A guide to New York’s 2017 ballot proposals

New York voters are reminded, or urged, to turn the ballot over once you’ve filled in the circles beside the names on the front for whom you wish to vote.

There you’ll find the dreaded proposals, the ones that garner few votes but can have a widespread effect on how we are governed.

This year there are three, with the biggie being Proposal One, which asks a seemingly simple question — “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?”


This, of course, is the New York State Constitution, not the federal. By now you may have heard arguments for and against the question. We’ve editorialized on the proposition, advising against such a convention, but have also run opinions that seek a positive vote.

Here are some particulars on Proposal One:

  • If a majority voting on this question votes no, there will be no Constitutional Convention.
  • If a majority votes yes, then three delegates from each state senatorial district and 15 at large statewide delegates will be elected in November 2018. The delegates will convene at in Albany in April 2019 (and get paid the same salary as a state assemblyman — $79,500 per year, plus per diem). Amendments adopted by a majority of the delegates will be submitted to the voters for approval or rejection in a statewide referendum to be held at least six weeks after the Convention adjourns. The delegates will determine whether to submit proposed amendments as separate questions. Any amendments that the voters approve will go into effect on the January 1 following their approval.

Pension and retirement collection for public officers who are convicted felons

Proposal Number Two is an amendment to the current state constitution. The constitution now provides that the benefits of a public pension or retirement system cannot be reduced or impaired. The purpose of the proposed amendment is to allow a court to reduce or revoke the public pension of a public officer who is convicted of a felony that has a direct and actual relationship to the performance of the public officer’s existing duties, and it asks a simple question: “Shall the proposed amendment be approved?”

New York’s ethical lapses have been widely publicized in the last years. Both the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the Assembly have resigned posts and been convicted of ethics breaches (both of those convictions have been reversed on appeal, while prosecutors consider retrials). Others do their time, but as it stands now, can still collect pensions and retirements.

Land accounts for towns, villages, counties

Proposal Number Three is another amendment to the State Constitution.

As it stands now, the constitution protects the state’s forest preserve as wild forest land and generally prohibits the lease, sale, exchange, or taking of any forest preserve land.

The proposed amendment will create two new exceptions to this broad protection of the forest preserve to make it easier for municipalities to undertake what the framers of the amendment call “certain health and safety projects.” First, the proposed amendment will create a land account of up to 250 acres of forest preserve land. A town, village, or county can apply to the land account if it has no viable alternative to using forest preserve land for specified health and safety purposes.

Second, the proposed amendment will allow bicycle paths and types of public utility lines to be located within the widths of specified highways that cross forest preserve land. You will be asked, “Shall the proposed amendment be approved?”

Remember, these proposals are on the back of your ballots. Turn them over and cast your votes.