Elections '17: Statewide Proposals Round Out Area Ballots

This Election Day, when voters go to the polls, they will not only be asked to choose their representatives for local and county offices, they will be asked to approve or reject three statewide ballot proposals.

Here’s the gist:

Proposal 1: Convening a Constitutional Convention 
New Yorkers have a big decision to make on whether to overhaul the state constitution. New York’s constitution requires that every 20 years, voters be asked to decide whether they want to rewrite the state’s foundational document. Fourteen other states have similar mechanisms in place to periodically ask voters about convening a convention to revise their state’s governing charter. 

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The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) said the collective decision on whether to convene a convention will likely turn on two issues: (1) how New Yorkers feel about the state of their state; and (2) how concerned they are about provisions that could be put at risk if a convention is convened. If voters are unhappier with the direction of New York than they are worried about jeopardizing current constitutional provisions, then they’ll vote yes.

Proposal 2:  Allowing for the reduction or revocation of pensions of corrupt public officials
This proposed amendment to section 7 of Article 2 of the state cnstitution would allow a court to reduce or revoke the public pension of a public officer who is convicted of a felony that has a direct and actual relationship to the performance of the public officer’s existing duties. 

Public officers include state and local government elected and appointed officials and staff. Under current law, public officials can put their pension at risk if they are convicted of corruption only if they took office after 2010. Under New York’s constitution, public pensions cannot be altered once the individual is in the system. Therefore, under current law, changes can only be made for future public employees— those entering the pension system post-2010. Proposal 2 would allow for the reduction or removal of a public pension from a public official who was in the system prior to 2011 if that individual was convicted of a crime relating to his or her public office. If approved, the amendment applies to any crimes that occur on or after Jan. 1.

Proposal 3: Creation of a land bank in the Adirondack and Catskill forest preserves 
The proposed amendment will create a land account with up to 250 acres of forest preserve land eligible for use by towns, villages, and counties that have no viable alternative to using forest preserve land to address specific public health and safety concerns. 

The proposed amendment also will allow bicycle trails and certain public utility lines to be located within the width of specified highways that cross the forest preserve while minimizing removal of trees and vegetation. 

If approved, the land bank would allow local governments in these areas to request the use of land in the forest preserves for development projects in exchange for the state acquiring 250 acres to be designated for parks. The reason this question is on the ballot is because the Adirondack and Catskill park forest preserves are protected under the “Forever Wild” clause of the New York State Constitution, which limits development in these areas to protect their natural wilderness character. As a result, the parks are protected as wild forest land, thus prohibiting the lease, sale, exchange, or taking of any forest preserve land. 

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