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 very difficult.

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.

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