ALBANY, N.Y. -- Every 20 years, New Yorkers consider whether or not to hold a constitutional convention. It's a prospect state legislative leaders view with some dread.
"It's so unknown. It's so unknown. People say 'hey, what do you think of the con-con?' People think it's a show or a band or something," said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-Smithtown.
The constitutional convention, or con-con in the parlance of Albany, holds the possibility of drafting new amendments or overhauling the document entirely, changing how state government operates. It's a prospect Flanagan opposes.
Meanwhile, there's also the potential for the process to be influence by deep-pocketed interests.
"My concern is that there can be a lot of outside money influencing what becomes an election of 180 or so temporary legislators," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx.
Heastie is concerned about the election process for convention delegates, who are given the power to rewrite the function of state government. He's worried outside groups would pour millions of dollars into the effort to influence who gets to make the changes.
"I think we should be very, very careful exposing the constitution to the whims from someone outside of the state who can decide to spend millions of dollars to put forward their position," Heastie said.
Those concerns reflect the views of labor unions and environmental groups, who worry the built-in protections in the constitution might change at a convention, but then there's the argument state government needs a change. Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group says NYPIRG hasn't taken a position.
"Reformers who would like to see a convention view it as the one great opportunity to rewrite a constitution that has unconstitutional provisions in it and might offer an opportunity for meaningful additional reforms that, so far, the Legislature has been unable to act on," Horner said.
A coalition of civic groups this week urged the Board of Elections to print the ballot question on the constitutional convention on the front of the ballot, so voters won't miss it.