Movement for Constitutional convention gains traction

ALBANY - With citizens becoming increasingly frustrated with government and its gridlock, demands for a state Constitutional convention are now being heard from more sources.

According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 72 percent of New Yorkers are fed up with recurring gridlock in the state legislature.

Faced with such a negative perception, Democratic Assembly "back-benchers" and the Republican minority leadership are pushing for a state constitutional convention. But their lobbying effort is facing opposition from majority leadership and Governor David Paterson.

Local Republican Assemblywomen Teresa Sayward and Dede Scozzafava said recently that they would support a measure that could lead to a Constitutional convention. Sayward said the public anger aimed at Albany is not only visceral, but warranted.

"People are angry and they have a right to be angry," Sayward said. "We have huge ethics problems and I don't see how we could leave ethics out of any kind of convention held."

Earlier this year, Democratic Manhattan Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh introduced legislation to authorize a limited Constitutional convention, which would address the powers of the legislative branch of the state government and the compensation structures for legislative office holders.

The Republican leadership is going even further.

Assembly Minority Leader Brain Kolb is calling for the entire state Constitution to be reopened and for a collection of citizen delegates to gather and attempt to find solutions to the many problems, both real and perceived, in Albany.

"Quite frankly, people across the state are fed up that the institutions are not fixing the problems," Kolb said. "This will at least give an opportunity for the people to have a say aside from the institutional powers that currently exist."

Kolb said that his bill - which will be ready to bring to the floor in just days - would limit the ability of politicians and lobbyists to seek Convention delegation seats.

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