When New York voters head to the polls next month, they will decide whether their state should hold a constitutional convention. But state lawmakers have a lot to say about it too. Most are against the convention -- but the vote known as the "con-con" is still getting support from some members. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman explains.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- The idea of holding a constitutional convention does not get much support from New York's prominent elected officials.
“My opinion has not changed. I'm still thinking ‘no’ is the right answer,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
Some worry about the impact of special interest money.
“There can be a lot of outside money influencing what becomes an election of 180 or so temporary legislators,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
Or they are concerned about the cost to the taxpayers of holding one.
“It's not going to be inexpensive under any circumstances,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.
Governor Andrew Cuomo last week said he backs the idea of a constitutional convention, but is skeptical it could be effective in changing state government for the better.
“If we're going to have a convention of the current elected officials to re-write the constitution, that defeats the purpose,” Cuomo said.
Among the legislative leaders in Albany, only Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has been publicly in support of approving the convention, which is being decided by voters next month in a referendum. It underscores the establishment opposition to the convention and the lack of anyone in power in support of holding one.
“There aren't any of the political heavy weights that you find in this battle on the pro side, at least that I know of so far,” said NYPIRG Legislative Director Blair Horner.
Those who have backed campaigns for the convention include wealthy Democratic activist Bill Samuels. Donating modest sums to the pro-con con effort include former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Kerry Kennedy, the ex-wife of the governor and head of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization. Countering the pro-effort has been a coalition of labor and environmental groups as well as some conservative organizations.
A Siena poll last week showed support for approving a convention slipping. Observers say one chance of its passage would be to have a figure like the governor push for approving the referendum, but Cuomo has been hesitant so far.
“If you were going to organize that kind of voter insurrection, it would have to be around somebody who has the muscle to make it happen and we haven't seen that yet from the executive,” Horner said.
Voters consider whether to hold a constitutional convention every 20 years in a referendum.