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On Nov. 4, New York voters will have a momentous opportunity before them. It was set forth by our forefathers in the original drafting of our state's constitution -- a clause requiring that every 20 years, voters must decide if they want the chance to revise this document.

Specifically, the question on the November ballot is: "Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?"

If voters approve the constitutional convention referendum this year, they will be asked in November 1998 to elect delegates to the convention, which would be held in 1999.

The delegates -- elected by the people -- could consider any changes to the state's 51,000-word constitution they wish. They then would determine how the changes would be presented to the voters.

In the past, constitutional changes have been presented as separate ballot questions or as an entire package. New Yorkers would vote on the proposed changes in November 1999.

The process of reform could have profound impacts on education, school finance, laborissues, the legislative process and the state budget.

There could be no better proof of the need for a constitutional convention than the breakdown of the state budget process.

A total of 13 consecutive years of late state budgets indicates a mandate to require lawmakers to meet the budget deadline. For years, late budgets have prevented many school districts from properly planning how to use the resources made available by the state.

Reform of the state budget, campaign financing, tenure and of the leadership-dominated Legislature are also reasons for a constitutional convention.

How do we make government more accountable? One way is to update the constitution with more accountability measures.

Those in favor of a constitutional convention believe our system of lawmaking is broken and dysfunctional, and that fundamental changes will only come from significant revisions to the constitution.

Those opposing the convention are either comfortable with the status quo or fear the changes that could be recommended. But it's important to remember that any proposed revisions to the constitution must be approved by the voters.

It's time for people to stop complaining about state government and do something about it. Vote "yes" for a constitutional convention.

James R. Lawson West Seneca