By Kirk Laubenstein
When making an important decision, it is critical to view both the pros and cons of the situation. What are the benefits? What could go wrong?
This is something I also consider when voting, especially on referendums that will impact my state, my community, my livelihood, my friends and my family.
And this year, I’ve been taking the time to contemplate the pros and cons of a New York State Constitutional Convention. I find it difficult to tally up any pros on this, simply because there are so many unknowns.
However, there is one thing I do know; I cannot support something that puts so much at risk, when there are so many items unexplained and unexplored.
There are a number of unknowns that could potentially alter the core structure of the constitution and affect our rights, and both present and future legislation.
How would we protect our rights?
Many of the rights we enjoy as New York State citizens would be fair game should a constitutional convention take place.
The entire constitution would be up for revision, including basic rights such as free public education, bargaining rights and social welfare. It could leave the constitution open to allow discrimination against the LGBT community, allow assault weapon sales, legalize fracking and remove the Forever Wild protections.
How long would it take and how much would it cost?
A constitutional convention is estimated to cost taxpayers $200 million to $300 million, but there is no time limit on the convention and delegates get to make their own rules. This means that delegates could keep meeting and collecting a salary for as long as they want.
Additionally, legislators and politicians can double-dip as delegates – earning their normal salary plus a salary as a convention delegate. This will just be another Albany boondoggle at the taxpayers’ expense.
Who would be delegates?
Current state legislators and other politicians have both the money and the connections to be elected as delegates, meaning that the convention will ultimately be controlled by politicians and extreme special interests. Under the law, lobbyists are even allowed to pressure delegates to rewrite the constitution to benefit their clients, with no limits on what they can do or how much they can spend to spread their influence.
The constitution will be shaped by politicians, lobbyists and special interest groups, ignoring the voices of regular citizens.
In a sea of unknowns, one thing is clear: A constitutional convention will hurt Western New York! State voters need to be responsible and join me in voting “no” for a constitutional convention.
The Rev. Kirk Laubenstein is executive director of the Coalition for Economic Justice in Buffalo.