By Connor Beach
A Suffolk legislator has taken a stance against a state proposition to schedule a Constitutional Convention, and is asking others to do the same.
Suffolk Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) met with representatives of local labor unions, teachers groups and the Suffolk County PBA at VFW Post 1469 in Huntington Station on Saturday to denounce the proposition, which will appear on this year’s ballot.
“This is the first time I have seen members from so many different groups unite for a cause,” Spencer said. “Environmental groups, police, labor, teachers and healthcare professionals should mobilize against the convention.”
If approved by simple majority, the Constitutional Convention proposition, which will appear on the back of the ballot, would open the door for 204 delegates, three from each of the state’s senate districts and 15 statewide delegates, to be elected next year and consider amendments to the state constitution during a convention held in April 2019.
“The delegates have a wide directive and can reconsider all of the rights that have been fought for over the years," Spencer said. "It could hurt people who have worked their whole lives for a pension."
Although he acknowledged that government reform is needed at the state level, Spencer said that there are better ways to amend the state Constitution that already exist, including public referendums.
Local state politicians have voiced opposition to the convention, including state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station). “I will be voting no on the 2017 Constitutional Convention ballot referendum. The laws and constitution of New York can be amended through the legislative process. I do not think a Constitutional Convention is fiscally responsible, necessary or appropriate,” Lupinacci said in a statement.
Al Benninghoff, campaign manager for New York City-based organization New York Says Yes Coalition, said that the convention is important to restore democracy to the state government. He said the voters would elect the delegates who will then suggest constitutional changes for New Yorkers to vote on again.
“The state legislature will never pass the reforms necessary to make our state more democratic,” Benninghoff said. “This is our once-in-a-generation chance to do this, and the public is included in every step of the process.”
Only ballots with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote will be tallied. Voters who skip the question will not be counted either for or against the proposition.
The convention proposition appears on the state ballot every 20 years. The proposition was defeated the last time it appeared in 1997. The most recent New York State Constitutional Convention was held in 1967.