Capitol Watch: Convention canned, push for vote on gun bill

November 11, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York state government news, unions are celebrating a big win in the recent defeat of a constitutional convention and Democrats in the state Senate are urging a vote on a bill allowing police to seize of the guns of suspected domestic abusers.

A look at stories making news:


Gleeful opponents of a constitutional convention are celebrating their convincing win in Tuesday’s election while those who believed a convention could remedy the state’s chronic corruption are licking their wounds.

The call for a convention in 2019, where delegates would consider changes to the state’s governing document, was trounced in Tuesday’s election, with more than 80 percent of the votes cast against the proposition.

Unions led the fight against a convention, organizing an odd coalition of opponents that included Planned Parenthood, anti-abortion groups, environmental groups, gun-rights supporters and officials from both parties. They argued that a convention could be manipulated by deep-pocketed special interests to undermine existing constitutional rights.

After Tuesday’s vote, union leaders cheered what they said was a victory for everyday New Yorkers, and a convincing display of labor’s ability to get out the vote and sway public opinion. The effort by the New York State United Teachers union, for instance, included 500,000 phone calls, a robust door-to-door campaign, lawn signs and bumper stickers.

“New York saw what happens when labor organizes, mobilizes and acts as one,” teacher union president Andy Pallotta said after the vote.

Unless lawmakers take it upon themselves to put a constitutional convention on the ballot again, it will be another 20 years before the question automatically goes before the voters. That means good-government groups will have to turn back to the legislative process — and one-issue constitutional amendments — to pass reforms.

Bill Samuels, one of the leaders of the pro-convention side, called the vote “a triumph for all the enemies of reform in Albany,” a group that he said included Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, “the political bosses in the state Legislature” as well as the lobbyists and special interests “who thrive in New York’s pay-for-play culture of corruption.”

“The burden now falls upon them to prove that they can actually bring about positive change in Albany through the legislative process and to demonstrate the capacity not just to scare New Yorkers, but to empower them,” Samuels said.



The recent church shooting in Texas has reignited discussion of a proposal to remove any firearms from a home when police respond to a report of domestic violence.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Brad Hoylman, of Manhattan, and Democratic state Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, of Queens, is known as the Safe Homes Act. Under the measure, any guns removed from a home would be returned in the event the charges are dropped or a person is found innocent.

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, called on the Senate’s GOP leaders to bring the bill to a vote as soon as possible — either in January when the 2018 session begins or sooner, if a special session is held before the new year as some have suggested.

“Now is the time for action,” Stewart-Cousins said. “It is simple, domestic abusers should not be allowed to keep guns in their homes.”

Another bill sponsored by Hoylman would authorize judges to permit law enforcement to seize the firearms of a person shown to be a danger to themselves or others.

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