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CHANGES SOUGHT TO AVOID POLITICS AS USUAL

The people pushing hard for a state constitutional convention -- along with some opponents -- are particularly adamant on one point: The convention shouldn't be run by the political insiders who control state government and whom the current selection system would favor.

Those supporters have reason to be concerned.

Half the state lawmakers who responded to two recent surveys would not rule out running as delegates if voters call for a convention on Nov. 4.

That's according to the combined results of two recent surveys, one by the Syracuse Newspapers, The Buffalo News and Albany Times-Union; the other by Gannett Newspapers.

Of New York's 210 state lawmakers, 144 responded to one or both of the two surveys.

Of the 77 lawmakers who did not rule out running for delegate, 38 said either they would run or they would consider running. Another 39 said they were undecided. A total of 53 said they would not run for delegate positions.

Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, said allowing elected officials to serve as delegates "is having the fox in the hen house." He said he would not run "as long as legislators are all prohibited from running."

But Sen. Joseph Holland, R-New City, has a different view. "No New Yorker should be barred from taking part in a convention," he said.

Even some critics of state government, like the League of Women Voters, are opposed to a convention because of the fear that political insiders will dominate.

Supporters of the convention have advanced several proposals that they say would make this a "people's convention."

Among the proposals are:

Ban state legislators, statewide officials, lobbyists, state policy-makers and political party officials from serving.

Gov. Pataki and a group of Assembly Republicans led by Robert Prentiss of Colonie are pushing those restrictions. Pataki's proposal also bans judges.

The Assembly Republicans also would ban local elected officials.

Robert Schulz of Glens Falls, who heads the All-County Taxpayers Association and the pro-convention We The People Congress, has sued in federal court to bar lawmakers from running. U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy dismissed the case, but Schulz has appealed to the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Limit contributions to candidates. Pataki and Assembly Republicans have proposed a $100
cap. Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Scarsdale, would cap donations at $500 from people and $250 from corporations, political action committees and other entities. Existing law allows contributions of up to $7,000 to district delegate candidates and $28,000 to statewide candidates.

Limit personal spending by candidates to $5,000 to prevent the independently wealthy from buying a win. This Brodsky proposal frees opponents of any candidate who spends more than $5,000 personally from the stricter contribution limits.

Make the elections nonpartisan. Brodsky's plan would remove political parties from the delegate selection process and prohibit candidates from appearing on the ballot under a party label.

Prohibit double-dipping. Pataki would require state employees serving as delegates either to take unpaid leaves of absences from their regular jobs or decline pay for serving as a delegate.

According to the two newspaper surveys, 20 lawmakers said they would accept the $57,500 pay delegates receive in addition to their legislative salary (all lawmakers are paid at least $57,500). But 82 said they would either decline the delegate pay or give it away.

Disqualify convention income from being counted toward public pensions. Pataki and former Gov. Mario Cuomo's Temporary State Commission on Constitutional Revision calls for this step.

Cut signature-gathering requirements for candidates. The Cuomo commission would cut the required number in half and give candidates a grace period to cor-rect technical flaws in their peti-tions.

Brodsky would require all district candidates to gather signatures from 1,250 registered voters in their Senate district and 10,000 to run statewide.

Provide public money for delegate candidates, a Cuomo commission proposal that is also backed by Gerald Benjamin, a convention proponent and former Republican lawmaker from Ulster County. The commission proposes $5 million to $6 million for simple, identically styled pamphlets containing candidates' messages in their own words.

Put a "ballot advisory" next to the name of anyone running for more than one office in the same year. Benjamin noted that would flag any state politician since all are up for re-election next year.

If the voters say "yes" Nov. 4, 198 delegates will be elected next year.

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