Article first published during 2010-2011 school year.

The Constitution of the State of New York establishes the structure of the government of the State of New York, and enumerates the basic rights of the citizens of New York. Like most state constitutions in the United States, New York's constitution's provisions tend to be more detailed and amended more often than its federal counterpart. Because the history of the state constitution differs from the federal constitution, the New York Court of Appeals has seen fit to interpret analogous provisions differently from United States Supreme Court's interpretation of federal provisions. New York State has had five constitutions, adopted in 1777, 1821, 1846, 1894, and 1938. In the 20th century alone it held three constitutional conventions, the efforts of two of which (1915 and 1967) were rejected by the electorate. The constitution produced by the 1938 convention, as modified by subsequent amendments, the latest of 2002, now forms the fundamental law of the State. The New York State Constitutional Convention of 1967 was held in Albany from April 4 - September 26, 1967. The proposed Constitution was submitted to the voters on November 7, 1967 at a general election. All of the 1967 Convention’s proposals were rejected by the people. Voters have rejected constitutionals conventions in both 1977 and 1997.

The convention referendum is one of two ways the constitution may be amended. The constitution requires that the question appear on a ballot at the general election every twenty years. Also, the Legislature may place the question on a ballot at any time. The other method is the legislative referendum that requires any vote of two successively elected legislatures for specific amendments. In both cases, any proposed amendments are presented to the people for approval.

NYSUT has joined others in opposing a constitutional convention.
Protections Under Current Law That Could Be in Jeopardy

  • Civil rights
  • Prevailing wage
  • Education funding
  • NYSTRS pension benefits and structure
  • Restrict workers' rights to organize and to bargain collectively

    Several citizen groups and elected officials as well have questioned why taxpayers should pay $50 million for a convention when our schools don't have decent books, or adequate classrooms.

    The Association of the Bar of the City of New York completed a comprehensive study of the constitution. In 1997 the Association found that a constitutional convention held under the circumstances at that time would be ill-equipped to consider and adopt the structural changes that most concern us, and might ultimately do more harm than good. The Association reported that estimates range from $35 million to $65 million for the cost to taxpayers of holding an election for convention delegates, compensating the delegates, compensating support staff, paying for facilities, and presenting its proposals to the voters for ratification.

    When you consider the potential harm for unwanted constitutional revision, the problems with the delegate selection process, and the exorbitant cost for a convention, NYSUT continues to urge members to "Vote No" to any question regarding a decision to call for a Constitutional Convention in NYS.

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