There are times when I think I may have made a mistake. For example, I have been dead set against the idea that New York should have yet another constitutional convention. To do so would add to the burden our already taxed-to-death citizens are facing. We all know the game — the same people who bring us the disgraceful, morally corrupt, bankrupting, self-serving New York State Legislature would also bring us an equally loaded constitutional convention. Since I am a very young 75 year old (75 being the new 40) I have seen these political circuses come and go with very few results except to further bankrupt the state. So I have presented myself as strongly opposed to doing the same thing again.
But now something quite strange has happened. The leaders of the two houses of the Legislature, Boss Carl Heastie of the Bronx, now Speaker Heastie, and the head Republican in the Senate, John J. Flanagan, have come out swinging against the so called “con-con.” That has me scratching my head. I wonder why the two ultimate pols would be against the constitutional convention which they would surely control. It would give them tons of greasy patronage to dispense to the politically connected and faithful who themselves would be even more grateful to their patrons.
The more I thought about this, the more I understood that something must have scared these guys. For example, perhaps Governor Andrew Cuomo, who clearly is running for governor in 2018 and probably for president in 2020, remembers his earlier pledge to clean up Albany. We all know that he is a long way from keeping that promise and there are a number of things that he could do by getting the right people elected to a constitutional convention. For example, how about New York City-like term limits? The people would vote for those in a New York minute.
There’s the idea of initiative and referendum in which citizens disgusted with legislative inaction could gather enough signatures to put a proposed law on a statewide ballot and then get to vote on the idea. That’s the last thing the legislative power-mongers would wish to see happen.
Another idea that might surface would be public financing of elections. The incumbents (as in the “incumbent protection plan”) would surely not want that. After all, who would want Harry the bartender to run against them and their vassals with government money? We all know that incumbents almost never lose and why would they risk that happening?
Yet another thing that might scare the daylights out of the legislative bosses would be some kind of sensible anti-gerrymandering provision that could put an end to the unconscionable drawing of their own districts by the leaders to make sure they couldn’t lose. That would certainly mean that the Republicans would lose control of the state Senate where they have given new meaning to the world gerrymander.
In addition, there are other reasons for the political bosses to be opposed to a convention. The pro-labor Assembly, for example, might be worried about existing constitutional provisions that protect organized labor.
So the opposition to a constitutional convention by the Heastie and Flannigan dynamic duo may give voters an incentive for actually voting for the idea. On the other hand, I am far from convinced. Maybe they are up to something. Surely you remember Br’er Rabbit begging his captor not to throw him in the briar patch which is exactly where he wanted to be. I assure you that if the voters authorize a constitutional convention, these esteemed characters would load the thing with their friends and allies and the outcome of such a convention would be no better than that of its predecessors.
I admit that I’m not as sure as I once was that this is a bad idea, but I’m still against it.