Watch out for constitutional con game!
As retirees we have many lessons to share with each other and our union brothers and sisters. One such lesson is we need to remain engaged in the political process. Since the 2016 general election, I have seen more citizens in my region become engaged in different ways to stand up for what they value. For example, a friend and activist from the teachers union started a group named Citizens for a Better Southern Tier. It holds a rally every Tuesday in front of our congressman’s office to save the arts, to support the Affordable Care Act or Planned Parenthood, to protect the environment, or to encourage union members and activists to run for local office, to mention a few.
Another event sponsored by Citizens for a better Southern Tier was a public forum on why you should vote “No!” this November 7 on the referendum to convene a state constitutional convention.
This forum featured speakers Ryan Delgado (former PEF legislative staff member) of the NYS AFL-CIO and Barry Kaufman of the NYS Alliance for Retired Americans. They provided very important information about what is at stake if the voters decide to hold a constitutional convention.
The estimated cost to New York taxpayers is between $200 million and $340 million for what would amount to a politicians’ convention.
Buzz saw policymaking
Although any and all provisions of the state constitution may be changed through the individual amendment process that allows New York voters to make careful, precise changes at virtually no cost, a constitutional convention would allow for massive changes to be made at one time, and at potentially tremendous cost. That’s because such a convention would allow politicians and special interest groups to fill the convention delegate seats. They would have name recognition and campaign resources ordinary citizens could not bring to a delegate election. These elected delegates could then vote for changes that would serve only their special interests.
What’s at stake
Among the things that might be changed are:
• Public Employee Pensions – The present constitutional protections could disappear, and our pensions could be taxed or even diminished;
• Public Education – School vouchers and/or state aid to religious schools could be affected and spending, along with tax caps could become mandatory;
• Labor Rights – Workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively could be severely restricted, as has happened in other states.
• Civi Rights – Voting rights could be limited in ways that would affect targeted populations such as seniors and those without a driver’s license, as in other states;
• Economic Fairness – Minimum wage and prevailing wage rules could change;
• Women’s Rights – Womens reproductive rights and health rights could be infringed; and
• Environment – Changes could allow further lumbering, logging, and mining, resulting in the destruction or elimination of underdeveloped areas of the state.
History shows a constitutional convention would be dominated by special interests and lobbyists, not regular New Yorkers. Delegates’ campaigns would be funded by wealthy special interests. And under the law, lobbyists are allowed to pressure delegates to rewrite the constitution to benefit their clients.
Current state legislators and other politicians are allowed to serve as convention delegates, and delegates will earn the same salary as state Assembly members. That means legislators and other politicians could double-dip — earning their regular legislative salary PLUS a salary for attending the convention.
Huge cost to taxpayers
A constitutional convention is estimated to cost taxpayers about $200 million, but there is no time limit on the convention, and delegates make their own rules, so they could keep meeting and collecting their pay indefinitely. And delegates get to hire their own staff and decide how much to pay them.
This will be another big Albany boondoggle at taxpayer expense. And history shows the voters have rejected the constitutional changes approved by previous constitutional conventions, meaning it was an enormous waste of time and money.
No friends of ours
You know a convention is a bad idea based on who supports it. The official campaign committee is run by lobbyists and political operatives, and one of the main organizations campaigning in favor of a convention is funded by the Koch brothers’ network of billionaire donors, and was founded by President Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
Please talk to your family, friends and neighbors about why they should vote in November to defeat a convention (Con Con). Tell them it’s a $200 million boondoggle and a huge waste of our tax dollars! Explain that It would not be a people’s convention, but a double-dipping opportunity for political insiders and lobbyists!
Member notice: The retirees dental plan will experience changes this November, because our contact with Sun Life is up for renewal.
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