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.