When King John was coerced to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede on June 15, 1215, the basis of our constitutional government was established, an agreement by those being governed with the governor as to what the governor, or later the government, could and perhaps even more important, could not do.
Of course, with time our needs and situations change. So it becomes necessary that the state constitution be amended. Here in New York state, there are two ways this can be done. One way is to change one item at a time, whereby two separately elected Legislatures, hopefully after careful consideration, approve and submit it to the voters for approval in a referendum. This is a slow and deliberate process that gives all voices a chance to be heard and the public a chance to evaluate their proposals.
The other way to amend the state constitution is by a constitutional convention, where all or any part or parts of the constitution are up for grabs.
The special interest groups like the convention because it seems possible for them to get the delegates to figuratively give them some slices of “real meat” from the public in exchange for some pieces of “candy.” They get their friends, many of them the special interest-influenced legislators the constitution protected us from, to be delegates at the convention.
To evaluate and compare these two methods let us go back in history. Between 1957 and 1967, some 50 amendments were made to the state Constitution. But the revised constitution proposed by the 1967 convention, said to have cost the taxpayers $10 million (1967 dollars), was rejected by the voters. In 1957, the people voted not to even have a constitutional convention. Having a constitutional convention is like giving a blank check to the special interests.
There is a better way. Vote no on the constitutional convention this year.
Lawrence H. King