- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A New York state ballot measure to call a constitutional convention was defeated in Tuesday’s election, driven by opposition from labor unions and others worried about the consequences of rewriting the state constitution.

With 40 percent of the vote counted, Proposal 1 went down to defeat, with 80 percent voting against it and just 20 percent in favor.

The result was an even heavier defeat than polling had suggested. A Siena College Research Institute survey released Nov. 1 found Proposal 1, which would require the state to hold the so-called “ConCon,” losing by a margin of 57 percent to 25 percent; 60 percent of respondents called it “an expensive waste of time.”

Under New York law, the state must decide every 20 years whether to hold a constitutional convention, but the last one was held in 1967, and before that 1938. Voters turned down a 1997 ballot measure to hold a ConCon.

One group pushing for a convention was Divide NYS, which wants to see the state divided into two autonomous regions with their own governments: Upstate, which would be called New Amsterdam, and Downstate, which would keep the “New York” moniker and the nation’s largest city.

Such a division would have to be accomplished by an amendment to the New York state constitution, which could be approved at a constitutional convention.

The campaign was driven by upstate New Yorkers dissatisfied with their region’s loss of manufacturing jobs and population, a turn of events blamed in large part on increased regulations and higher taxes driven by urban lawmakers.

For example, many upstate residents balked after Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing in 2015.

“The New Amsterdam regional government would have the power to repeal these unnecessary NYS regulations and bad laws that are killing upstate,” said the Divide NYS website.

Other issues that advocates had hoped to address at a convention, which would have been held in 2019, include legislative term limits, budget reform and Common Core.

The New York Times urged a no vote on Proposal 1, while the New York Daily News supported the constitutional convention in order to “have a real shot of fixing New York’s badly broken government, which can no more fix itself than a surgeon can lay down and operate on himself.”

An ad from the New York State Laborers PAC said that convention delegates would put at risk collective bargaining, union wages and public employee benefits.

“If it’s redrafted, powerful interest groups will undoubtedly seek to remove these rights,” said the ad. “It’s dangerous and could have far-reaching effects for decades to come.”

Foes of Proposal 1 had raised $3.23 million, while supporters had collected less than $900,000 based on the October campaign disclosure reports, according to Ballotpedia.

The Siena College poll found that there was broad ideological opposition to Proposal 1, with 56 percent of liberals, 60 percent of conservatives and 55 percent of moderates against it.

Both Planned Parenthood and the New York State Right to Life opposed the measure over fears that delegates could approve either more restrictive or looser laws on abortion.

Any proposed changes to the state constitution at a convention would have required voter approval in November 2019.

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