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Commentary & Opinion

Blair Horner: A Voters’ Guide To The NY Ballot Questions

This Election Day voters will have an opportunity to amend the New York State constitution.  When you get to the polling place, in addition to voting for candidates, you will have the opportunity to vote on six proposed changes to the state constitution.  If you want to get the text of the actual amendments, you can access the language by going to the state Board of Elections website at www.elections.ny.gov.

When you go to vote, the questions can be found on the back of the ballot.

Proposal 1 is an amendment to the state constitution that would allow for the creation of up to seven more casinos in New York State.

Don’t get confused by the language when you get to the polling place.  The ballot language is twisted – reportedly by the governor’s office – to state that the revenues generated will go for school aid, property tax relief and economic development.

There is absolutely nothing in the amendment that requires that.  Changing the language is a blatant attempt to mislead the public.

Beyond the indefensible move to twist the ballot language, proponents of the amendment argue that casino gambling has significant potential to be a major economic engine for New York State. They note that gambling already exists in the state, on Native American reservations. They say that the amendment would boost tourism, revenue, and good jobs.

Opponents of the amendment argue that expanding casino gambling in New York State could potentially increase gambling addiction, exploit those suffering from gambling addiction and their families, and have harmful effects on the communities in which the casinos are located.

The question for you is: Do you want up to seven more casinos in New York?

The next three ballot questions are less controversial.  Proposal 2 will allow for additional civil service credit for veterans with disabilities.  The State Constitution currently grants veterans additional credit on civil service exams.  Disabled veterans are entitled to additional credit.  But the veterans cannot get this credit after the initial determination.  This amendment would allow veterans who are classified as disabled after they are classified as a veteran at the time of their first civil service appointment to receive additional credits.

Proposal 3 would extend the authority of local governments to exclude from their constitutional debt limits any construction or reconstruction of sewage facilities. The exception to the local governments’ debt limit expires at the end of this year.  This amendment will extend that exception for ten more years.

Proposal 4 settles a land dispute over ownership of certain parcels in the Town of Long Lake.  This dispute has been ongoing for about one hundred years.  In exchange for giving up its claim to disputed parcels, the state would get land considered to be more useful for the park.

Proposal 5 is more controversial.  This proposal allows for a land exchange in the Adirondack Park between the park and the NYCO Minerals company.

Proposal 5 would allow NYCO Minerals to obtain 200 acres of the park for possible mining. NYCO Minerals is to then give the state up to 1500 acres of other land to be added to the park.  After the mining is complete, the land is to be returned and restored.

Proponents of the amendment argue that the land swap would preserve jobs and result in the Adirondack Park acquiring more land.

Opponents of the amendment argue that the land swap would set a dangerous and historic precedent because it would be the first Adirondack Park constitutional amendment to be undertaken for private commercial gain rather than for a clear public benefit and that the mining operation will destroy 100 year old trees.

Proposal 6 increases the mandatory retirement age of certain state judges from 70 to 80.

Proponents of the amendment argue that it would enable the state judiciary to continue to benefit from the service of experienced and productive judges currently being lost to mandatory retirement. They argue that the current mandatory retirement age is archaic, noting that it was put in place in the mid-1800s and that there are no such retirements for justices on the US Supreme Court.  Opponents argue that forced retirement encourages diversity on the bench.

However you feel on these questions, don’t forget to vote and that these questions are found on the back of the ballot.

Blair Horner is the Legislative Director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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