Lake George joins campaign for state Constitutional reform

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

Local Republican Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward said recently that she supports the grassroots reform measure. 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."

According to recent poll data, new restrictions on term limits for lawmakers and greater transparency of campaign fund-raising are several of the many concerns now being raised by New Yorkers.

Other issues of interest to the statewide voters are ethics reform in both state legislative bodies and creating methods to create citizen-forced statewide referendums - like those that regularly occur in California.

Sayward said she would like to see term limits imposed and greater restrictions on how campaign money is spent.

But the Democratic leadership in both state legislative houses and Gov. David Paterson are skeptical of calling a convention five years early.

In 1997, the voting public decided, after significant lobbying from public interest groups, to not hold one.

But citizens' collective mood may have changed - and that now apparently includes political power-brokers.

Former Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo is campaigning for the Constitutional convention to be held early. And following last month's state Senate coup, former Republican Congressman Rick Lazio - who is now running for Governor - is calling for the state Senate to be abolished, creating a unicameral state governmental system.

Sayward said Monday she believes the roots of the Democratic leadership's resistance stems from a fear of losing political capital.

"The majority has everything to lose, because they get stripped of their power," Sayward said. "There is a fine line between good leadership and power - and when it slips and you have only power, it's time for you to go."

But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said that the process is a costly risk with no guarantee of producing any substantive reform. Silver declined to comment any further on the topic.

The last Constitutional convention was held in 1967, but all proposed changes stemming from it were defeated by public referendum.

However, not all Constitutional conventions have been for naught. Revolutionary measures like the 40-hour work-week and the Forever Wild clause of the state Constitution are direct results of previous constitutional conventions.

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