Every twenty years New York State voters are asked a peculiar question. They are asked to vote on whether or not they want to hold a Constitutional Convention, or Con-Con. Almost everyone I asked did not know what it was or how they should vote on it. Those that had heard of it still didn’t know if it’s a salute to democracy or a big con job. Although I don’t have an answer to that question, I can break down the pros and cons of the Constitutional Convention.
Teacher’s unions, and for that matter all unions, as well as many environmentalists fear that a convention could repeal many of the protections that were fought so hard to get. At the same time there are groups who feel that the only way campaign finance reform, redistricting, and term limits will happen is in a convention. The more I researched, the more I found information for and against the con-con.
What should I do? Who should I believe? How should I make up my mind? I became determined to read as much information as I could before I made up my mind.
What I found was that everything that is in, or not in, the state constitution, regardless of whether I think it is good or bad, can be discussed, changed, or even repealed during the con-con. This confused me because I also found that everything that is in, or not in, the state constitution can be discussed, changed or even repealed during a congressional session by use of an amendment to the state constitution. So then, what’s the purpose or advantage of a Constitutional Convention?
What I found is that the legislative process can be sidestepped to make changes to our state constitution. Issues and topics that could never get passed through state congress “could” get passed through a con-con. Different articles talked about different proposals, some I agreed with and some I didn’t. The biggest point that was made in every article, however; was that they were right and the opposition was wrong. At this point I stopped my research.
As an educator I always search for knowledge, but when all I find is opinion I have to step back, It doesn’t matter if I agree with what the convention is trying to accomplish, it’s how they are trying to accomplish it. Bypassing the Legislative process is not only unethical, it can be very dangerous because of the risk of who is making the changes and why. It could be lobbyists and corporations, or small business owners and environmentalists; either way, we are giving up on, or bypassing, the legislative process.
I may not agree with everything politicians do, but I agree that it’s their job to do it. Therefore, I will be voting “no” on the Constitutional Convention, however; I will hold the politicians accountable for what they say, what they stand for, and how they vote.