Members of the New York Assembly work on passing legislation...

Members of the New York Assembly work on passing legislation in the Assembly Chamber at the Capitol on Thursday, June 16, 2016, in Albany. Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

Con-con or no con-con?

The political shorthand refers to a constitutional convention and the opportunity to revise the state constitution. New Yorkers must be asked every 20 years whether they want to hold one and this is year 20 in the cycle. And while it might not be top of mind for most voters now, supporters and opponents have started beating their drums — a noise that will get louder as Election Day approaches.

The soundtrack will alternate between serious and silly, and already there is no shortage of the latter.

Take recent comments by the State Legislature’s two leaders, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. Both oppose a convention. Heastie worried that “big-money special interests” would influence the convention process and that voters would be “subjected to campaigns.” Funny, but we don’t recall Heastie being worried about the special interests that hold sway over his Assembly majority every day, or expressing reservations about the campaigns his members subject voters to every two years.

Flanagan cited unknown convention costs — perhaps he should determine them first — and said there are better ways to change the constitution, such as when the legislature passes an amendment and submits it to voters for approval. One such amendment, to strip pensions from public officials convicted of corruption, also is on the ballot this fall. But if voters can be trusted to weigh in via this method, why can’t they make smart decisions via a different process? In polling, ethics reform is at or near the top of New Yorkers’ concerns with the vast majority demanding changes. But reforms have been few and modest. Why? Because the legislature won’t respond to the people’s urgency.

Here’s a thought for Heastie and Flanagan: Deal with the issues that are important to the people. Or the people will have to deal with the issues themselves. 

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