Many are not aware that New York State has its own Constitution. Our last Constitutional Convention was held in 1967. This November, voters will have the chance to vote for a Constitutional Convention in 2018. Prior votes for a convention were rejected in 1977 and 1997. Every 20 years, voters are given the opportunity to vote for a convention which has the capacity to structurally change the form of government.
State government is inefficient, if not dysfunctional, but how will a convention help? A Constitutional Convention can address a number of important issues such as:
• Should we do away with a bicameral legislature or have one House of Delegates with 100 members? This may eliminate some of Albany’s gridlock which has a Republican-controlled Senate and a Democratically-controlled Assembly.
• Should the Governor be given authority to consolidate state agencies and reorganize them? Should New York’s school districts and special districts be consolidated?
• Should our court system be consolidated and should our judges be chosen on the basis of merit instead of being elected?
• What should be done to reduce the number of inmates in our jails or on post release supervision? What can we do to revise sentencing; provide alternatives to jail; and mass incarnation; provide for expungement of records and greater clemency; and, what can be done to provide more remedies for wrongful convictions and provide for resentencing based upon good behavior and the payment of restitution?
These are a few of the issues that can be addressed. There are others but change will not happen piece meal or by amendment. A Constitutional Convention is desperately needed.
Thomas F. Liotti is the village justice for the Village of Westbury.