One of the many lessons I’ve learned in Albany is this: when those who have harvested most of the power oppose an idea, it’s probably something worth considering. We see a prime example of this on the issue of a Constitutional Convention. 

A Constitutional Convention is a mechanism to change the laws that govern the State of New York. So it’s no surprise that those enjoying the spoils of the status quo – legislative majorities and high-powered special interests – oppose the idea of shaking things up. They are protecting the status quo by using fear and scare tactics to undermine a movement for positive change to our state government. But, we cannot be deterred or intimidated. 

New York State last held a convention in 1967, and if you have paid attention to Albany in recent years, it’s clear that we’re long overdue. 

FORCING CHANGE WHEN CHANGE ISN’T HAPPENING 

The beauty and necessity of a Constitutional Convention lies in its ability to reform the system and empower the people of New York to facilitate needed change. Voter empowerment is part of the very fabric of who we are as a nation. There is no more effective way to engage the public than a Constitutional Convention, and there is no place that needs it more than Albany. 

Where else in America have the highest-ranking members of a state Legislature been convicted of felonies and the governor’s closest aides been arrested on corruption charges? Repeated scandals have stained our political system. And, Albany’s muted response in the wake of historically embarrassing incidents proves that the system isn’t going to change from within. 

It took seven years for the Legislature to act on a bill that strips convicted public officials of their taxpayer-funded pensions. This is among the most basic, common-sense bills I have come across in my 16 years in the Assembly. But it took seven years for it to move. Albany doesn’t act quickly or decisively enough. But, through a Constitutional Convention, the people can force action that lawmakers are unwilling to take. 

POSSIBILITIES TO ADDRESS A NUMBER OF ISSUES 

While addressing Albany’s ethics should be a high priority, there are no limits on the issues a convention might address. The public can have a direct say in how their tax dollars are spent, how the process by which Albany crafts annual budgets becomes transparent, and how healthcare needs are being met and paid for. Information about the Constitutional Convention process and what it would mean in New York State can be found at http://www.newyorkconcon.info/

In his farewell address, George Washington said, “The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and alter their constitutions of government.” When New York voters go to the polls this fall to consider a Constitutional Convention, I sincerely hope they exercise this critical and essential right. 

What do you think? I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, email me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.

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