Nonpartisan group releases list of 106 potential constitutional revisions

The Government Law Center at Albany Law School and The Rockefeller Institute for Government have released a list of possible revisions to the state Constitution if New York voters decide they want to hold a constitutional convention.

The 106-point list was compiled by Scott Fein, an environmental lawyer from Albany, and includes possible points of revision based on what “commentators, scholars, politicians, the media, and pundits have suggested might merit consideration if New York holds a constitutional convention.”

The list is broken down into topics such as expanding individual rights and reforms to the criminal justice system to provide justice more equitably to New Yorkers as well as expanding environmental protections.

Election laws are also included in the list.

New York ranked 42 in voter turnout for the 2016 presidential election with just 59 percent of eligible voters going to the polls on election day. Reforms introducing early voting and same day registration, as well as expanding absentee voting, could help fix New York’s abysmal turn out.

Ethics reforms are also introduced in the list, its first point being the establishment of an independent ethics commission to replace the Joint Committee on Public Ethics, an oft-disparaged oversight panel that is staffed by appointees of the Legislature and the governor.

There is an ethics question on the back of this November’s ballot pertaining to the forfeiture of pensions for officials found guilty of public corruption, but an argument could be made that a strong independent ethics oversight commission could reduce the need for such penalties in the first place, providing a proper deterrent for abuse of the public trust — something which Albany’s political ecosystem lacks.

The list also includes possible ways by which the New York state government could be restructured, including combining the two houses into a unicameral system and changes to the primary system to stop allowing the parties to pick nominees for vacated seats, bypassing the primary process.

By no means exhaustive, the list, intended as a nonpartisan aggregation of changes that have been suggested, is not an endorsement of the particular proposals, but a tool to help give the voting public a better sense of the convention’s potential or pitfalls.

“We take no position on the merits of these proposals, or on how citizens should vote on whether to hold a convention,” Fein writes in his introduction to the list. “But we hope to better inform voters’ decision by exploring the range of proposals that might emerge from a convention if one were convened.”

The complete list can be found here.