New York State Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua) today commented on the launch of a groundbreaking, bi-partisan reform coalition - "Citizens' Committee for an Effective Constitution" (CCEC) - that he is helping lead. CCEC is online and open to the public today at the Effective NY Web site and seeks to deliver a more effective State Constitution, a more effective state government, a more effective civic process and a more effective economy for the betterment of all New Yorkers.
Leader Kolb said that CCEC seeks to bring together over time recognized leaders and experts from the worlds of nonprofit/good government advocacy, private sector leadership and public service, academia and scholarly research to advance serious public discussion of issues pertaining to New York's State Constitution, state government, the economy and public policy.
The launch of CCEC, first reported by Associated Press Albany Capitol Editor Michael Gormley, was carried this weekend in articles and analyses for statewide print, web and broadcast media and new media outlets including the Associated Press; Niagara Gazette; f and Chronicle; Post-Standard; Saratogian; Daily Gazette; LoHud.com; Journal News; Poughkeepsie Journal; Staten Island Advance; Long Island Press; News 10 and Empire Page. CCEC also was covered in select New Jersey and Vermont AP media outlets.
CCEC has one goal: Restoring New York State's reputation as the national economic and public policy leader by discussing and debating State Constitutional provisions that have contributed to statewide dysfunction, an underperforming economy and the loss of trust by New Yorkers in their state government and the men and women serving in it.
In order to develop and advance creative solutions to these problems, CCEC's multi-year effort seeks to engender informed discussion, lively debate and purposeful action that transcends traditional political and ideological labels, and advance changes to the State Constitution that will produce a more democratic, responsive, and effective state government. CCEC will focus on State Constitutional change and advance a non-partisan, informed conversation on public policies. The Committee also aims to create a meaningful dialogue around the best methods to reform the State Constitution, whether through a Constitutional Convention or an Amendment-by-Amendment approach.
The three principals of CCEC are: New York State Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua); Bill Samuels, Chairman of New Roosevelt and the New Roosevelt Foundation; and Dr. Gerald Benjamin, Associate Vice President for Regional Engagement and Director of the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) at SUNY New Paltz.
CCEC is live with an interactive on-line platform to serve as a free, 24-hour accessible informational clearinghouse for journalists, elected officials, scholars, policy advocates, citizen activists, interest groups and, most importantly, any New Yorker who wants to learn more about New York State government while affecting real and lasting change in the public arena.
"Nearly three years ago, I launched a grassroots, non-partisan effort to convene a 'People's Constitutional Convention' aimed at empowering New Yorkers to make the types of fiscal and governmental changes our state government genuinely needed - changes like a State spending cap, term limits, independent redistricting, and initiative and referendum - but Albany's broken status quo kept blocking. Today, State government has seen glimpses of reform, but New York still has miles to go before we have made good on the promise to taxpayers of a smaller, smarter, less costly and more effective government," Leader Kolb said.
"I am proud to partner in this unprecedented bi-partisan reform effort with my good friend and fellow Canandaigua native Bill Samuels - one New York's strongest and most passionate voices for good government - and Dr. Gerald Benjamin, the preeminent expert, author and scholar on New York State government and our State Constitution. The purpose of our effort is to dust off the State Constitution, advance the cause of real Constitutional change and demonstrate how such changes could make a real difference for real New Yorkers. Our goal is a more effective State Constitution that leads to more jobs, a stronger economy and true government reform so New York State can reclaim its rightful role as national leader," Leader Kolb stated.
Samuels, a leading good government activist and thinker in New York, said, "I have joined with Leader Kolb and Professor Benjamin, two of the state's most thoughtful leaders on constitutional change, in this effort because we each believe that New York State should have the best and most effective state government in the nation. One of the fundamental hurdles to achieving that goal is to improve a state constitution that is outmoded and, in some cases, stands in the way of our elected leaders from doing the right thing on a particular policy issue. We want to help educate New Yorkers on how the constitution plays a role in our everyday lives and to spark a discussion on how we can best improve it."
Dr. Gerald Benjamin, Director of CRREO at SUNY New Paltz said, "Almost all New Yorkers know there is a national constitution. Far fewer know there is a State Constitution. Most of us only begin to pay attention to the state constitution when an issue comes up that involves it - like gambling. We want our project to generate a broad understanding of the crucial role the State Constitution plays in how we are governed in NYS."
"In this time in which government reform is a front burner issue, we want to facilitate a lively, on-going debate about this core document, to remove it from the background and make it a focal point of New Yorkers' discussion about how our state is governed, and how our government might best be redesigned to serve its people."
As part of its educational commitment, CCEC is also sponsoring a $1,000 scholarship essay competition. The contest, managed by SUNY in direct collaboration with CCEC, is open to law students and focuses on state constitutional issues. While any Constitutional issue can be chosen, a focus on campaign finance, redistricting or any of the topics on the home page are of special interest to CCEC. Essays selected as the strongest will be presented at a statewide conference on State Constitutional change where authors of the best will be awarded cash scholarship prizes of $1,000. To be eligible for the scholarship, essays must be between 5,000-7,500 words in length. A panel of subject matter experts and academics will evaluate the essay submissions, and select the best papers to be presented at a daylong conference, to be held the Albany Law School in collaboration with its Local Government Law Center. Authors of essays delivered at the conference that are selected as best will not only appear on CCEC's website, but will be eligible for an award of a $1,000 cash prize.
Dr. Benjamin, one the foremost academic authorities on the New York State Constitution, will lead an on-going discussion of constitutional issues among professors and other experts in his "Professor's Corner." Topics already include Casino Gambling, Constitutional Change, Convention, Elections, Ethics, Property Tax Reform and Vacancies. CCEC encourages professors and experts around the state to reach out to the Committee to participate in the discussion.
CCEC's on-line platform features analysis of public policy issues their direct applicability and specific reference in the State Constitution. Thirty-nine policy issues are in development including the following:
Each public policy issue section at CCEC's on-line platform includes:
Fast Facts which enables the reader to get up to speed quickly on a particular policy issue and its constitutional history;
Point/Counterpoint which allows debate between proponents on either side of the issue on how to best address its constitutional ramifications as well as links to news articles, editorial and opinion pieces that have appeared in local media outlets and blogs across the state;
News and Opinions Pieces covering each issue culled from newspapers and blogs across the state;
Other States section allowing readers to compare and contrast how other state constitutions address similar policy issues; and
Links to Relevant Legislative Amendments that have been proposed in the New York legislature to address a particular policy issue.
More about the Citizens' Committee for an Effective Constitution (CCEC)
The Citizens' Committee for an Effective Constitution is a project of the New Roosevelt Foundation, Inc., a New York State Not-for-Profit, founded by Bill Samuels, that has filed for 501(c)(3) status.