Day 530 – Dissent is a Patriotic Tradition

JTC is celebrating with family today. We hope you are too. But in keeping with the tradition, we give you this substitute.

How to Protest the Fourth of July
By Holly Jackson

How do you celebrate Independence Day? A cookout? Maybe take the kids to a parade?

William Lloyd Garrison, the 19th-century abolitionist, had a different idea for how to observe the holiday. Every flag should be either taken down or flown at half-staff, he wrote in his newspaper, The Liberator, and “all signs of exultation, parade and boasting should be studiously suppressed.” The usual rounds of celebratory music, marching and fireworks must be abandoned until “the millions of our oppressed countrymen are emancipated.” In the meantime, the Fourth of July “should be made THE DAY OF DAYS for the overthrow of slavery.”

In our time, July 4 has become detached from the politics of protest. But the history of the United States suggests that this need not — indeed, ought not — be the case.

Garrison borrowed the July 4 protest tradition from a group of black activists in Albany. When slavery was legally abolished in New York on July 4, 1827, they resolved not to celebrate. Instead, they mourned all those who remained in bondage and came out the following day for public reflection on the nation that allowed it. This became a tradition that continued until the Civil War.

The most famous abolitionist July 4 protest took place in 1854, when Garrison mounted a platform adorned with an upside-down, black-bordered American flag and burned a copy of the Constitution. From the same stage that day, Henry David Thoreau declared that the moral failure of the United States affected even his ability to enjoy the outdoors, noting that “the remembrance of my country spoils my walk.”

For the better part of the 19th century, many groups in addition to abolitionists, including Native Americans, utopian socialists, women’s suffragists and industrial workers, chose to use the Fourth of July as an occasion for social-justice agitation.

The tradition of July 4 protest faded in the 20th century, but it re-emerged in moments of political urgency. Peace activists during the Vietnam War, for example, seized the day for fasts and demonstrations. In 1970, a committee of African-American churchmen urged the black community across the country not to participate in any festivities on July 4. Their “Black Declaration of Independence” listed 15 grievances, including “being lynched, burned, tortured, harried, harassed and imprisoned without Just Cause” and “being gunned down in the streets by Policemen and Troops who are protected from punishment.”

In the weeks leading up to July 4, 1981, a group of military veterans, in a spirit of outraged patriotism, staged a hunger strike to demand an independent review of Veterans Administration hospitals, further study of the effects of Agent Orange and greater support for veterans’ mental health. In 1986, when the Supreme Court upheld laws that criminalized sodomy between consenting adults in private, gay activists held a rally in Greenwich Village in New York, promising to “disrupt traffic, snarl subways and show our rage” during the city’s July 4 celebrations.

The tradition of July 4 protest has been largely dormant for a generation now — although the rallies and “die-ins” staged during the July 4 Senate recess last year, protesting efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, hinted at a revival. These days, many Americans seem to disapprove of protests in general, and for them, demonstrations on the Fourth of July might seem particularly offensive, even worse than taking a knee during the national anthem.

But this attitude fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the holiday. July 4 commemorates a protest so incendiary that its participants, the signers of the Declaration of Independence, risked execution as traitors to the crown. These dissidents came together to affirm their commitment to a political community based on equality, at least in theory. For a century and a half, social-justice activists honored this history by continuing it, trying to hold the nation to its own standards on the anniversary of the day they were declared.

This July 4, on the heels of nationwide protests that mobilized hundreds of thousands of people in opposition to immigration policy, we ought to ask again, what does it mean to celebrate America now?

Stand Up for the Independence of the Trump-Russa Investigation

If Trump fires Rod Rosenstein or Mueller we will rally with the rest of the nation!

WHERE / WHEN

Where: Northwest corner of Market Street and Route 9, Rhinebeck, NY

When Rally will begin:
– If actions are triggered BEFORE 2 p.m. local time event will begin @ 5 p.m. local time.

– If actions are triggered AFTER 2 p.m. local time event will begin @ noon local time the following day.

THEN WHAT? Good question.

These events are only the first step. Our goal with these actions is to create an opportunity for anyone outraged by Trump’s abuse of power to engage immediately in voicing their concern. Together, we will communicate unmistakably that this is not okay and that this act to undermine democracy is not going to be allowed to become a new normal.

But that’s only the first step, and it’s far from the last one.
Congress is the only body with the constitutional power and responsibility to hold a president politically accountable for significant violations of the public trust like this. “We, the People” are their backstop and source of legitimate power. What people do next to force Congress to act is up to them!

Indeed, everyone at an event should also call our members of Congress to demand action. Everyone is encouraged to communicate that demand directly at congressional offices.

John Faso:
DC Office: (202) 225-5614
Kingston Office: (845) 514-2322

Kirsten Gillibrand:  (202) 224-4451
Charles Schumer:  (202) 224-6542

CONGRESSIONAL ASKS

1. Demand members of Congress protect the special counsel’s office, including preserving its files and staff and ensuring it receives the full cooperation of all federal government law enforcement assets.

2. Demand the creation of a modern-day version of the Senate Select Watergate Committee to investigate all matters involved in the Russia scandals and Trump’s abuse of power and obstruction of justice.

3. Demand bipartisan hearings in the House Judiciary Committee on obstruction of justice and abuse of power.

As always, the most critical thing we can do is VOTE!

Activism In the Age of Trump

January 4, 2018

When people tell me that they don’t pay attention to politics, I am always somewhat amazed. How do you not pay attention to politics, especially in this age of polarized extremes? Then I look back at most of my life when I did NOT pay attention to politics, and I am reminded why. Life takes over when you are young and finding your way, or going to school, or not so young and raising a family or building a career or being a caregiver or… just life.

But, at a certain point, I looked at what was going on in the world and realized that I had to pay attention. Politics – and politicians – have the power to work for the good of Americans or only for themselves; they can make or break our children’s future.

It’s as old as Aristotle: “(S)he who has no business with politics has no business at all”.

I felt this most acutely as I watched the election returns in 2004 and, anticipating Bush’s second term, I felt this panic. People told me not to worry, nothing horrible could come of his win. For good reason, I did not believe them.

When Barack Obama came into sight three years later, I became an activist. So many of us did. We went out and campaigned for this man who told us, “Yes, we can,” and we could! He won, and we won!

And all Americans won, even those who voted for his opponents, as he steadied the economy, reduced our military involvements and put an end to the crazy spiral of health-care denial and extortion

By August 2009, many of us sat back and relaxed. What did we have to worry about? We did our civic duty, didn’t we? We did not need to stay connected to our vision. We thought Obama could do the work just fine without us.

And then… obstructionism. The GOP practiced the art of deliberately impeding or delaying the course of legal, legislative, or other procedures. And they bragged about it. Perhaps the last straw was denying Judge Garland his hearing.

We left too soon. We forgot that we hold the power to our political futures with our voices, with our feet, with our votes. If we do not use these things, we cede our futures to those who do not have our interests at heart. And our complacency put an incompetent in the White House, though it could be said that the 65% of Republican voters (and the candidates) who conceded the nomination bear some responsibility!

With January 2017 we woke from the nightmare with Women’s Marches and new networks, among them a nationwide movement known as The Indivisibles: in Dutchess County our umbrella group is Indivisible the Fight is On – and we went to work to turn the tide.

The ebb and flow of activism is a tough nut to crack (to coin a metaphor, but you know what I mean). As Will Rogers knew, we are not blind conformists – anything but! Burn-out is a real problem too. I know that first hand. We were flowing at the beginning of 2017, and then we ebbed. And then the abominable tax bill passed, and hopefully, the winter months and the mounting issues will bring us back into gear.

When we speak as a collective, we are heard and Indivisible the Fight is On will continue to foster ways to speak as a collective. We remain committed. We are here to support. We are here to organize. We are here to help communicate the visions, the plans, the strategies amongst many collaborating organizations and dedicated individuals. If you care to fix the problems of polarization and obstructionism, we are here for you, all of us who live in the shadow of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Melanie Whaley, Chair of ITFIO

Indivisible the Fight is On

Resist 2018

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Voters in Congressional District 19: Taking back the House in 2018 might very well depend on us.

Taking back the House in 2018 might very well depend on us. Rep. John Faso is among the most vulnerable of the GOP incumbents. Voting in a Democrat is our chance to put a check on the GOP’s and Trump’s power.

Faso now has a voting record that can be used against him. Here are some of the actions that Faso voted for in 2017 and that Trump supported.

Dec. 6
Making concealed-carry firearm permits valid across state lines, co-sponsored by John Faso. (231-198)

Opposition: https://everytownresearch.org/concealed-carry-reciprocity-h-r-38-overriding-state-public-safety-laws/

Dec. 6
Motion to table articles of impeachment against President Trump (364-58)

Oct. 24
Prohibiting Department of Justice settlements that require parties to donate money to outside groups (238-183) Co-sponsored by John Faso

Opposition: https://democrats-judiciary.house.gov/news/press-releases/statement-ranking-member-conyers-hr-732-stop-settlement-slush-funds-act

Oct. 3
Banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy (237-189)

Opposition: https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-letter-house-opposing-hr-36

Sept. 14
Giving the government more power to deport and deny admission to immigrants suspected of being in gangs (233-175)

Opposition: https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/2017-12-9_aclu_vote_rec_in_opposition_to_hr_3697_criminal_alien_gang_removal_act_final.pdf

July 25
Repeal of a rule banning some financial companies from using mandatory arbitration clauses (231-190)

Opposition: https://civilrights.org/oppose-h-j-res-111-overturning-cfpb-arbitration-rule/

June 29
Increasing penalties for undocumented immigrants who re-enter the U.S. after being convicted of certain crimes (257-167)

Opposition: https://democrats-judiciary.house.gov/news/press-releases/floor-statement-honorable-john-conyers-jr-opposition-hr-3004-kate-s-law

June 29
Penalizing states and localities that have “sanctuary” laws on immigration (228-195)

June 8
Dismantling financial regulations put in place by the Dodd-Frank Act (233-186)

Opposition: https://www.indivisible.org/resource/financial-choice-act-hr-10/

May 4 The American Health Care Act of 2017 (217-213)

Opposition: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/h256

May 2
Allowing employers to offer employees time off instead of pay for overtime work (229-197)

Opposition: https://civilrights.org/oppose-h-r-1180-the-working-families-flexibility-act/

Feb. 15
Repeal of a Department of Labor rule on drug testing of applicants for unemployment compensation (236-189)

opposition: https://www.vanhollen.senate.gov/content/van-hollen-statement-opposition-resolution-disapprove-dol-drug-testing-rule

Feb. 7
Repeal of a Department of Education rule on teacher preparation programs (240-181)

Opposition: https://www.democraticwhip.gov/sites/democraticwhip.house.gov/files/Oppose%20H.J.Res_.58_Teacher%20Prep%20CRA%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

Feb. 7
Repeal of a Department of Education rule on school accountability (234-190)

Opposition: https://www.democraticwhip.gov/sites/democraticwhip.house.gov/files/Oppose%20H.J.%20Res.%2057_ESSA%20CRA%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

Feb. 2
Repeal of a rule requiring the Social Security Administration to submit information to the national background-check system (235-180)

Opposition: http://www.bradycampaign.org/sites/default/files/Brady-Brief-on-HJ-Res40.pdf

Feb. 1
Repeal of the stream protection rule (228-194)

Opposition: https://www.npca.org/articles/1463-position-on-h-j-res-38-disapproving-the-stream-protection-rule

Jan. 24
Permanent ban on the use of federal funds for abortion or health coverage that includes abortions (238-183)
Opposition: https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-letter-opposition-hr-7-no-taxpayer-funding-abortion-act

Jan. 13
Budget resolution to repeal the Affordable Care Act (227-198)

Full List HERE

 

The Rooney Report “All the News That Fits on One Page.”

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 9.45.45 AMThe Tax Bill Passeth: Congressional Republicans and administration officials gathered on the White House steps yesterday to celebrate the passage of their landmark tax reform bill. It’s been their Holy Grail for 30 years.

  They rushed the bill through to have something to show for their first year of controlling the House, Senate, and White House. “It’s the largest tax cut in the history of our country … really something special,” President Trump said.

 The victorious president announced that he’d just been told that because of the bill’s passage, AT&T plans to invest $1 billion in the US and give all its employees a $1,000 bonus.

  Other companies made similar announcements.

  The plan is a major risk for the Republicans. It defies all historical evidence that deep tax cuts will spur the economy to new heights. If it works, they are geniuses. If it doesn’t, they’re sunk.

  The tax bill gives deep and permanent tax cuts for corporations while providing temporary cuts for individuals. Trump said the corporate cut is “probably the biggest factor in this plan.”

  It also repeals the requirement that everyone must have health insurance, dealing a heavy blow to Obamacare.

  President Trump said, “When the individual mandate is being repealed, that means Obamacare is being repealed.”

  No Democrats voted for the bill. Representative Lloyd Doggett, Democrat of Texas, said, “We will be cleaning up this mess and the blunders in this bill all of next year.”

  The tax reform is very unpopular with the public and Republicans will have to convince the country it’s good. Sen. Mitch McConnell said, “If we can’t sell this to the American people we ought to go into another line of work.”

Taking Names: In his last cabinet meeting of the year, President Trump issued a threat to countries in the United Nations that oppose his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

  “All these nations that take our money and then vote against us at the Security Council or the assembly, they take hundreds of millions of dollars and billions of dollars and they vote against us,” Trump said. “Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us, we’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

  He said, “People are tired of the United States — people that live here, our great citizens that love this country — they’re tired of this country being taken advantage of and we’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”

  Trump would be cutting off aid to some strategic allies, including Egypt, which gets $1.3 billion a year for its military.

Back Flip: Gold medalist McKayla Maroney has filed a lawsuit against the US Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, accusing them of making her sign a confidential financial settlement to keep secret the sexual abuse she suffered as a teenager by team doctor and confessed molester Larry Nassar.

  She accused the USOC of covering for Nassar and maintaining a “culture and atmosphere that conceals known and suspected sexual abusers.”

  Maroney’s layer John Manly said, “This was an immoral and illegal attempt to silence a victim of child sexual abuse.”

  The USOC says it had nothing to do with the settlement and USA Gymnastics says it was Maroney’s original lawyer, the publicity-seeking Gloria Allred, who had asked for confidentiality. Despite receiving a reported $1.25 million settlement, Maroney wants it nullified.

  Nassar has been sent to prison for 60 years.

The Weinstein Effect: The NFL Network’s top news executive David Eaton has resigned after being found to have Twitter conversations with women who identify them as sex professionals. He was also accused of creating a hostile work environment for women.

  The NFL Network suspended analysts Marshall Faulk, Ike Taylor, and Heath Evans last week because of claims of sexual harassment and assault made by a former wardrobe stylist.

  The NY Times says it will keep it’s White House reporter Glenn Thrush, who was suspended for inappropriate behavior. He’ll be reassigned, though.

Collateral Damage: An estimated 9,000 to 11,000 civilians died in the battle to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State, according to a report by the Associated Press. The news service cites a count kept by morgue workers and volunteers who retrieve bodies from the city’s bombed-out rubble.

 Neither the US-led coalition nor the Iraqi government has acknowledged the body count.

Mexico Crash: Eight Americans were among the dead in the crash of a tour bus carrying cruise ship passengers in eastern Mexico. Three of them were from one family and a married couple also was killed.

Hoop Dreams: Defending NCAA basketball champion North Carolina was toppled last night 79-75 by Wofford College. Wofford? It’s a little school in downtown Spartanburg, SC. It’s the first time they’ve beaten a top 25 ranked opponent.

1984: The Republicans had given their tax bill the propaganda title of “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” but the Senate parliamentarian scotched that because the name suggests things that have no impact on the budget. Under the rules by which it passed, the bill must influence the budget.

  So, the parliamentarian ordered that the bill must go by its formal name, “An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018.”

  A name that will ring like a bell in American history.

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A daily email digest of important news and interesting stories for people who don’t have time to keep up. Just $10 a year, 365 days. We have no advertising, no annoying pop-ups. It’s brief, to the point, with a side of dry humor. If you know what’s in the Report, you’ll know enough to keep up your end of the conversation at dinner.

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Why is it that the Democratic Party always makes its life more difficult?

Why is it that the Democratic Party always makes its life more difficult?  In the 2004 presidential race, just as John Kerry was finally regaining some momentum after the vicious smears concerning his Vietnam service, the gay community launched a gay marriage initiative. This sparked a huge turnout in red states that opposed gay marriage on religious grounds and contributed to Bush’s win.  Now, just as the Republicans’ tax bill is handing the issue of income inequality to the Democrats on a silver platter, the airwaves are full of nothing but #MeToo accusations.  We have ended up taking out one of our best senators and perhaps an untold number of Democratic congressmen so that our holier-than-thou party can harp on Donald Trump’s sexual transgressions in 2018.  What we should be talking about is how this tax bill will solidify class in America and make it impossible for those not born with money to improve their lives.  We should be offering an alternative tax scheme that truly alleviates the burden on the poor and middle class without driving up the deficit to untold heights.  We should be holding seminars on TV on how trickle-down economics does not work, citing actual historical experiences with real people who were affected, not just statistics, which no one trusts anymore. I am a supporter of gay marriage and as a woman who has worked for corporations all my life, a victim of sexual harassment and pay discrimination.  However, we should focus on the issues that are at the heart of the American people’s discontent—wage stagnation, jobs and automation, and the growing power of the corporate elite.  Where are our plans to handle these problems?

This is not to say that sexual harassment should be ignored, but it should be handled in a dignified and codified fashion with opportunities for both sides to present their case and with proportional punishments.  What we have now is an “identity politics” circus. I predict that we will see a huge backlash and the Democratic party will continue to lose support among white males—even young white males. I hope that we can learn from the experiences of 2004.

~ Please do not attach my name to this. I do not need irate women calling me to say how I don’t understand the importance of the #MeToo movement.

A Constitutional Convention – A Risk NOT Worth Taking – by Ron Deutsch, Fiscal Policy Institute

A Constitutional Convention – A Risk NOT Worth Taking

Ron Deutsch, Fiscal Policy Institute

The New York Constitution articulates the legal rights of New Yorkers, and in many vital areas, provides our residents more protections than the U.S. Constitution. A Constitutional Convention is an expensive, complicated and potentially dangerous undertaking that is unnecessary because we already have a more rigorous and more democratic process by which the voters can adopt or reject individual amendments to the State Constitution on their individual merits rather than being presented with the kinds of omnibus “mixed bag” packages that were advanced by virtually all of New York’s past constitutional conventions.

On this November’s general election ballot, for example, two specific amendments will be before the voters of the state for their approval or disapproval.  One of these amendments would allow judges to reduce or revoke the pension of a public official convicted of a felony related to his or her official duties, thus also serving to refute the claim of convention advocates that the state legislature is unable to police itself.

A Constitutional Convention, on the other hand, would allow for a complete rewriting of the entire constitution putting crucial rights and protections at risk and offering the voters “packages” that combine positive and negative proposals. For example, New York’s 1967 Convention offered property taxpayers the chance to vote for the state takeover of the local costs of Medicaid. However, in order to achieve that change they would also have had to accept the gutting of the mandate to provide aid to the needy, the elimination of the requirement for voter approval of state bond issues and the elimination of the Blaine Amendment and many other proposals –some attractive and some unattractive to particular voters. Constitutional Conventions, by their very nature, have always proposed too many changes for each change to be voted on individually — and they likely always will.

For virtually all New Yorkers, there is simply more to lose than to gain by holding a Constitutional Convention. New York’s voters should not be put in a position of having to approve decreases in some protections in order to gain increases in some others – even if, on some philosopher king’s scale, more rights and protections were gained than were lost.  Amending the state constitution should not be a game of give and take; and that’s why we oppose a Constitutional Convention.

While the idea of a Constitutional Convention might sound great in the abstract, the process for who gets chosen to take part in the convention gives an overwhelming advantage to those with either established name recognition or access to lots of money. In this era of Citizens United, we know that money influences politics and that some hedge fund managers and other billionaires have extreme conservative views and are willing to spends endless amounts of money to push their ideological agenda.

Quite simply, no New York State Constitutional Convention has ever been a “people’s convention” and one established this year will not be a “people’s convention” either despite some of the claims to the contrary.

The delegate selection process basically ensures that “average” citizens will not get a seat at the table. Three delegates would be elected from each of the state’s 63 heavily gerrymandered Senate districts and 15 at large delegates would be elected from the state as a whole. Just to get on the ballot for one of the Senate District seats, as an independent, will officially take up to 3,000 signatures of registered voters who live in that Senate district but in reality potential candidates will need to collect far more signatures in order to ensure that they will survive challenges to the validity of their petition signatures. At large delegates are required to collect 15,000 signatures.

Elected officials, past and present, have a significant advantage in getting elected because of name recognition, but also because the numbers of signatures required for political party nominations is smaller than is required for independent nominations and these individuals have the assistance of their party’s political party organizations in obtaining the necessary signatures. They also have incentive to do so. Convention delegates would be paid the same amount as state legislators, which means that current legislators elected as delegates would double their pay and benefits in 2019 – from the current level of $79,500 to at least $159,000.

What’s At Risk?

We all know the laws of New York State can stand improvement.  But is a Constitutional Convention the best path to reform?  Can anyone guarantee that powerful political interests will protect our most fundamental and enlightened legal principles and protection?  Are we sure that even the best intentions won’t have harmful unintended consequences?

Some issues of concern:

Public Education – A system of “free common schools, where all the children of this state may be educated,” is protected in our constitution. Advocates of religious and private education are constantly pushing for state taxpayers to pay for schools whose primary purpose is religious, not secular, instruction.  They call for direct appropriations to churches and yeshivas, insidious and indirect funding such as school vouchers, and allowing the wealthy to pay taxes directly to religious institutions.  Our Constitution’s Blaine amendment acts as a check on tax dollars for religious instruction, but it will be under direct attack in a Convention (as it was during the last convention). 

Affordable Housing – Finding safe affordable housing can be a challenge, fortunately, Article XVIII, Section 1 of the state constitution protects rental housing for people with low incomes. A Constitutional Convention could restrict access to affordable housing and could also potentially threaten rent control laws in New York State. There are approximately 35 states that prohibit local municipalities from implementing rent control laws, which if implemented in New York, would create an affordable housing crisis even greater than the one we have now. Article XVII also protects the right to shelter for all New Yorkers.

Immigrant Protection – New York State, a self-declared sanctuary for immigrants, uses rigorous standards when assessing whether or not a law is discriminatory. This higher standard is critical as our federal government increases the detention and deportation of law-abiding undocumented immigrants. The most recent federal action rescinding DACA, the federal program that protected more than 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants from deportation and allowed them to work legally in the United States, shows the need for this additional protection. 

Care for the Needy– Article XVII of the state constitution requires New York to care for those in need: “The aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state….” Given the federal push to dismantle programs and services for our poorest citizens, New Yorkers cannot afford to put this provision at risk. Article XVII has been effectively used in numerous court challenges to ensure that the needs of New York’s most vulnerable citizens are met, including immigrants and others excluded from the federal safety net. 

Retirement Benefits – The state constitution protects public pensions from being “diminished or impaired.” This means that people who have worked for years providing vital public services can be confident their pension will be there when they need it. Without this constitutional protection, state and local pension funds could be raided like a piggybank to pay for other obligations.

Worker Rights – New York’s constitution guards against worker exploitation by requiring workers be paid the prevailing wage. The right to organize and bargain collectively is also incorporated in the state constitution. Without these protections, New York could quickly go the way of a so-called “right to work” state, which would dismantle labor protections and send workers on a race to the bottom for wages and benefits.

Environment – The Adirondacks, Catskills, and surrounding forests, are a natural gift that should be preserved for future generations. Fortunately, our state constitution mandates that these lands will remain “forever wild,” and free from commercial development. If these lands become a bargaining chip in a Constitutional Convention free-for-all, they could be sold off to real estate developers and industrialists. Even though hydraulic fracturing was essentially banned in 2014, forced fracking could again be up for debate at a Constitutional Convention.

Reproductive Rights – Our state constitution does not currently contain any restrictions on the right to access abortion or contraceptives. The recent change in composition of the U.S. Supreme Court leaves the legal right to reproductive choice hanging in the balance. If conservatives add restrictions through a Constitutional Convention and we lose a decision in the high court, women in New York could be left without the legal right to make fundamental decisions about their own bodies.

 LGBT Rights – New York is a leader in protecting and fighting for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, made it unlawful in 2003 for New Yorkers to be discriminated against in employment, housing, credit, education and public accommodations because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. The Marriage Equality Act of 2011 gave same-sex couples the right to marry in New York state and providing them the same rights, responsibilities, and benefits under state and local law as opposite-sex couples. But without the foundation of equal protection, enshrined in the Bill of Rights of our state constitution, these gains could be eliminated or eroded.

Gun Control – The NY SAFE Act stops criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from buying a gun by requiring universal background checks on gun purchases; increases penalties for people who use illegal guns; mandates life in prison without parole for anyone who murders a first responder; and imposes the toughest assault weapons ban in the country. Opponents of this law could reverse this progress through a Constitutional Convention and allow for the sale of assault weapons and open carry of guns. 

Reduce Taxes on Billionaires –Reclaim NY, an organization funded by Hedge Fund billionaire Robert Mercer and the Koch Brothers and founded by former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, is already working to reduce taxes on the wealthy. A Constitutional Convention gives groups like these another opportunity to put Wall Street and corporate interests ahead of those of ordinary New Yorkers and to spend unlimited amounts of money to push their self-serving agenda.  Reclaim NY, in a recent Newsday article, has already indicated they will be “more of a presence” should there be a Constitutional Convention. 

2% State Spending Cap – This arbitrary spending cap has resulted in billions of dollars in cuts to state agencies and local governments, particularly in the area of human services. The state spending cap is not currently in law or statute. Making this cap permanent, through a constitutional change, would wreak havoc on our state and municipal budgets for many generations.

Voting Rights – The right to vote is the most essential element of a participatory democracy, but there are forces across the nation that want to limit voting rights. Our state constitution currently provides for voter ID through signature, but wholesale changes through a Constitutional Convention could expose us to restrictive voter ID laws aimed at disenfranchising people of color and low-income residents.

Criminal Justice Reforms – Our state constitution protects our right to challenge and reform New York’s criminal justice system. Just this past year, legislative changes show New Yorkers can make a difference: by raising the age of criminal responsibility, enacting bail reform, ensuring access to a speedy trial, improving witness identification procedures and requiring video-taped police interrogation for serious offenses. Recent changes to New York’s Rockefeller drug laws decreased prison sentences for low-level offenders. Local communities have also curtailed stop-and-frisk policies. These necessary reforms could be undone by a constitutional convention.

In sum, it is folly to believe that lobbyists and moneyed interests with cruel, regressive, and parochial concerns won’t attack and undermine New York State’s protection of education, social welfare, the environment, workers’ rights and our system of justice.

Advocates for a Convention promise a better environment, better criminal justice, cheaper college, improved secondary education, and, magically, clean government.  But they’re empty promises that guarantee nothing.  They promise to “Make New York Great Again”, but offer no specifics or a realistic political path to accomplish these ephemeral goals.