The Committee on the New York State Constitution will serve as a resource for the Association with regard to issues related to or affecting the New York State Constitution; finalizing substantive provisions of the state constitution and making recommendations
with regard to potential changes; promoting initiatives designed to educate the legal community and the public about the state constitution and providing recommendations with regard to the forthcoming public referendum in 2017 on whether to convene a
state constitutional convention, and propose the delegates selection process if the convention takes place. The chair is Hon. Karen Peters. A committee roster can be found here.
The committee has issued a series of nonpartisan, informational reports dealing with issues that might be considered at a possible constitutional convention. The reports have been approved by the House of Delegates of the New York State Bar Association.
Whether New Yorkers Should Approve the 2017 Ballot Question Calling for a Constitutional Convention, June 17, 2017
The report offers a primer of the pros and cons of a constitutional convention, or “ConCon.” The committee “recommends that the State Bar support the convention call, primarily because a convention presents the one practical opportunity this generation will likely have to modernize and restructure New York's court system.” At its June 17, 2017 meeting in Cooperstown, the Association's House of Delegates voted 111 to 28 (with one member abstaining) to endorse a Constitutional Convention, or “ConCon.” A day earlier, its Executive Committee voted unanimously to support a convention.
The Judiciary Article of the New York State Constitution–Opportunities to Restructure and Modernize the New York Courts, January 27, 2017
New York’s Unified Court System was established the 1960s. “Despite its name,” the report observes, “the Unified Court System is anything but—with its patchwork quilt of 11 different trial-level courts and multiple levels of appellate courts.” It is the nation’s most complex court, resulting in added costs and delays for litigants. The report identifies more than a dozen issues that would be “ripe” for consideration at a constitutional convention.
The Conservation Article in the State Constitution (Article XIV), November 5, 2016
In 1894, New York voters ratified a constitutional amendment that mandates that the state Forest Preserve in the Adirondacks and Catskills be kept “forever wild.” Since then, the report notes, there has never been broad-based support for repealing the measure. In 1969, voters approved what was intended to be a “Conservation Bill of Rights,” which is largely unenforceable. The report also points to obsolete aspects of Article XIV.
Constitutional Home Rule, April 2, 2016 (State-local government relationships)
In theory, Constitutional Home Rule grants authority to local governments to decide how to best govern their communities in matters of local concern. However, over the years, those protections have been eroded by actions of the state Legislature (such as imposing unfunded mandates on localities) and judicial decisions. Without taking sides in the debate, the report says Constitutional Home Rule is an issue “ripe for consideration and debate for all concerned.”
The Establishment of a Preparatory State Commission on a Constitutional Convention, November 7, 2015
The New York State Constitution, about six times longer than the U.S. Constitution, establishes the structure of state government, enumerates rights of individuals and governs our courts, schools, local governments, public finance and the daily lives on New Yorkers. It requires that voters be asked every 20 years whether to hold a convention to examine if the state Constitution should be revised. Prior to November 7, 2017 vote, the report urges state officials to create a nonpartisan preparatory commission to educate the public about the complex issues involved.
Find more information on the New York State Constitutional Convention here.