On this special presentation of Connect: NY, we explore the idea that a Constitutional Convention in New York could impact the issues concentration of power and
Trump’s picks for Cabinet posts range from bad to worse, featuring crackpot generals, climate change disbelievers, Wall Street hucksters and a gaggle of inexperienced big political donors who now will be rewarded for those checks by running our government. Which brings us to the only credible answer for New York’s environmental protection during at least the first two years of Trump’s administration, until the mid-term election. Gone will be a Judith Enck coming up from New York City, where she is the EPA’s regional administrator until Jan. 20, to give hope and clarity to the victimized residents of Hoosick Falls over polluted drinking water, or bring news of an enforcement action against crude oil storage facilities and air monitoring to the residents of the Ezra Prentice homes alongside the Port of Albany. In Cuomo’s favor is his embracing one of the most ambitious and progressive energy plans in the nation, one scheduled to reduce greenhouse gases by 80 percent by 2050, and that will ultimately mandate a complete break from fossil fuels. […] is Cuomo really ready for the next chapter of Oilbany? Because it’s coming. […] cross fingers that by the time the Alberta sands come rolling in, we’ve got it right. Because with Trump’s EPA, nobody will have our back.
If that comes to pass, any state leader looking to the EPA for robust rule-making in the years ahead, or getting angry or frustrated when such guidance is not forthcoming, would be like a high school football crowd booing the kid on the sidelines with two broken legs for not being a more effective tight end. A 2014 investigative report by The New York Times on the cozy relationships between the fossil-fuel industry and a cadre of Republican attorneys general noted that a three-page letter sent by Pruitt to the EPA in October 2011 — accusing the federal government of overestimating the amount of air pollution from natural gas drilling — had been written by lawyers for a major energy company that has been generous to Pruitt’s political efforts. In an amazing coincidence, these letters have on several occasions coincided with state legislative hearings where many of these same state officials have faced heated questions on the Cuomo administration’s initially lackluster response to these water contamination crises. In June, the state Senate’s Republicans failed to take action on the Climate and Community Protection Act, which would have moved Cuomo’s clean-energy goals from the realm of executive agency policy to the province of harder-to-undo state law. Like the reproductive rights portion of the governor’s Women’s Equality Agenda, the Dream Act and numerous campaign finance reforms, it’s a measure that appears unlikely to find favor when the GOP maintains control of the chamber next year.
Claiming that current election laws put New Yorkers at “the back of the bus,” state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday proposed a set of reforms that would make it easier to r…
Going back to his first gubernatorial campaign in 2010, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has expressed his belief that a state constitutional convention is the best route to achieve comprehensive reform in New York. With that vote in mind, the governor included in his 2016 executive budget proposal $1 million to fund the creation of a commission to examine the potential topics that a convention could address. “Nothing has happened — he’s still equivocating,” said Bill Samuels, a reform advocate who this week will announce the creation of a political action committee called NY People’s Convention that will set the stage for more than a dozen agenda items that could be addressed by a convention. Rather than wait for state officials to act, groups such as the New York State Bar Association and the Rockefeller Institute of Government — a public policy research arm of SUNY — have organized events and set up online resources to educate the public on the process and possibilities of a convention. “There’s a lot going on … but without gubernatorial leadership and a resourced effort, it’s going to be hard to organize all the strands into a coordinated whole,” said Gerald Benjamin, who teaches political science at SUNY New Paltz and was research director for the mid-’90s convention commission. Samuels, who is also the founder of the advocacy group Effective NY, said his People’s Convention agenda-setting effort would concentrate on “pocketbook issues,” such as the burden placed on local taxpayers because counties have to pick up a share of Medicaid costs — sums that Samuels argues contribute to New York’s high local property taxes. Following a playbook also used to defeat the 1997 vote, the powerful New York State United Teachers union has already warned that a convention could open up a Pandora’s box of proposals such as efforts to reap savings by reducing public pensions, which are currently guaranteed by the constitution. If deep-blue New York fears what might happen under President Trump, the state constitution offers a shield on any number of issues, from abortion rights to the rights of undocumented immigrants.