The New York State Constitutional Convention

The New York State Constitutional Convention


from Michael J. Palladino, DEA President

There is a push by some political factions in New York State to hold a new Constitutional Convention.  The position of the Detectives’ Endowment Association is “vote NO” on this referendum. 

Not only would a Constitutional Convention needlessly cost the New York State taxpayers an estimated $100-million, but it could jeopardize the current level of pension benefits already received by retirees and promised to active members.  Public sector pensions are guaranteed against diminution thanks to powerful language present in the New York State Constitution.  In the event of a Constitutional Convention, the language could be tampered with, thus eliminating that guarantee and paving the way for a reduced pension benefit.

A Convention may open up New York’s Constitution to hastily thought out changes and reversal of laws and protections that in some cases took more than 200 years to put into effect; and for police, benefits that took decades to achieve. 

A referendum whether or not to engage in a Constitutional Convention will be on the ballot for voters in the next election, November 7, 2017.  The DEA urges you to vote NO.

The Purpose of the Referendum

The unique democratic purpose of New York’s periodic Constitutional Convention referendum is to implement New Yorkers’ inalienable right to alter their Constitution in cases where the interests of the Legislature and The People conflict.  New York’s Constitution allows the people to exercise this right once every 20 years.  To realize this democratic purpose, a Convention must be substantially independent of the Legislature’s control.  For example, New York’s Constitution prohibits the Legislature from directly limiting a Convention’s agenda.  The agenda is placed in the hands of the people independently of the Legislature.  Democratic accountability is primarily sought by granting the people three votes over the process:

To call a Convention;

To elect Delegates to a Convention; and

To ratify any Amendments a Convention might propose for their consideration.

The people cannot ratify any constitutional change in conflict with federal law, including the U.S. Constitution.

Constitutional Convention Milestones

On November 7, 2017 … a popular vote on the Constitutional Convention referendum takes place.

On November 6, 2018 … there will be a popular vote for Constitutional Convention Delegates.  Three (3) Delegates will be elected to each of the 63 Senate Districts, plus 15 additional Delegates statewide.

April 2, 2019 … a Constitutional Convention convenes.

November 5, 2019 … a popular vote on the Constitutional Convention recommendations.

Again, it is the position of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, Inc. that a New York State Constitutional Convention is both unnecessary and dangerous to our collective bargaining rights, our pensions, our Defined Benefit plan (VSF), and to the level of our health benefits and other labor rights that we have achieved in New York State. 

The People of the State of New York already have a 365-days-per-year process to amend and rectify our State Constitution with the daily, weekly, monthly, and annual legislative process.  The People elect their own representatives locally, and to the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly, and in turn these representatives make and amend State law as needed by The People.  This is an ongoing process which allows for thoughtful and productive examination of the existing laws enumerated in the Constitution at all times; and it is a completely unnecessary risk and expense to engage in any additional process which may undo the hard won benefits, laws, rules, and regulations of the State of New York, which, in some cases, took us personally decades to achieve.

The last Constitutional Convention took place in 1967.  Clearly, there has not been a real need in 50 years for another.  But today there are loud and powerful voices looking to scapegoat public sector workers and their benefit gains, and consequently, we are facing serious risk of having our labor rights and benefits significantly diminished.

Therefore, we urge our members to vote NO when the Constitutional Convention is placed on the ballot in November of 2017.  There are much better ways in which $100-million or so of our tax dollars may be spent.