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NY constitutional convention proponents release proposals

ALBANY — More than 100 specific proposals to revise the state constitution, on topics ranging from term limits to allowing noncitizens to vote in some elections have been presented by those seeking voter approval of a constitutional convention on Nov. 7.

On Tuesday the state Rockefeller Institute of Government and Albany Law School released 106 proposals that they compiled from scholars, politicians and commentators. They include:

  • Prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity.
  • Creating an independent counsel to investigate claims of wrongful convictions and alleged civil rights violations by law enforcement.
  • Requiring action on global warming.
  • Establishing public financing of campaigns to limit the influence of big donors.
  • Limiting state spending to the inflation rate.
  • Restoring some of the legislature’s power to change the governor’s state budget proposal, lost in a landmark court case known as Silver vs. Pataki.
  • Reducing the Assembly and Senate to a one-house legislature.
  • Allowing noncitizens to vote in “certain elections” such as school board elections in districts where their children are educated.
  • Allowing same-day voter registration on election days.
  • Setting term limits for all statewide elected officials and legislators.

Elected delegates, however, would determine the agenda if a convention is approved. Any proposed changes would be put to another general election vote.

Another list of proposals released this week focused on strengthening civil rights.

“There is no more important effort than the protection and expansion of the rights and liberties of the people,” said Richard Brodsky, a political scientist at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and a former assemblyman who is working with other groups supporting a convention. “While the federal government may be in retreat, we need to assert our values and enshrine them in the state constitution.”

His proposals include extending equal protection of women, ethnic minorities and gender identity groups as well as protecting abortion rights now provided by federal law that could be struck down by the Supreme Court.

He also proposed:

  • Greater privacy protections against government intrusion, including electronic surveillance.
  • Making college education free, as is secondary and primary education.
  • The right to a clean environment, which would limit government and commercial development.

Opponents of a constitutional convention say that they fear radical ideas could be approved and that political insiders and special interests could control the convention.

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