Does NYS Need a Constitutional Convention? Prof. Peter Galie & Atty. Christopher Bopst

Dave Debo
Sunday, June 18th

Hear more on an unexplored part of the November ballot.


Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

But there's another topic that I think we really need to delve into especially if we our program and we are. The talks politics regularly we need to look at the ballot in November and we have and oftentimes that discussion means candidate or candidate B. There is something else on the ballot that I don't think it's gotten enough attention and else think it's something that we can easily spend this next hour talking about. They New York State constitution. Every twenty years New Yorkers have the chance to vote on whether to hold a constitutional convention. The next vote will be held this November coming up on the ballot. If the voters approve a convention. Then delegates will be selected in November of 28 team the following year and then the convention itself will open in 2019. So this is a multiyear process. But the issues certainly surrounding it. Are worthy of kicking around and light of the fact that the first vote in this process comes up in November. Let's bring in Peter galli a professor at commission is college an expert on the state constitution. And someone who I understand Peter. Thanks to the convention is necessary because you've written articles under the title that the state constitution is broken thanks for joining us explain. What's the biggest piece that is in pieces. Well the end it's a court you know where to begin and there are so many at. And problems with the various parts of the constitution and these problems are different in each part. Some provisions. There is no longer applies they're just ignored by the legislature Shawn had been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Some of them simply have not been addressed. It's been ordered pieces have been ruled unconstitutional yet they still just. Operate they they stand as if no one cares. What are in the constitution but they're like yeah Baghdad bettors are my dad would they still. They hang out there about bed nobody's done out of and it ended that it could the federal courts are global unconstitutional. We just not gotten around to taking them out. Give me an example what is in there that is contrary to federal law. Why give me specific what is in there that's contrary to federal law. Well. There's shares of provisions involving the fact it every assembly district how can have one representative in that violate the one person one vote rule. There's some of the senate rule brick that has made it impossible to ever. Have a majority indeed downstate area at New York City that was at an attempt to prevent the machine politics Democrats have ever gaining control of the state. Beckett is a violation of the one person one vote provision as well. Now I've also heard of her discussed especially in light of recent events. Around the time that assembly speaker Sheldon Silver was indicted. Around the time that senate majority leader dean's Kallis was indicted. There was all sorts of discussion. About taking away their pension cut their felons after all and in the process it turned around to a discussion of again the state constitution. You can't strip the pensions out as long as the constitution is the way it is in my right. That's correct well it is certainly can't do it without constitutional change. Actually attention in the pensions could be reducing typically stay wherever to declare bankruptcy agrifuel. Which superseded the federal the state religion and that. So I just could be altered but that would lead the state delegate at the federal government I doubt that we urge everybody to be bankrupt and their future but. In theory at bankruptcy proceedings could. Put pension provisions in jeopardy. Nothing to do with the constitution convention. Okay. However in order to change that part of the pension system involving officials that have been convicted. There would have be a change the constitution. That's that's right and that's provisions on the ballot. In November it would appear right next to that are a bit and asking voters whether they want to have a constitutional convention that reform and revise the constitution. The second proposition on that ballot will be. Whether that it's public officials that convicted of that felonies in connection with their work should be stripped of their pensions. So let me get this straight day that the processes. We can amend the constitution by having people vote on individual clauses which is the pension thing on the ballot. But then we can also just open up the the box and get in there with a full scale can their constitutional convention. That's correct two way to do it by a single amendment passed by two separate session of the legislature and then put on the ballot for voters approve or disapprove. Port to add except that the vote yes on the provision to open up Acosta is convention to take a look at all constitution. Into. Kind of holistic context. All right now let's say we were to move ahead with their compound a constitutional convention. Voters would say yes to it then there would be delegates sent to the convention. Who are these delegates if if the if the argument goes that the legislature is not fixing enough problems. Wouldn't the delegates to the convention we just another collection of insider as legislators judges folks that aren't fixing the problem anyway. Well that that that's port Barre frequently made by yet. Those who oppose the Gannett survey which it will be the same old same old politics at usual but. Yeah I examined the background of every official every delegate convention nineteen that. And it sort aspect of the guys get elected officials dominate at conventions. Of the I 86 delegates to that convention thirteen was sitting legislature and point where we're judges that partly Dominic Carter 86 nowhere near majority. Were they individual people just Joseph farmer and and small businessman. No they wired and that's indistinct we would not big beat pat expect voters. To be building for people they know nothing about who never been about the opposite ever done a kind of public service I mean this idea that people can bet it is a strange one. We wanted to fight. But from people who we get randomly pick got a telephone. Directory we went people who have shown that they care about the public. Who had a director of public service and so the idea. Inside this kind of curious I think there. The people elected to the convention where people quit devoted their lives to sit in and out of public service in various forms. Indeed my calculations. And indicate that all of those. Delegates. At the largest single number in 1967. Well people whose major. Claim the same. Where activities. In public Serb. Not party acted not its servers that legislators or judges. But people involved in organizations religious but government groups. Social welfare politically active in the larger sense of that word. And they were the single largest group I think. Public service delegates so they IBM insiders of the pretty slippery notion would come to think about it. I think of all the stock broker commercials and at the end they always say past performance as an equal future results. For talking about the last convention in 1967. Is that climate significantly different that we can even use that as a benchmark or yardstick. So the question yeah. What. Conditions. Would suggest that there that we would get. More insiders Orton or let public servant I think image. Exactly conventional wisdom being that we are much more partisan now of their Ford dot dot dot. Well OK let let that take a look at that. Partisanship. Is hardly like the party ship at the nation. At large. Hillary Clinton won that state by 23%. The percentage of people supporting. Truck now even lower. I suspect that we would have a convention given the public attitudes of most New Yorkers and favorite state concern for the government. Treatment at the poor conservation. Right of labor all of those things are viewed positively. Like significant numbers of people in public opinion polls in New York. If you take any kind of gauge of future. It is much more likely that we will get a conviction it was stress positions and the baby and hit some of those protections. So if we have a constitutional convention at a time when a majority of the state registration voter registrations had Democrat. You've few picture leaning progressive don't you. Well here's. The pitching question. You know I doubt it will be elected at large I suspect most of those. Given the bag with hardly ever elected statewide Republicans in the state and they won their most of those will be Danica. The other elected but reelected to meet certain state senate senate district. What will be more mixed. I I still the balance will be much closer there the Republicans have some opportunity to have representation and they may even win that majority but. If you count but yet large. Well likelihood it. At about oh probably get towards. Democrat. Moderate to progressive but they won't have the kind of overwhelming Dominic. That would make it easy for any convention to ram through a particular. Partisan agenda except my. Can you discuss political science professor Peter galli is with us he's an expert on the New York State constitution and you might say they want MacKey Italian about the state constitution an arcane document. Peter would argue it's a broken document. And this November step one of getting a constitutional convention to fix it will be on the ballot we're talking about that. Are there particular things you don't like about state government that you think might be able to be fixed by a state constitutional convention. 8030930s. The number on the other hand and that's an argument can get through a moment Peter there are a lot of folks out there that would say it is basically. I can of worms or or pandora's box that once you start opening the entire. A constitutional convention the year ending up with a lot of troubles talked to me about the pandora's box argument. Okay depend or are pregnant we based on some kind of evidence what is that evidence in the past we get ninth Austin's a dimensions yeah. It is striking to note. That almost every right for the things we cherish about our constitution. The problem but there have been added not by the registry. But by the convention. All right I know a lot of you work in this particular area has been done in conjunction with local attorney Christopher boxed he's with us now as well Christopher thanks for joining us. What is your biggest argument in favor of the constitutional convention. Well my biggest argument is that the state is not functioning the way it should we have legislators being called off in cuffs. We have a system that encourages the pay to play culture where it three men in a room. Which spent for generations. And the legislature is either unwilling or incapable. Fixing its problems fixing the institutional problem. With the state and and issues like that having government that is not corrupt. Those are really bipartisan issues and that's what I think is is really important focus on we want a government that actually. Functions. Properly we will have a government that not run by people who are. It in match in this culture of corruption. Where you have more people being. Taken out of office under threat of a criminal prosecution. Or actual prosecution. Then being voted out of office itself goes the way that the district lines are drawn. Is done in a way that. It's nearly impossible for somebody to actually lose an election. In fact I think I read somewhere might have a name and an article by you guys that 90% of incumbents in the New York State Legislature. Get reelected traditionally. Yet it like it's kinda like an offensive line we get to vote into the pro ball to get voted every year it's at the same thing it's it's ransacked once period. You're seeing this drawn in such a way that you know you can and protect their turf and any time the sea to redraw on every ten years. You're going to that make sure that that purpose is is strong in a way that favored you wouldn't vote how his work together. To make it eight bipartisan gerrymandered where the state senate. Both in a way that protects the currently Al is there assembly district. And vice Versa you know eat each house and looked the other way because they're giving their house they're getting their seats protected and so you can never. Those lines don't don't change in the way that would allow a newcomer. To unseated a sitting legislator. 803 on May thirtieth amber attorney Christopher boxed as with us along with tenacious college political science professor Peter Gailey. We're talking about the constitutional convention in New York State. The idea that in November you get the chance to maybe allow the states have that convention. What kind of things would that mean though Christopher when we get back and wanna ask you a little bit more he spoke about the three men in the room. I not why I'm curious as to whether the constitution could even addressed that. And if there are people out there that has similar concerns or other calls as well our lines are open. 8030930s. Number more after this it's hard line on news radio 930 WB and it's hard line on his radio 930 WV and good morning this is debut though. Coming up at twelve noon trump attorney Jay sec hello one of the guests on Meet the Press you'll hear that the little bit but in the meantime we are talking more now about state government. Every twenty years New Yorkers have the chance to try and vote yes or no on a state constitutional convention. The next time they get to do that is in November let's say they approve it November. Then the following year November of 2018. Actual delegates that convention will be put on the ballot and by the time it comes around 22019. There would be a constitutional convention I think it's something on the ballot that hasn't gotten a lot of attention so we're talking about it today. With Christopher boxed he's a local attorney who advocates for has done lots of research into it along with tenacious college political science professor Peter galli. They are both here ready to take your calls 8030930. Is a number and let's head back to the phones now cam in Hamburg Europe now good morning hi. Good morning. I want to last play because of the first cup captain and a lot of people even RCN CAA members unaware of it. I want what he would say retiree is meeting. Opted not Orchard Park a couple of expand. And he associated hired. Me and rappers can't see as the day after the legislature. And in the end his whole spiel. He never once mentioned about the billions what could be and our state retirement system at certain. And which went quote a lot period governor wanting to run for president. I won't they would love to get their hands on my. Hand. Some other point. And tied into the constitutional convention form though did he do the address that in your meeting. That's what that was about oh I see up now they wanted to run the wind up. Expert explaining things toward what could happen but and they said the one good item that is. It's a mid term elections. So they were against it because a lot of bad things could happen at the box was opened is that the argument. Well yeah for the CF is retirees especially and you've got people that double debt and what about a little guy. I mean I've been different since my husband worked. For general moderate for years and then I'll wait they support the bailout which it won't bankruptcy. And my husband pension went from 17100. Amok on the top hundred a month. But all of the benefits want. All right Chris or Peter address that the idea that there are some groups out their labor unions perhaps. That don't wanna convention because you open it up and things could get screwed up they like what they've got. And that being chick hoping to ensure crystal will chime in on this too. The EU leaders out information that is to put it. As gently as possible misleading and more bluntly simply flat out incorrect okay nobody who had a pension. Interstate system now or retired. Can have their pension removed by constitutional convention for the following reasons. The federal constitution's. Guarantee contracts caused would prevent that from happening. But they they the issuance of pensions to state employees. Is enshrined in the state constitution. So what's the constitution was re written include someone theoretically pull that out there. Well that's what I'm getting it had been big basic bit con convention might do that but the convention could not do that. And a fact anybody with fellow worker anybody who's retired because there. Contract protected under federal law and federal law would supersede anything it has done in this state constitution. All right professor galli said Chris I wanna weigh in to come on answer. Let me just got to take him up by a little bit what happened. Where at work and buddy who is in the system right now they're tension is guarantee the state constitution says sanctions are contractual right. It cannot be impaired or diminish so basically. Anybody who's currently hero retiree. Or in that still already they're right vested that they they entered the system. Which is why if you see any time New York makes pension reform. They never affect existing employees it's only for employees hired after. Date. Yeah a rough few years back they added an extra tier but it didn't affect the people already and it was. New employees that were put into that tear. That's right so the only people would have a chance of not of having their rights. Impacted at all by convention our employees that don't even exist right now and the likelihood of that happening for political reasons. With the amount of public employee that you had in the state lot of relatives a public employee should ever mistake him out of retirees. A public employees in the state plus the fact that I don't hear anyone around the state saying we should take pensions away from hard working New Yorkers. Is it makes it a political. Up. A political. Stephen Amherst it's your turn good morning hi you're on the air. Okay I'm I'm a graduate of bad state correctional facility point five years man. And I would tell you what these two tires are up to right now they have been told the public what they want to do this is. Dismantle the prices system and they're gonna start and I try to put. State tax on our graduate now my attention was negotiated okay in we negotiated lesser pay raises. Sought pageant wouldn't be affected by state yeah. That's been negotiated they would put it on the ballot ever voted take our baskets away from us what stroke at a time because they area and their pot. I don't think you heard them guys chime in. If it's an existing pension that cannot be touched America. Correct he certainly is misstating the law. All right I I want to get to some other areas how how wide ranging could reform be if we if we started can constitutional convention. Could could we do something silly like saying. Look at the federal system. I look at the fact where you have two senators from each state but then you also have the district House of Representatives the idea being that the senate and becomes a more deliberative body. If we were to rip open the state constitution could we have something similar a state senate that is truly a deliberative body. With maybe one senator from each county while the assembly remains that more district focused local focused body. We could do that you. Chime in and then as Peter may wanna bet you couldn't do it where you you could not everybody. Where you. Head any indication that would bet that population disparities like you're discussing. So that the county is bigger than another county you couldn't do it there. Correct that that would violate US Supreme Court one person one vote decision. There are certain things that you could do to make it a different type of body and the and the simply for example would have. Longer term like the US senate does you can add different. Rules in terms of what buddy did deal with certain pills like for example the US house to take an ad revenue bills. First. And he acts bill first to do things like that you could put it that would make the body different in structure than they are right now. Has right now you really just have a bunch of legislators and you have another bunch of legislators. Well you can as long it's not done in its long as you have equal population division goes under one person one vote you can't create legislative districts. Where you have for example state senate district that has 500000 people and then another state senate district that at 50000 people goes. In theory. The that the state senate district but the 500000 people only get one right right well power that so so that would violate US we couldn't do anything that would violate. The US. Constitution as the supreme courts interpret it. All right that's attorney Christopher buffs to Peter galli tenacious progressive way and. Well and wondered that we need to make is. What it is theoretically possible. And what is likely it has dramatically possible that a convention could eliminate the bill of rights. And it the governor to be elected for a lifetime term it could adopt the partition of government it could eliminate local government is likely to do one of those. Not even remotely. All right let me toss another really theoretical one on the table that. Is it possible is it likely course today. Go to a unicameral. Legislature instead of a senate and the assembly do when Nebraska does one big body. Yes stay quiet and there are some people respectable political cited as some prominent political leaders and decision makers and think that makes more sense. And it may make more and theoretically. It in New York is complicated because. If you have one body right now the state is divided. Somewhat between upstate and downstate and this and it has to represent a bit more the rural and upstate area while they. Assembly bore that out stay out of sets an oversimplification. If you were to go to you think Campbell and you had strict majority rule which is required by the one person one vote. The likelihood. That those divisions those. The bachelor was and in this state. Might be jeopardized so there are many political reasons why that might happen but theoretically and constitutionally. You could adopt. Unicameral legislature. I think if I walked into a bar tonight and started some sort of chat about stay tough and it's not like that like that happens. If if that was going to happen I think the people would eventually. Kinda settling on two topics he always here and we've mentioned it earlier. The idea of three men in a room to critique that is often out there of state government. The other one that I'm betting would be a topic in the bar tonight is the whole upstate downstate thing. What could we do the K state constitution to try and equalize some of that Yaris spoke of how that the senate is a little bit of an equalizer. Are there things that constitutional convention would be able to do to address that. I think so theoretically and here's my suggestion I think it's well explored. We have a whole provision in the constitution. Which in theory it's local governments to get it says significant amount of decision making power. But in practice. By the use of unfunded mandate and mandate some Albany there is kind by state laws. We have made it very difficult but it just as a political. I think we should. We examine that question so that local areas like the regional and counties upstate New York would have more autonomy. And so they could make fools more kinship to put their character and political culture as. Downstate it. How would you do that would you just put something in the constitution that says these issues are off table for state government. It. There are issues pitched. Are not to our beta for the local government as to it to deal with the independent of the state legislature but in practice most of those. Those have been superseded. It by financial incentive on the part of the state or by court decision. Which are given more power and then enrolled at the state government over locals and I think that needs to be rid re addressed. All right. When we come back we'll blood dig into this a little bit further we'll look at the process is well again coming up in November of voters will get the chance to decide yes or no on a state constitutional convention. We're kicking it around with attorney Chris boxed and also Peter galli completions college more to come stay with us your calls as well made a 30930s number. A few more minutes left enough time to chime in if you'd like. It's hard line on news radio 930 WB and entire line on news radio 930 WVU and good morning this baby go. Remaining few minutes in the morning here remaining few minutes with Peter Gailey a professor can you just college. An attorney Christopher bulbs from buffalo both of them big advocates state wide researchers writers about the possibility of a state constitutional convention. Again if you're just joining us it will be on the ballot in November they're actually two measures there one will be. Whether or not we should change the constitution specifically. Involving state pensions to people like say speaker so. Or or majority leader scale us after they've been convicted that's a separate issue from the convention if we vote yes on a convention in November. Then next year we would vote on delegates to it and there would ultimately be a state constitutional convention coming up in 2019. Guys talk a little bit more about that process. If if if people vote yes in November. Then we Rhode Island delegates the following year how do those delegates get on the ballot talk about the selection process there whoever wants to jump in. Just start. And what would happen is that everybody in the state would then in November 2018043. District delegates. And sixteen at large statewide delegates so what'll happen is that each state senate district. Will elect. Re delegates and the process for the nomination. And getting on the ballot of those delegates. Would be the same as it would be fit to run for state senate so what you would have Hewitt at. The party would nominate candidates. Dual primary. If there were. Multiple candidates that want it to run more than three whatever primary otherwise they would go ahead and just look at those candidates on the ballot. And the minor parties would be involved too. Correct minor parties any party that any party that has more than 50000 votes and list gubernatorial election would have an automatic spot on the ballot. Ward though you know two for the district delegates as well as for the at large delegate. Like in some mud gubernatorial races even when there isn't that threshold met. People create parties could there be a I wanna get rid of pensions party could there be a I want a unicameral legislature party. If you followed the rules to get on the ballot whatever the ballot requirements are to create a minor party and you could you could. Go ahead and put candidates and for that minor party. As a practical concern professor Galley do you see single issue parties a involving. For the sake of making certain specific changes to the convention compared to the constitution. I didn't get it merge and 67 but that doesn't mean it would divert one night to one of the problems. Bit. People have a wanna start their own party app to get her own similar thing is the electoral law in New York makes it extremely difficult. Do have to get that process going you kept it get a who are much larger number of signatures. And the barriers for that as compared to say getting signatures to challenge they candidate in within the party system is very. So theoretically than if we're talking practical not actual. Of the convention would be done and dominated by Republicans Democrats now. It would it would be an act that's not a surprise that they do that political processes Dominique I bet it's more important debate. I doubt whether it's Democrats Republicans but the kind of Democrats and Republicans. We elect. There are Democrats for example independent Democrat who don't think a we're broadly about the course of the constitution there Republicans who say the same way moderate and independent. If we expect those kinds endemic to those kind of Republicans and we haven't and our power to do that. The convention. Former elected to be a success in terms of the constitution. And not in terms like political parties. All right let's squeeze one more caller and Burke in the area and you're on the air good morning. It does state pensions aren't step. Private fund. Legislators can't get their hands and that if you rewrite this with debt that allowed them to enhance the there's city and the money. What you are you about pension. They could not touch any pension money that is now been contractual with regard to current employees are asked employees. Is the way the pensions are currently operated basically as a separate pension fund. Is that statutory in the constitution is that something that could change. Well best prospect that it does it could change the legislature. Can set the rules for the pension at system in the future. Right now it without any change in the past and the only thing that could not be changed by virtue of the constant supervision is. Alterations. In the current. Benefits. As part of the contract between the state and public workers. And little bit earlier in the area and the program. A caller said that the CA CA. Was advocating for its membership cannot go ahead and go for constitutional convention. Other groups out there on the other side who wants this. I'll help out go to you know a lot of blood groups actually I was just at the new York state bar association house of delegates meeting yesterday. I knew as the attorney in the room and you take them on go ahead tell me more. India state bar association has come out in support they constitutional convention that's a different position than they took in 1997 when it was last on the ballot. This city bar of New York City the League of Women Voters. Citizens union which is say yup. A good government group they're all in favor of the U of a constitutional convention. All right. Closing moments Chris spoke to give me a summary if you can why do you like the idea of the convention. Because we can't depend upon the legislature to make the changes that we need we have institutional problems in this state the legislatures not touched them. For generations there's no reason to believe they're gonna do in the next twenty years invention the only captain. And what are the issues you see them being able to address most not not just. Not just a hopeful perhaps put a yet they can do this perhaps. I think term limits. I think an independent redistricting commission so that the that the legislators will take their voters but the voters will pick their legislators. I think the reform of the judiciary that's eluded the stakes for generations. And unfunded mandate relief a lot of other states have. On unfunded mandate thing that does not allow the state as unfunded mandate on that the big issue for us Western New York. And no clean air and clean water. That increased what voter participation. Through things like same day registration. All of those things I don't think the legislature and it's such. And I know you agree with a lot of what he said but professor Peter galli conditions Kallis. If you could weigh in without just echoing him why do you think we need one. Yes I well I'm gonna make my general come on it that's what we and our power to control act. Shape the government also that the state regardless of what happens in Washington. Regardless of the dysfunction that happens we can adopt the affordable corrected the functions of government. Should eliminate its paid like culture Albany. Place in our constitution. Rights and protections that reflect the distinctive culture of New York. At any given certain Egypt turmoil at the national level we can see the day we have much work to do in this respect. November 2017 I'd say we can begin network it still it. I interesting stuff guys thanks for joining us today that's professor Peter galli an expert on the state constitution to me just tell us. And Christopher boxed who's also been advocating for it and writing and research along with professor Gailey statewide.