As a candidate for governor, Carl Paladino has proposed public referendums on legalizing medical marijuana, enacting stricter immigration laws, and gay marriage.
"Let the people decide," he said at a Taxpayer Party forum in Middletown last weekend, when asked about medical marijuana.
But that's not how things work in New York -- and it won't change any time soon, said Robert Ward, the director of the Rockefeller Institute on Government and an expert on the state constitution.
While New Yorkers are occasionally asked to vote on laws, it takes years to get on the ballot and the measures must originate in the Legislature, Ward said. The Assembly and the Senate must pass such ballot measures twice in separately elected bodies for them to reach the ballot in the next election year. In the matter of gay marriage, the Legislature would have to pass it in 2011 and then again in 2013 for it to reach the ballot, presumably in 2014, Ward said.
"It all goes through the Legislature," Ward said -- unlike in California, where initiatives get on the ballot through petition drives.
Another option would be to wait until 2017, when a constitutional convention could be called, Ward said.