 68 percent want the constitution to guarantee a women’s right to abortion in New York State. The poll showed that 49 percent want to continue a constitutional provision to prohibit the reduction of public employee pension benefits.

New York’s constitution requires a public referendum to be held every 20 years to decide whether or not to call a constitutional convention, with the next referendum scheduled for the November election. The last constitutional convention in New York State occurred in 1967.

The opponents of the measure – which include Planned Parenthood, the teacher’s union, pro-gun groups, public employee groups and the state Conservative Party – have said that it is not known who would comprise the delegates. The groups have said that a special interest group could attempt to seize delegate seats in an attempt to impose the group’s agenda on New York. Among the fears expressed by convention opponents include a cut in school aid, loss of benefits for public employees, changes to the workers compensation system and restrictions on abortions.