Conventions

Professors Outline Pro-Con Con Argument

A group of constitutional law and government professors have signed on to a letter outlining why they back a constitutional convention, arguing that holding one will positively restructure state government and expand protections for the environment and local governments.

The essay in some respects is a rebuttal to the opposition campaign that is backed by labor groups, environmental organizations and others who have pushed back against the once-every-20-year referendum.

The professors argue that holding a convention could bolster ethics reform in New York, curb partisan gerrymandering and reform the state’s judicial system.

“A convention is not merely an opportunity for the political establishment to preserve or even worsen the status quo,” the essay states.

“Unlike a legislature, a state constitutional convention lasts for only a few months. It is temporary. It sustains no careers, has no ‘institutional interest.’ It does its job and dissolves. It is we the people who call a convention to life;. we who elect those who serve as delegates;. we who must approve any constitutional changes a convention may recommend. Nothing can or will sneak by unnoticed, as things often do at the close of annual legislative sessions.”

Con Con Professors%27 Letter — Final 09-19-17 (All Current Signatories) (1) by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Davis Declares Con-Con Victory, Withdraws Lawsuit

Evan Davis, a former counsel to Gov. Mario Cuomo who had been pursuing legal action against the state Board of Elections over placement of a referendum for a constitutional convention, has withdrawn his suit following the boards agreement to take steps to highlight the issue on the fall ballot.

According to a press release sent out earlier today by Davis, the state Board decided on Sept. 15 to advise county boards of elections that both sides of the ballot should contain text and a graphic, such as an arrow, that highlight to voters the need to turn the ballot over to locate the constitutional convention question.

In discussing this decision, two Board commissioner specifically referenced Davis’s lawsuit that challenged the con-con question placement, even though the suit was tossed out by a judge last month.

Davis declared himself satisfied by the Board’s actions, and therefore has decided to withdraw his appeal of the judge’s decision. In so doing, Davis avoids the possibility the case would not finally resolved in time for ballots to be printed for the November general election.

“The Board’s decision is an important victory for New York voters,” said Davis. “While the Convention Question won’t be on the front of the ballot where it should be, voters will at least be urged to turn the ballot over to vote on whether to hold a Constitutional Convention and on two Amendments proposed by the Legislature. For the future, a Convention can revise the Constitution to modernize the language of the Convention Question and require its prominent placement.”

Blank Votes Won’t Be Counted In Con Con Vote (Updated)

The Rockefeller Institute in a blog post published Tuesday took a rumor that has been circulating on social media, mainly by opponents of holding a constitutional convention: The claim that failing to vote yes or no in the November referendum will automatically be recorded as a “yes” vote.

This is bunk, and the Rockefeller Institute debunks it:

“If a voter leaves the question of convening a ConCon blank on their ballot, whether because they miss the proposal or by design, it will simply be counted as a blank vote. End of story. In other words, only those individuals who voted ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on whether to hold a ConCon are counted.”

The fear, in part, is the convention is baked in or going to be rigged somehow in favor of holding one (a referendum for a con con as it’s known has not been approved in 50 years).

A coalition of groups — led by labor unions, environmental groups and conservative organizations — has formed to oppose the constitutional convention.

Updated: A spokesman for the consortium opposed to the con con, New Yorkers Against Corruption, said in a statement that the group is urging a “no” vote, and is not spreading the false rumor.

“We oppose the constitutional convention because the process would be dominated by elitists -lawyers from the bar association, current politicians or their family members – leaving everyday New Yorkers behind. New York should not spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a process that could leave New York with less environmental protections, less funding for our schools, etc. For these reasons, we are urging every New Yorker to vote no on a constitutional convention. The disinformation being spread takes away from our educational efforts – we want people to vote on the proposal, we just urge them to vote no.”

Ex-Mario Cuomo Counsel Sues For Prominent Con Con Ballot Placement

A former counsel to Gov. Mario Cuomo is suing the state Board of Elections in order to require the upcoming ballot question on whether to hold a constitutional convention be placed on the front of the ballot presented to voters.

In a statement, Evan Davis said a hearing was shecduled in state Supreme Court for next Thursday.

“This once-in-a-generation chance to reform State government is too important not to be on the front of the ballot,” said Evan Davis. “The public won’t have another chance until 2037.”

The placement of ballot questions has become an issue in recent years after the state ended the practice of using voting machines to cast ballots. Voters now receive paper ballots fed through a machine that tallies votes. The concern is that voters would miss referendum questions if they are placed on the back of the ballot.

In addition to the convention question, voters will consider several constitutional amendments.

Davis is part of the Committee for a Constitutional Convention, part of a coalition that supports voting in favor of the convention.

Opponents of holding a convention worry the process could be hijacked by wealthy interests that could reverse hard-won labor and environmental protections in the constitution.

Cuomo Shrugs Off Teachout, Insists He’s Been Progressive

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday shrugged off the primary challenge from Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, who is launching her gubernatorial campaign and petitioning process.

“You have people on the extreme left… and you have people on the extreme right,” Cuomo said on The Capitol Pressroom this morning. “That’s what you call a politcal contest.”

Cuomo added it’s “inaccurate” to suggest he hasn’t been sufficiently liberal, pointing to changes to the state’s tax code — which he has alternatively referred to as a tax cut , even though it generated $1.9 billion in extra revenue — as well as the legalization of same-sex marriage and the controversial gun control package known as the SAFE Act.

Cuomo at the Working Families Party convention last month gained the labor-backed organization’s endorsement after agreeing to help pass a host of liberal-sought legislation, including a new minimum wage increase and the DREAM Act.

Teachout had sought the WFP nomination as well, but came up short in the balloting. Both she and Cuomo received sufficient amounts of the weighted convention vote to get onto the ballot (more than 25 percent) if they were enrolled WFP members. But they are both Democrats and need special permission from party leaders known as a Wilson Pakula, which has a higher threshold (jsut over 50 percent) that only Cuomo managed to cross.

The governor insisted during his interview today he’s been supportive of major liberal legislation in the past.

“I did not promise to be more progressive,” Cuomo said in the interview. “I am a progressive Democrat and this state has been more progressive.”

At the same time, Cuomo has pledged to help Democrats retake the Senate.

On Monday, he clarified that such support is contingent on whether those lawmakers backed a liberal platform as well, suggesting his endorsement isn’t a blanket one for all Democratic senators.

“In terms of a Democrat Senate, I support progressive senators that support progressive issues,” he said.

Cuomo added he wanted to “defer” questions about the Senate leadership until after the legislative session concludes.

Sen. Diaz Sr.’s 1st GOP Convention

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a conservative Bronx Democrat, just waltzed through the doors of the Westchester Hilton here in Rye Brook where the post-convention day festivities are in full swing.

Diaz Sr., who was accompanied by his wife, told me this is his first GOP convention. He said he is attending at the invitation of state GOP Chairman Ed Cox and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the Republican gubernatorial candidate who will be officially nominated here tomorrow.

The senator, who has never made a secret of his friendships with Republicans, seemed to feel his presence here – the only Democrat I’ve seen so far – is perfectly normal.

He explained that Cox had co-hosted a New York Hispanic Clergy event with him last Christmas, and Astorino – as well as Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos – attended the event, too.

I asked the senator several times if he’s planning to cross party lines to endorse Astorino. He’s no fan of his fellow Democrat, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and in fact is a frequent critic of the governor.

Diaz Sr. didn’t answer that question one way or another, simply reiterating that he had been invited to attend, and so decided to do so.

Antonacci Pledges Positive Campaign, But Has Some Criticism Of DiNapoli

Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci began his new life as a nominee for state comptroller pledging to run a positive campaign on Wednesday, saying that it was “crucial” considering he will participate in a public matching program.

“Tom DiNapoli is a nice guy and clobbering each other won’t change a thing,” Antonacci said.

Nevertheless, Antonacci had some criticism reserved for DiNapoli, a Democrat who first took office in 2007 following the resignation of incumbent Alan Hevesi.

Antonacci was formally nominated at the state Republican convention on Wednesday by delegates at the Rye Town Hilton in Westchester County.

In particular, he singled out the high cost property taxes and the main cost-driver, public employee pensions, taking issue with DiNapoli’s office pointing to a record-high return for the fund at the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year.

He also blasted DiNapoli for approving more than $103,000 in confidential settlement money to the legislative aides who accused then-Assemblyman Vito Lopez of sexual harassment (Republican candidate for attorney general John Cahill deployed a similar line of attack against his Democratic foe, Eric Schneiderman).

“That would have never happened on my watch,” Antonacci said of the settlement.

He added that DiNapoli’s newly formed anti-corruption panel is “a day late and a dollar short.”

DiNapoli is not participating in the public financing program, which was approved in the 2014-15 state budget and only impacts the state comptroller’s race.

DiNapoli, as well as advocates for public financing, have criticized the agreement for not including all statewide candidates and coming in the middle of an election cycle.

DiNapoli in January reported about $2 million in cash on hand for his re-election.

Kudlow To NY GOP: It’s the Economy, Stupid

TV personality, economist and self-professed “Reagan Republican” Larry Kudlow just wrapped up a speech at the state GOP convention, during which he assured attendees they – and, more importantly, Rob Astorino – can win this fall if they run a “tough, issues-oriented” campaign.

“We must, just as Republicans all across the country must, return to being the big tent party,” Kudlow said.

“The big tent party. We can disagree on matters of conscience, morality and religion, I get that. I’m a pro-life Catholic…But that’s not the issue in this campaign.”

“I don’t feel like having this fight all over again. I don’t. Big tent, there’s room for everybody, OK? There’s room for Catholic conservatives like myself, and there’s room for Log Cabin Republicans also.”

Later, Kudlow reiterated his big tent point, saying: “We are not just the party of angry white men, no disrespect intended.”

Of course, that’s exactly the argument Astorino himself has been making as the Democrats hammer him (and at least one other GOP statewide candidate, AG hopeful John Cahill) on hot button social issues – like gay rights and abortion – casting them as too conservative to represent voters in this blue state.

Kudlow urged New York Republicans to focus on the economy – both in New York and nationally. And while he praised Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo for successfully pushing tax cuts in the 2014-15 budget, he said there is much more to accomplish before the state loses its ranking as one of the highest-taxed states in the nation.

Kudlow aimed most of his vitriol at the White House, saying things like: “This is going to be a Republican year because President Obama has now had six years and it hasn’t worked.”

But he also slammed Cuomo for continuing to stall on making a decision on whether to allow fracking in the Southern Tier, calling it “scandalous” that the governor won’t risk upsetting “radical” environmentalists like his his ex-brother-in-law, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

“There is no earthly reason, there is no academic study…not a single study that shows that fracking is harmful,” Kudlow insisted.

“…You must campaign on that…economic growth, taxes, fracking. We can do this. That’s why Astorino can beat Cuomo. If you run a tough, issues-oriented campaign, put the facts on the table, you can win.”

Silver To Select Assembly Dems: Skip National Convention

You might recall reading recently about a growing number of Democratic House members who are taking a pass on the party’s national convention in North Carolina, preferring to stay home on concentrate on their own campaigns rather than attend the (mostly for show) re-nomination of President Obama.

The list of those eschewing the convention includes two New York Democrats – Reps. Kathy Hochul and Bill Owens – who are facing uphill re-election battles in newly-drawn districts that not only gave them new territories to learn, but also increased the number of enrolled Republicans in their respective constituencies.

Both Hochul and Owens were included on Hotline’s list of the nation’s 75 most competitive House races (released today). All told, there are eight New York seats in play.

DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, a Long Islander, not only condoned the decisions of Hochul and Owens to stay home rather than fete Obama, but also urged any other incumbents with tough races – not to mention challengers trying to help the party meet its goal of reclaiming the majority – to follow suit.

And Israel isn’t the only party leader urging members to put their own political priorities before a show of fealty to the national Democratic Party and its leader.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told me during a CapTon interview yesterday that he has also encouraged members of his conference who are facing primary challenges to consider skipping what’s essentially a three-day junket that features a lot of partying with some politics squeezed in.

(For the record, that’s my characterization of the convention, not Silver’s).

“There are a number of members who have primary elections, which will take place a week after the Democratic convention,” Silver said.

“So it would be my recommendation that they stay home and, you know, tell the public what they’ve been doing in Albany for two years. I think they have a great message, and the important thing is getting it out to their constituents.”

“In some districts, nobody pays attention until the summer is over…so you have that eight-day period after Labor Day until primary day. And that’s a significant time period. So it corresponds – at least the first few days – corresponds to the convention. And to those I have asked stay home and get your message out.”

“Others, it’s still a long way to November. I think they can use the time appropriately campaigning, but I don’t think it’s as pressing as the September primary.”

Silver declined to say how many seats he’s hoping to win back from the Republicans this fall to grow his already considerable majority.

The speaker has in the past deemed the so-called “veto-proof majority” (having enough members to guarantee overrides of a gubernatorial veto) a “fiction”, noting it’s not easy to get every single member of his conference to vote “yes” on controversial issues and see absolutely zero support from the Republicans.

Nevertheless, the speaker has proven quite aggressive and competitive in past elections, seeking to slim Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb’s ranks even further, despite the fact that the larger his conference grows, the harder it is to feed all those mouths.

On the flip side, the larger the conference, the more difficult it is for conference members to organize sufficient votes to overthrow the speaker – something Silver understands all too well.