In a letter today to Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York State Bar Association President Claire P. Gutekunst urged him to issue an executive order establishing a preparatory commission in advance of a constitutionally-mandated statewide referendum in 2017 on whether to hold a constitutional convention in 2019.
“Time is short, but it is not too late,” Gutekunst wrote the governor. “If you were to act in the near future, a commission would still have time to do the research necessary; educate the public before the November 2017 vote on whether to hold a convention; and, should the voters approve, prepare substantive reports before a 2019 convention that would give the delegates the information they would need for a successful outcome.”
The state Constitution mandates that every 20 years New Yorkers be asked whether to authorize a convention to consider revising and amending the Constitution.
On November 7, 2015, the Association’s House of Delegates approved a report of its Committee on the New York State Constitution, calling on state officials to establish a preparatory commission in advance of the 2017 statewide vote.
During the legislative session, the Association urged creating a commission through the legislative process, which did not happen. Gutekunst’s letter notes historical precedent for creating a commission by an executive order from the governor.
“The 1937 Legislature, much like this year’s Legislature, failed to establish a commission. However, after that year’s session, Governor Lehman issued an executive order filling the void. He was able to minimize the cost of the commission by assigning current state employees to the staff.
“As Professor Peter Galie [professor emeritus, Canisius College] has noted, that commission ‘produced one of the most comprehensive and reliable source(s) of information on the New York Constitution.’ In addition, a commission was established by executive order in 1993 in advance of a vote on whether to hold a convention,” she wrote.
A copy of June 25, 2016 letter to Governor Cuomo is available at: www.nysba.org/lettergovernor062416.
The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.
Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director of Media Services & Public Affairs