The Danger in a Constitutional Convention
Opening the New York State Constitution
to modification can result in changes being made to Articles other than
those involved in the immediate issue which motivated the voters to
authorize a Constitutional Convention.
PEF Retirees should be particularly concerned with our
pension protection as guaranteed under Article V, Section 7. Undoubtedly
you have noticed the ongoing attacks on public retirees by so called
conservative groups and newspaper columnists. Even though the possibility
of another Constitutional Convention is years away, the attacks are an
essential part of the plan to build a negative public opinion of public
retirees. These groups and their pernicious pundits are in a battle with us
for the public perception. The current effort to discredit public retirees
is part of their action plan to scapegoat retirees for the lack of fiscal
responsibility of elected officials. Under the guise of fiscal reform,
these forces have as their objective the elimination of the Constitutional
guarantee of public retiree pensions, and the fight to stop them could be
The New York State Constitution is a wonderful
document. It contains many of the guarantees found in the Federal
Constitution, but often the NYS Constitution provides further protections
for vulnerable groups. It is a humane document existing in a time of
not-very-humane political forces. If we keep New York as a decent place to
live, we must be very careful about how we change our Constitution.
While it cannot be denied that our state government
frequently does not work as well as it could, there are reasoned arguments
against resorting to a Constitutional Convention. The first and most
obvious is that it opens everything up. What impact could it have on
environmental or labor laws to name just two? Previous efforts to fix the
system have been half-hearted and sporadic. History has demonstrated that
effective changes have been accomplished by statute in less time. It is a
matter of having political leaders with the will to make positive change.
A Constitutional Convention should only be a last resort.