“New York’s Last, Best Hope for Real Reform”: The Case for Convening a State Constitutional Convention

By Brian M. Kolb, New York State Assembly Republican Leader

In the lead article of the inaugural issue of the Albany Government Law Review’s New York Legislation book, Assembly Republican Leader Brian Kolb convincingly advocates for a “People’s Constitutional Convention.”   Mr. Kolb, the Assembly Minority Leader, argues that, since the last convention in 1967, the fiscal, governmental and confidence crises are reasons not to wait until 2017, the next time the question of convening a convention will automatically appear on the ballot.

Mr. Kolb created an online petition to call for a convention: Reform New York.  To date, nearly 2,500 have signed, at least virtually, the petition to support a People’s Convention to Reform New York.

The term “reform” has reached remora-like status in Albany, attached to nearly anything, and in cases that may result in only marginal improvement.  As Mr. Kolb writes, the People’s convention is needed to address far-reaching, institutional change:

State government’s dysfunction, corruption, and fiscal irresponsibility are still the ultimate trump card that can mobilize public opinion and serve as an urgent call to action. As symptoms of these “cancers” on government continue to manifest themselves in the form of chronic unemployment, late state budgets, multi-billion dollar deficits and debt, some of the nation’s highest property, business, and income taxes, the “case” for convening a constitutional convention will be self-evident, extremely powerful, and, in my opinion, open and shut. The fact that state government still lacks a statewide succession plan for state offices, an independent Legislative Redistricting Commission, term limits for legislative leaders and legislators, initiative and referendum, . . . will continue inspiring calls for reforming the broken institution of state government.

Click here to view the article by Assembly Republican Leader Kolb.

A Moot Point: Final Thoughts on the 2008 Election Symposium

Robert Magee, Staff Writer, RMagee@albanylaw.edu

     Today, Albany Law School was host to the Election 2008 Symposium. It was the product of collaboration between no fewer than 11 of Albany Law School’s politically oriented student groups, from the OUTLaws to the ALS Republicans, brought together by the Albany Government Law Review’s own Ali Chaudry.  The symposium’s presence, ensconced in the third floor of a law school situated in the capital of state in which participation in presidential politics has been a futile act for as long as most of us can remember was a poetic exercise in democratic innovation.

     The premise of the symposium was that local politicos would stand in for the McCain and Obama campaigns to talk with the local polity about The Issues as a means of facilitating a discussion about who to vote for next Tuesday or (more likely) the fleshing out of our existing decision. 

     The opportunity to do so is a rare one in a state like New York which has been spared (or denied) down and dirty presidential politicking.  Those few occasions in which the national campaigns appear in the state occur in sterile and predictable settings.1  Even this most momentous, long, tumultuous presidential election has pitched and heaved just beyond New York’s boarders in Pennsylvania2 or, during the primaries, New Hampshire.3

      New York’s persona non grata status is conferred upon it by the Electoral College.  The college itself is the product of compromise.  As a political invention, it is the product of the Constitutional Convention’s foundational controversy over whether population or mere statehood should determine representative power in the national government.4  As a compromise to reality it was an alternative to the “extreme inconveniency [and] the considerable expense, of drawing together men from all the States for the single purpose of electing the Chief Magistrate.”5  To further confuse its purpose, the Electoral College was originally proposed on June 1, 1787 by James Wilson of Pennsylvania as a plan to divide states into districts which would appoint an elector to vote for the President as a means of cutting out state participation in presidential elections altogether.6 Continue reading “A Moot Point: Final Thoughts on the 2008 Election Symposium”