The Constitutional Convention and Its Multi-Dimensional Benefits

ALBANY—Assemblyman Richard Brodsky says pushing for a Constitutional Convention is going to be his next big thing.

“We did something no one thought we could do. We successfully reformed state institutions where there was a lot going on. If you use hospitals, the roads, or the subways in this state, you are deeply involved in the daily operation of authorities,” Brodsky told me last week, referring to his work in crafting and (finally) passing a bill strengthening oversight of public authorities like the M.T.A. “What I’m going to do is try to use that model, and turn it into a conversation about institutional change in Albany.”

The “model,” as Brodsky sees it, is this: treat everybody “civilly,” be patient and make a direct connection to what people can see.

“If you’re going to succeed in these reform efforts, you have got to be able to talk about issues that matter in the daily lives of average people,” Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat, said. “If we’re going to discuss the extraordinary burden of property taxes, there has to be a civic conversation about it. The same is true for the right to privacy. The same is true of health care questions, which is going to become front and center.”

Brodsky carries a bill authorizing a convention (which will be put before voters in a referendum in 2017). Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has seized on this issue–he has held town hall meetings and is doing lots of interviews, including one today on The Capitol Pressroom–and has a bill that would move up the referendum to 2010, and include a provision mandating legislators decide whether they want to be a delegate to the convention or keep their day job

“Fundamentally, it was really designed to really bring change to Albany that couldn’t really be construed are seen as partisan politics,” Kolb told me in a recent interview. “Certainly throwing all the incumbents out is not going to happen. Basically what I’m looking for is finally to break through the noise and bring up those questions or topics about whether we’re going to amend the constitution in the very issues where we’d like to see change.”

Both men clearly see political mileage her. Kolb has a small conference (40 members in a chamber of 150) and is hoping to move this issue down the road. Brodsky is mulling a run for attorney general, and would do so on the platform of government reform.

The Constitutional Convention and Its Multi-Dimensional Benefits